Houston at Navy Odds
|Houston Odds||-14 [BET NOW]|
|Navy Odds||+14 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||-550/+400 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||55.5 [BET NOW]|
|Time||Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET|
It’s been a rollercoaster season for Navy.
The Midshipmen have been humiliated by BYU and Air Force but seem to have righted the ship after wins over Temple and East Carolina. Navy’s triple option lit Houston up for 56 points last season, so it could be a live dog at home on Saturday.
Houston came back down to Earth last Friday at home with a 43-26 loss to BYU. The Cougars’ air raid attack has improved in Dana Holgorsen’s second year, but they’ve struggled to run the ball early this year.
The Cougars have historically struggled against Navy’s triple option (and got torched by Army in the 2018 Armed Forces Bowl), so they better be prepared for an improved Midshipmen squad on Saturday.
Clayton Tune was thrust into action after D’Eriq King tore his ACL in the fourth game of the season last year. He battled a lot of injuries but was still efficient, throwing for 8.6 yards per attempt and 11 touchdowns. He’s improved that efficiency through the first two games of 2020, throwing the ball for 9.8 yards per attempt.
However, Tune is a very turnover-prone quarterback. In his nine career starts under center, he’s thrown 11 interceptions, including two this year. Tune does have all of his weapons back in 2020, so Holgorsen’s offense should improve from ranking 97th in passing success in 2019.
The issue with an air raid offense is the run game often gets ignored. So far this season, Houston has only run the ball for 3.3 yards per carry behind an offensive line that has gone through injury issues the past two years. If the Cougars want to have success on Saturday, they’ll need to have an increased focus on the run game because Navy has allowed 6.1 yards per carry this year.
The Cougars struggled in 2019 on defense, especially against the run, allowing 5.5 yards per carry. They’ve drastically improved through their first two games, but the triple option will be a different animal on Saturday.
Houston is going through a transition in the secondary this year, bringing in a handful of transfers to try to improve its pass defense that ranked 128th in defensive passing success last year. Although that won’t be much of an issue against Navy on Saturday, the Cougars will need to drastically improve if they want to contend for the AAC title.
Houston has a lot of experience back at the linebacker position, which is its best position group on defense. However, the defensive line suffered a setback when Alabama transfer and former five-star recruit Eyabi Anoma was dismissed from the team in February.
Last season, Navy’s triple option ran for 447 yards and 8.0 yards per carry in the final game of the season. Houston will need to be much more prepared this year.
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Navy has looked like two completely different teams this season. It clearly wasn’t ready to play BYU in the opener and couldn’t move the ball against Air Force. The difference in its last two games was the availability of Dalen Morris at quarterback.
Morris shined in the Midshipmen’s comeback against Tulane but was unable to play against Air Force, which caused the run-heavy Navy offense to rush for only 90 yards. With Morris under center, the triple option has drastically improved, running the ball for 4.61 yards per carry in its last two games. Morris was knocked out of the East Carolina game with a concussion but is probable to play against Houston .
Navy has all of its skill position players back on offense, including Jamale Carothers. The junior ran for a whopping 6.6 yards per carry in 2019 and is a dangerous weapon at fullback. Houston couldn’t stop him last year; he gained 188 yards on the ground on only 18 carries.
Navy’s defense looked like it didn’t know how to tackle through its first three games. Before the Temple game, head coach Ken Niumatalolo even said this week that his defense isn’t physical at all. Navy’s main issues have come against the run this year, as it’s allowing 6.1 yards per attempt.
Navy lost a couple of key players from last season, and so far, has yet to replace them — specifically up front and at the linebacker position. However, both of the key starting safeties have returned for the 2020 season. The Midshipmen improved their passing defense against East Carolina last Saturday, allowing only 104 passing yards and 5.2 yards per attempt.
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Betting Analysis & Pick
For Houston to dominate this game, it’s going to have to run the ball. However, there’s a problem there. Its run game has been a big issue up to this point season. If Holgorsen doesn’t have a more balanced attack, the Cougars could be on upset alert with how turnover prone Tune has been in his career.
Having Morris under center is huge for the Midshipmen. His poise and ability to run the triple option should open up plenty of running lanes for him and Carothers. Houston has struggled the last two years against the triple option, and with a lot of turnover on the defensive side of the ball, it’s hard to imagine it’ll be able to drastically improve.
I only have Houston projected as -7.98 favorites on the road Saturday. So, I think there’s plenty of value on the Midshipmen to cover the 13.5-point spread. However, I would only play it down to +12.
Pick: Navy +13.5 (down to +12)