This is a strange college football betting season. That’s an understatement. And that was evident in the opening game for the Navy Midshipmen. They adjusted their training schedule due to the pandemic and paid the price. But they have recovered, or at least that’s the look of it. Now the team with the late start is the Air Force Falcons, who will meet them at Colorado Springs at 6 PM ET.
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Navy’s blowout and redemption
There were COVID-19 concerns around the Naval Academy all through the spring and summer, naturally. And Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo decided that the best way to deal with it during fall practice was to avoid having face-to-face contact drills. So the Middies did not practice the way they usually would. And as a result, he was not able to get into the proper rhythm.
The opening game with Notre Dame could not be played. This was because of two reasons. One is that travel restrictions prevented both teams from going to Dublin, which was the site. The other reason is that Notre Dame had to rearrange things and join the ACC for this season, which altered their schedule.
So Navy scrambled and was able to schedule BYU, which had some its own games canceled by teams who were not playing. The Cougars were much more prepared to play than the Midshipmen, however, and crushed them 55-3.
Two weeks later Navy found themselves down 24-0 at the half against Tulane. And as they looked like they were on their way to their second straight blowout, Dalen Morris came to the rescue, leading them to 27 unanswered points and a dramatic win.
Morris and the quarterback situation
Morris was one of several quarterback candidates in line to replace Malcolm Perry, one of the great option quarterbacks ever. Perry ran for 2017 yards last season and was drafted by the Miami Dolphins. No one else had much experience. But Morris got the nod, only to get benched in the BYU game. After the game, Perry Olsen, who was expected to carry Navy through the season, announced that he was going through the transfer portal.
Morris admittedly is not much of a weapon carrying the football. But compared to many of the Navy quarterbacks of recent years, he can throw it. In fact, to date he has averaged close to 20 yards per completion. He gives the Middies a threat that makes defenses pay dearly for being surprised.
Here are the numbers…..
Before we proceed, let’s look at the NCAA football betting odds, as they are posted at BetAnySports, which shows that Navy is the favorite on the road.
Navy Midshipmen vs. Air Force Falcons Updated Odds
|Navy||-7½ (+105)||46½ (-110)||-275|
|Air Force||+7½ (-125)||46½ (-110)||+235|
So why is Navy favored?
Well, Air Force has had a more unusual football saga than Navy. As part of the Mountain West Conference, they were not supposed to be playing a season at all. Then they came up with the notion that they could play just two games – against Army and Navy – so that they could compete for the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy.
Well, that had Nuimataololo up in arms, because he thought it was unfair that his team and Army had to play full schedules. And we presume he wanted the Army-Navy game to be contested for the trophy. He made some remarks about the Pentagon’s motives, and later rendered an apology for that.
Where are all the players?
Air Force faced a dilemma. They offered the opportunity for a number of students who also played football to excuse themselves for a semester, ostensibly to protect themselves during the pandemic, but also to maintain this particular year of eligibility and not blow it on a two-game season.
Reports were that over three dozen members of the team took them up on that offer. And that’s left them very short-handed. Here’s the problem with that – the Mountain West has announced that they’ve changed their minds. They will have a season after all, starting October 24. So the Falcons will have a relatively full slate after all.
The quarterback situation
Like Navy, Air Force finished with an 11-2 record in 2019. Donald Hammond III was supposed to return another year as quarterback. And with 1316 passing yards and 13 TD’s, he was a valuable piece of the puzzle. But he is not involved and not on the roster. This didn’t happen because he took the semester off, like other players. No, he has, for whatever reason, been declared a cadet “not in good standing.” So that’s that.
Word is that the front runner for the position is Hazziq Daniels, who is inexperienced. There have been other people vying for the job, including three freshmen. Whatever the outcome of all that, it would appear that this operation virtually starts from scratch.
Air Force might be in a more precarious position than Navy, because they are well behind the curve and with less personnel. They can’t be expected to be running their offense with crispness right off the bat. And we can look to the Navy experience against BYU as an example of what might happen.
On top of that, the Midshipmen, who had to postpone last weekend’s game with Temple, gained so much confidence from that huge comeback against Tulane. And this includes confidence in Morris. The Falcons will have to deal with the passing game. Even though it may not come out that frequently, it will go for big plays. Let’s lay the points with the better-prepared Midshipmen in this one.
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