College Football Military Bowl Betting Preview: Pittsburgh Panthers vs #21 Navy Midshipmen

2015 Military Bowl
Pittsburgh Panthers at #21 Navy Midshipmen
Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium – Annapolis, Maryland
Monday, December 28, 2015, 2:30 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN
Opening Line: Navy -3
Current Line: Navy -3 (-115)
Opening Total: 56
Current Total: 53
Opening Money Line: Navy -160 / Pitt +140
Current Money Line: Navy -160 / Pitt +140

Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds wraps up a brilliant career as Navy takes on Pittsburgh in the Military Bowl Monday afternoon in Annapolis.
Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds wraps up a brilliant career as Navy takes on Pittsburgh in the Military Bowl Monday afternoon in Annapolis.

The 10-2 Navy Midshipmen take on the 8-4 Pittsburgh Panthers Monday in the Military Bowl in Annapolis. It will be played in the home stadium of the Midshipmen but officially it is considered a neutral site game. Although, there should be plenty of Panther fans as well. Pittsburgh is roughly 270 miles from Annapolis.

Pittsburgh and Navy are meeting for the 40th time since 1912, but the first time in a bowl game. The Panthers lead the series 22-14-3, including 10-7-1 in Annapolis. Navy won the last meeting at home 24-21 in 2013.

Pitt finished second in the ACC Coastal Division at 6-2 behind 8-0 North Carolina. The Panthers are 13-18 all-time in bowl games, and are making their 8th straight trip to a bowl game. Last year, Pittsburgh lost to Houston 35-34 in the Armed Forces Bowl.

Navy finished tied for first in the AAC West at 7-1 with Houston, but the Cougars won the head to head tiebreaker. Navy is 9-10-1 all-time in bowl games. The Midshipmen are playing in a bowl for the 12th straight season. Navy played in the inaugural edition of this bowl in 2008 in Washington, DC.

Pittsburgh is coached by Pat Narduzzi in his first season. The Panthers have home wins over Youngstown State 45-37, Virginia 26-19 and Louisville 45-34, along with road wins at Akron 24-7, Virginia Tech 17-13, Georgia Tech 31-28, Syracuse 23-20, and Duke 31-13. Pitt has a road loss at Iowa 27-24, plus home losses to North Carolina 26-19, Notre Dame 42-30 and Miami 29-24 in the regular season finale.

Pittsburgh was a 7 point favorite against Miami and the total was 54.5. Miami took a 23-3 lead into halftime. Pittsburgh pulled to within 23-10 late in the third, but two Miami field goals made it 29-10 with 6:51 left in the fourth. The Panthers scored two late touchdowns to pull within 29-24. However, Pitt missed a two point conversion on the last touchdown that would have put the game over the total. Miami recovered the onside kick and would punt with 11 seconds left. Pitt tried a bunch of laterals from their own 20 but a fumble ended the game. The Panthers are 6-6 ATS and the total is 5-6-1 this season.

Navy is coached by Ken Niumatalolo. He considered taking the BYU head coaching job but will stay with the Naval Academy.  Navy has road losses at Notre Dame 41-24 and Houston 52-31. The Midshipmen have home wins over Colgate 48-10, East Carolina 45-21, Air Force 33-11, Tulane 31-14, South Florida 29-17, SMU 55-14, road wins at Connecticut 28-18, Memphis 45-20, and Tulsa 44-21, plus a neutral site win over Army 21-17 in Philadelphia in the regular season finale.

Navy was a 21 point favorite over rival Army and the total was 50. Navy trailed 10-7 after the first and 17-14 at halftime. The Midshipmen scored the only touchdown of the second half with just under six minutes left in the third. Navy would hold on for the four point win to beat Army for the 14th straight time, and clinch the Commander-In-Chief’s trophy for the 15th time. Army actually had more total yards than Navy but the Black Knights had the only 3 turnovers of the game.

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Pittsburgh is outscoring teams 28-25 this season. The Panthers average 381 yards per game on offense including 195 passing and 186 rushing yards. On defense, Pitt allows 345 total yards including 218 passing and 127 rushing yards. The Panthers are #27 or better in total and rush defense nationally. Pitt has forced 15 turnovers and has 13 of their own. The Panthers average 44 penalty yards per game and opponents average 43. Pittsburgh is 87/187 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 65/175. The Panthers have forced 37 sacks and allowed 29 this season. Pitt is 39/45 scoring in the red zone with 29 touchdowns and opponents are 31/32 with 16 touchdowns. The Panthers have four defensive/special teams touchdowns and opponents have two defensive touchdowns.

