Armed Forces Bowl College Football Picks: Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders vs Navy Midshipmen

2013 Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl
Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders vs Navy Midshipmen

Amon Carter Stadium – Fort Worth, Texas
Monday, December 30, 2013, 11:45 am Eastern, TV: ESPN
Opening Line: Navy -6 1/2
Current Line: Navy -6 1/2
Opening Total: 55
Current Total: 56 1/2
Opening Money Line: Navy -280 / MTU +230
Current Money Line: Navy -255 / MTU +215

Navy is favored by 6.5 points against Middle Tennessee in the Armed Forces Bowl.
Navy is favored by 6.5 points against Middle Tennessee in the Armed Forces Bowl.

The 8-4 Navy Midshipmen and 8-4 Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders meet for the first time ever Monday in the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth. Both schools have had successful seasons and look to cap off the season with a bowl win.

Middle Tennessee went 6-2 in the Conference USA East division and finished behind 7-1 Marshall and 6-2 East Carolina. The Blue Raiders moved from the Sun Belt to Conference USA this season. Middle Tennessee is 2-3 all time in bowl games. The Blue Raiders lost to Miami-(OH) 35-21 in the 2011 Bowl in Mobile, Alabama in the last bowl appearance for Middle Tennessee. It is the fourth bowl appearance since 2006 for Middle Tennessee.

Navy won their second straight Commander-in-Chief’s trophy and 14th overall by beating service academy rivals Air Force and Army. Navy is 7-10-1 overall in bowl games, and are making their 9th bowl trip since 2003. The Midshipmen have lost 5 of their last 6 bowl games including 2 straight. Navy was crushed by Arizona State 62-28 in the Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco last year.

Middle Tennessee is coached by Rick Stockstill. The Blue Raiders opened the season 3-1, then lost 3 straight games and closed the season on a five game winning streak. Middle Tennessee has road losses at North Carolina 40-20, BYU 37-10, and North Texas 34-7 along with a home loss to East Carolina 24-17. All four losses are to teams playing in bowl games. The Blue Raiders have home wins over Western Carolina 45-24, Memphis 17-15, Marshall 51-49, Florida International 48-0, and UTEP 48-17 to close out the regular season, along with road wins over Florida Atlantic 42-35 in overtime, UAB 24-21, and Southern Miss 42-21. Middle Tennessee is 5-7 ATS and the total is 5-7 as well this season. The Blue Raiders were 24 point favorites against UTEP and the total was 56.

Middle Tennessee is outscoring teams 31-26 this season. Middle Tennessee is #57 in scoring and #64 in points allowed nationally out of 125 teams. The Blue Raiders are averaging 414.5 yards per game including 207.4 passing and 207.1 rushing yards. MTU is #25 in rushing and #86 in passing nationally.  On defense, Middle Tennessee is allowing 404.6 total yards including 218.8 passing and 185.8 rushing yards. The Blue Raiders are #41 against the pass and #84 against the rush. Middle Tennessee is +12 in turnovers with 31 takeaways. MTU averages 40 penalty yards per game and opponents are averaging 49. The Raiders are 93/199 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 101/209. MTU has forced 27 sacks and allowed 15. The Blue Raiders are 39/50 scoring in the red zone with 31 touchdowns and opponents are 37/47 with 29 touchdowns. Middle Tennessee has 2 punt returns and a fumble return for touchdowns, along with 4 pick sixes. and has allowed a punt return and a pick six.

Quarterback Logan Kilgore has completed 61.2% of his passes for 2,289 yards with 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, plus 2 rushing touchdowns. Back-up Austin Grammer has a touchdown and two interceptions and has thrown for 190 yards, along with 33 carries for 169 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns.

Running back Jordan Parker has 145 carries, 741 yards and 6 touchdowns, along with 14 catches for 31 yards. Reggie Whatley has 93 carries, 631 yards and 3 touchdowns. Jeremiah Bryson has 73 carries for 355 yards and 3 touchdowns, along with 12 catches for 66 yards. Shane Tucker has 40 carries for 226 yards and 5 touchdowns, plus a catch. Corey Carmichael has 26 carries for 140 yards and 2 touchdowns, along with 2 touchdown catches. William Pratcher has 21 carries, 110 yards and 2 touchdowns. He is out for the season with a leg injury.

