Today’s bet: Navy ML @ (1.83/-120)
These two teams are heading in opposite directions. Last week against SMU, Tulsa blew a 30-9 lead in the 4th quarter. On the other side, Navy is coming off of a big win against rival Air Force. From a situational and statistical point of view, we’re liking Navy here. Just from a game-planning standpoint, Navy runs a triple-option attack may be tough to stop for Tulsa. What’s concerning about this situation, in particular, is the way Tulsa lost last week. Blowing a 21 point lead in the 4th quarter is not ideal and it will require Tulsa to dig deep and look to regroup. There is a psychological component to this game: Will Tulsa be a team that the team is less motivated after a huge let down performance? Will Navy be able to use that momentum as a motivation factor or will they lose focus? We’ll say this: Ken Niumatalolo has been the head coach at Navy for 11 seasons, we trust him to prepare this team who week in and week out is one of the most efficient teams in college football. The same is hard to say about Tulsa who relies so much on unity with their offense as we will discuss. Any disorganization by Tulsa could lead to problems for them.
Playing style is key to this game. Prior to last week against SMU, Tulsa had ranked 86th out of 130 in terms of opponents rushing yards per attempt. We see this is as problematic against a Navy team that controls the time of possession and ranks 4th out of 130 teams in rushing yards per game. An inconsistent defense from Tulsa is concerning here especially after blowing a 21 point lead in the 4th quarter last week. It requires mental toughness and coming together to bounce back from something like this (will they have the right preparation for the triple-option offense?). It’ll be easier said than done against a Navy team that likes to control the game and force teams to make a move.
With that said, the key to this game is whether or not Tulsa can throw (70% of their total yards come through passing) Navy will be their toughest test this year as they rank 27th in pass defense. We’ve already seen Tulsa struggle against a solid passing defense like Michigan State (ranked 30th). Their other 4 opponents were ranked 71st (San Jose State), 96th (Oklahoma State), 128th (Wyoming), and 88th (SMU). Navy is a step up in class. A young Tulsa offensive line needs to be sharp enough so that Tulsa’s QB Zach Smith feels comfortable in the pocket. Given Tulsa’s youth upfront that consists of three sophomores and a redshirt freshman. This will be key here as Tulsa is ranked 11th on 3rd down conversion rates but on the flip side, Navy’s defense ranks 8th in the nation at opponent’s 3rd down conversation rate. Pressure will be on this offensive line to give Smith time, we believe it will be Tulsa’s offensive line’s toughest test yet against a solid Navy defense.
In terms of Navy’s offense they come into this game with a red zone scoring percentage at 100%. They have yet to go into the red-zone and not score. Efficiency will be helpful as Tulsa has shown vulnerability on defense. Likewise, Tulsa themselves will need opportunities themselves on offense ranking just 73rd in red zone opportunities per game. But as mentioned the biggest advantage Navy will have is their triple-option attack, where we will see Navy run the ball a lot. The Tulsa defense has been slightly below average overall as they rank 84th against the run and 91st in points allowed, giving up 29.6 ppg. This run defense will likely have a tough time against the top rushing team in the conference and it is important to note how Navy has averaged 418.8 yards per game against them the last four years. Navy has won all four of these games and continues to dominate the head to head series in recent seasons.
Tonight is a huge game for both sides. Tulsa returns home needing a win with a difficult schedule ahead. Navy should be motivated as well in the sense that if they win this game, they have teams like South Florida and Tulane at home, and Connecticut on the road—all three are winnable games. Given Tulsa’s recent second-half performances, we will go with Navy, a team we see as one of the most efficient and well-coached teams on both sides of the ball. Today is a great opportunity for Navy to build on their big win over Air Force last week and it’s one we think they will take advantage of.