One of the longest, and strangest, streaks in sports is on the line on Saturday at MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands at 3 p.m. ET when Army and Navy meet for the 122nd time.
The last 15 showdowns in one of the leading rivalries in college football all have resulted in winning bets for those who wagered “under” the projected point total.
So this year, that total listed by the legal mobile sportsbooks that will soon be operational in New York is lower than ever.
Army-Navy total down to 34, with some 33.5s out there. At 34, it's tied for the lowest total in the last 20 seasons (Penn State-Ohio State closed at 34 in 2004, ending 21-10 Ohio State), per @MackNova.
The last 15 Army-Navy games have gone under the total.
— David Payne Purdum (@DavidPurdum) December 7, 2021
The game is held annually in the Northeast in early December, often with inclement weather.
That will be the case again on Saturday — but with a twist. Instead of bone-chilling temperatures and/or snow flurries, the forecast for East Rutherford, N.J., is for a record-setting 63 degrees at game time.
Earlier projections of heavy rain have shifted, and now there only is a 23-24% chance of rain during the three-hour game window. High winds also are no longer expected during the game, with winds from the south/southwest at 13-14 mph.
Army knifes through defenses
If a contrarian bettor wants to play the “over,” they will focus mainly on the Army offense to get them there.
The Black Knights average 301.2 yards per game on the ground, with a college football-leading 43 rushing touchdowns and with a production of 30 or more points in nine of 11 games.
Army is 8-3 this season and lined up for a date with Missouri in the Armed Forces Bowl on Dec. 22 in Fort Worth, Texas. The Black Knights ran for 416 yards against bowl-bound Wake Forest and gave a strong Wisconsin team a tough battle.
Who to keep an eye on for Army? The team has used six quarterbacks, and no ballcarrier is averaging more than 10 carries per game. So, everyone.
That includes Tyrell Robinson, a sophomore who has run for 582 yards on just 59 carries. Quarterbacks Tyhier Tyler and Christian Anderson have nearly split evenly a total of 204 carries and 995 yards, while running back Jakobi Buchanan has a team-leading 11 touchdowns.
Navy used to fierce opposition
The Midshipmen also run the triple option — just not as effectively, hence a 3-8 record.
Navy only averages 20.4 points per game, and last year’s game vs. Army resulted in a 15-0 loss.
But look closer at the results, with only one loss by more than a touchdown in the last five games — including a tight loss to College Football Playoff-bound and undefeated Cincinnati. Navy also has played the nation’s third-most difficult schedule, based on opponents’ won-lost records.
Army’s schedule ranks just 93rd, so the Black Knights are not as battle-tested.
Army and Navy combine for just 16 passing attempts per game, while fellow service academy school Air Force is the only other school to attempt fewer than 20 passes per game in 2021.
The leading rusher for Navy is senior fullback Isaac Ruoss, with 608 yards on a modest 3.9 yards per carry.
Betting on game a mixed bag legally
West Point, N.Y., residents can’t yet wager legally on the big game from campus, as mobile sports betting won’t launch in the state until early in 2022.
But a one-hour ride to the northwest would enable the locals to place a wager at Resorts World Catskills casino. Typically, the quicker path for them would be a 30-mile trip south to Mahwah, N.J., where mobile betting is legal on almost all college sporting events. But this Army-Navy game is a rare exception: College events played in the Garden State cannot be wagered on legally in the state — a sentiment reaffirmed in a statewide vote last month.
As for Annapolis, Md., residents, they are in luck. The state just launched legal sports betting at MGM National Harbor casino on Thursday, with Gov. Larry Hogan kicking things off with a wager on the Baltimore Ravens to win the AFC (+700) and the Washington Football Team to capture the NFC (+5000).
On Friday, Horseshoe Casino Baltimore and Live! Casino & Hotel Maryland also were scheduled to begin allowing wagers. All three casinos are under an hour away from Annapolis.
Army is favored by just over a touchdown by most sportsbooks, and that over/under figure of about 34 points means that just two Navy touchdowns likely would turn any Army/under parlay picks into a loser.
With the weather tracking a bit better than was expected earlier in the week, points may not be as scarce as in recent years.
Finally, while the under has that 15-game winning streak, the total points have reached at least 38 in eight of those contests. The over/under total often was just high enough to pay out under bets. The last time more than 38 points were scored, however, was in Navy’s 34-7 win in 2013.
Photo: Danny Wild/USA TODAY