Quarterback Nathan Peterman took over early in the season from an ineffective Chad Voytik, who was last year’s starter. Peterman has completed 61.4% of his passes for 2,150 yards with 19 touchdowns and 5 interceptions, along with 83 carries for 208 rushing yards and a touchdown. Voytik has thrown for 112 yards with a touchdown and an interception, along with 37 rushing yards and a touchdown.

Running back Qadree Ollison has 204 carries for 1,048 yards and 10 touchdowns, along with 12 catches for 63 yards. Darrin Hall has 61 carries for 255 yards and 2 touchdowns, along with 5 catches. Chris James has 56 carries for 236 yards, plus 7 catches. Jordan Whitehead and James Connor each have two touchdown runs. Connor is out for the season as is another running back Rachid Ibrahim.

Receiver Tyler Boyd has 85 catches for 873 yards and 6 touchdowns, along with 35 carries for 294 rushing yards and 67 passing yards. Dontez Ford has 23 catches for 466 yards and 2 touchdowns. J.P. Holtz has 24 catches for 350 yards and 4 touchdowns. Scott Orndoff has 11 catches for 213 yards and 5 touchdowns. Zach Challingsworth has 12 catches for 171 yards and a touchdown.

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Navy is outscoring teams 36-21 this season. The Midshipmen are #25 in scoring and #26 in points allowed nationally.  Navy averages 411 yards per game on offense including 319 rushing and 92 passing yards. The Midshipmen are #3 nationally in rushing but #127 out of 128 teams in passing. That isn’t really a surprise as Navy runs a triple option like all the service academies. On defense, Navy is allowing 367 yards per game including 229 passing and 138 rushing yards. The Midshipmen are #42 or better in total and rush defense. Navy has forced 24 turnovers and has 7 of their own this season. The Midshipmen average 27 penalty yards and opponents average 43 per game. Navy is 99/184 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 91/194. The Midshipmen have forced 22 sacks and allowed 14 this season. Navy is 49/52 scoring in the red zone with 39 touchdowns and opponents are 27/35 with 22 touchdowns.

Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds wraps up a brilliant career. He finished fifth in the Heisman trophy voting this season. Reynolds already holds the NCAA career records for rushing touchdowns (85) and total touchdowns (105). This year he threw for 1,077 yards with 7 touchdowns and an interception, and also has 241 carries for 1,229 yards with 21 touchdowns. Back-up Tago Smith has thrown for 30 yards with a touchdown and an interception, and also has 27 carries for 126 yards and a touchdown.

Running back Chris Swain has 184 carries for 909 yards and 10 touchdowns. DeBrandon Sanders has 42 carries for 313 yards, plus 7 catches for 220 yards and a touchdown. Quentin Ezell has 58 carries for 309 yards and 6 touchdowns. Dishan Romine has 32 carries for 294 yards, plus 2 catches for 42 yards. Demond Brown has 28 carries for 199 yards and 4 touchdowns. Receiver Jamir Tillman has 27 catches for 570 yards and 5 touchdowns. No other receiver has more than 3 catches.

Pittsburgh is 6-0 ATS in December, 26-10-1 after a straight up win, 5-2 on fieldturf, 2-6 in non-conference games, and 1-5 after passing for 170 yards or less.

Navy is 4-0 ATS on fieldturf, 7-1 after allowing less than 20 points, 4-1 after passing for less than 170 yards, 16-5 after a straight up win, 5-2 against teams with winning records, 7-3 in bowl games, 9-4 overall, and 1-4 against ACC teams.

Some say Pittsburgh should have gotten an invite to a better bowl. so motivation could be an issue. For Navy, they get another home game and a chance to say good bye to the arguably the best Navy quarterback since Roger Staubach. Pitt has a strong rush defense, but I don’t know if they can contain Navy’s powerful triple option attack. I like the Midshipmen to win a close game with a lot of points scored. The weather should be in the mid 40’s but not snow or ice predicted.

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