Receiver Tavarres Jefferson has 41 catches for 532 yards and 5 touchdowns. Marcus Henry has 36 catches for 528 yards and 3 touchdowns.  Kyle Griswould has 36 catches, 359 yards and 4 touchdowns, along with a punt return for a touchdown. Devin Clarke and Christian Collis will also get some catches. Defensive end Raynard Felton is out for the season with an ankle injury.

Navy is coached by Ken Niumatalolo. The Midshipmen have home wins over Delaware 51-7, Air Force 28-10, Pittsburgh 24-21, Hawaii 42-28, and South Alabama 42-14. Navy has  road wins at Indiana 41-35 and at San Jose State 58-52 in triple overtime along with a neutral site win in Philadelphia over Army 34-7 to close out the regular season. The Midshipmen have road losses at Western Kentucky 19-7, Duke 35-7, Toledo 45-44 in double overtime, and Notre Dame 38-34. Navy has won four straight games. The Midshipmen are 9-3 ATS and the total is 5-7 this season. Navy was a 13.5 point favorite against Army and the total was 49.5.

Navy is outscoring teams 34-26 this season. Navy is #31 in scoring nationally.  The Midshipmen are averaging 415.2 yards per game on offense including the nation’s second leading rushing attack at 323.8 yards per game. Passing is an after thought at best and Navy is #124 in passing out of 125 FBS teams at 91.5 yards per game. On defense, the Middies are allowing 401.9 yards per game including 215.8 passing and 186.2 rushing yards. Navy is #35 in pass defense and #85 in rush defense nationally. Navy is +12 in turnovers with 20 takeaways. Navy averages 22 penalty yards per game and opponents average 49. The Midshipmen are 98/186 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 93/192. Navy is 50/55 scoring in the red zone with 40 touchdowns and opponents are 33/42 with 30 touchdowns. The Midshipmen have forced 10 sacks and allowed 18 this season. Navy has allowed one defensive touchdown this season.

Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds has completed 53.7% of his passes for 1,038 yards with 8 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, along with 280 carries, 1,260 yards and 29 touchdowns. Back-up John Hendrick has thrown for 60 yards with 2 interceptions, and also has a rushing touchdown.

Fullback Chris Swain has 102 carries, 398 yards and 4 touchdowns. Running back Darius Staten has 36 carries, 375 yards and 3 touchdowns, along with 5 catches for 65 yards and a touchdown. Geoffrey Whiteside has 41 carries, 319 yards and 3 touchdowns, along with 6 catches for 148 yards and a touchdown. Quinton Singleton has 58 carries, 334 yards and 2 touchdowns, plus a catch. Noah Copeland has 58 carries, 280 yards and 2 touchdowns, plus 3 catches, 43 yards and a touchdown.  DeBrandon Sanders has 37 carries for 287 yards and 12 catches for 217 yards and a touchdown. Wide receiver Casey Bolena has 13 catches for 164 yards. Matt Aiken has 8 catches for 150 yards and 2 touchdowns. Safety Chris Ferguson and tackle Graham Vickers are both out for the season with concussions.

Middle Tennessee is 4-1 ATS after gaining more than 450 total yards, 16-7 after allowing less than 170 passing yards, 2-5 in December and on grass, 7-19 after passing for more than 280 yards, 1-4 after a straight up win of 20 points or more, 1-5 after scoring more than 40 points, 0-4-1 after a cover, and 0-5-1 in non-conference games.

Navy is 4-0 ATS after a straight up win, 6-1 after rushing for 200 yards or more, overall and after passing for 170 yards or less, 13-6 against Conference USA teams, 4-9 after a straight up win of 20 points or more, 2-6 after allowing less than 20 points, and after allowing less than 170 passing yards, and 1-4 in December.

Both of these teams have great rushing attacks but neither cam stop the run. Middle Tennessee is a little more balanced but there might not be more than 15 pass attempts combined in this game.  This seems like a lot of points, as think these two teams are evenly matched, and i think it will come down to a late field goal either way. I like Middle Tennessee to pull off the upset in a shootout.

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