On Saturday (10/21/23), Air Force faces Navy in the first of the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy series this season. In this article, find a full preview of the matchup and the latest betting odds. In addition, find our best bet which is Navy +10.5.
Air Force Vs. Navy Prediction
For the first time since 2019, Air Force was ranked in the AP Poll, debuting at number 22 following their win over Wyoming. The Falcons are now 6-0 with an average margin of victory of 22 points. However, they got some unfortunate news with starting quarterback Zac Larrier expected to miss some time with a knee injury.
In his absence, Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun will turn to Jensen Jones, a fellow senior who has attempted just one pass in his career and has run for 190 yards over five seasons. Jones fumbled twice against Wyoming last week, allowing them to get back into the game, and his ability to execute a clean offense is very much in question.
Meanwhile, Navy lost its starting quarterback Tai Lavatai last Saturday. True freshman Braxton Woodson entered the game and led Navy to a 14-0 win over Charlotte. His 69-yard touchdown pass to Eli Heidenreich helped his team secure the win.
Navy’s defense has struggled this season overall, but that’s mostly due to their pass defense ranking 101st in success rate allowed. That doesn’t matter against Air Force’s backup quarterback, however. They’ve been far more competent against the run, ranking 25th in rushing EPA/play allowed.
Navy enters this game with just a 3-3 record, but they’ve played a much tougher schedule than Air Force, who has faced the third-easiest schedule in the country so far per FPI. The uncertainty at quarterback adds some variance to make the underdog more enticing, and I see this as a good sell high spot for an Air Force team that has picked on a weak schedule.
Air Force Vs. Navy Prediction: Navy +10.5
Air Force Vs. Navy Best Odds
AF @ NAVY
Oct. 21, 11:00 AM
Odds updated October 21st, 2023, at 2:04 pm
The spread for this game has been hovering around 10.5 points favoring Air Force, and the home Midshipmen can be found around +300 on the Moneyline at the time of writing. The total for this game has been dropping, which is predictable given it’s a service academy game. It currently sits at 36.5 points.
Air Force Vs. Navy Key Matchups
When these service academy teams match up, you can expect a ton of rushing attempts for both teams. Let’s break down each team’s rushers in a game where they could each be down to their backup quarterback.
Emmanuel Michel and John Lee Eldridge III Vs. Navy’s Run Defense
Emmanuel Michel leads Air Force with 480 rushing yards and eight touchdowns, but it’s been John Lee Eldridge III who has been the most efficient. Eldridge leads the FBS with a 10.5 YPC clip and is running for 5.94 yards after contact per attempt. Navy will need to work hard to contain this highly talented backfield.
The Midshipmen rank 25th in rushing EPA/play allowed, and while their overall defensive metrics are poor, they’ve been very good against the run. Linebackers Will Harbour (25) and Colin Ramos (20) lead the defense in run stops per PFF while nose tackle Clay Cromwell has been crucial.
JLE3 DOES IT AGAIN!
If John Lee Eldridge III enters the #NFLDraft, whoever gets him is getting an absolute STEAL.
— Anthony Damcott (@AnthonyDamcott) October 15, 2023
Alex Tecza and Daba Fofana Vs. Air Force’s Run Defense
Navy’s Alex Tecza is having an excellent season with 505 rushing yards, and he ranks fourth in the FBS with an average of 8.1 yards per attempt. Last week, Tecza had a 62-yard touchdown run against Charlotte. Daba Fofana hasn’t been quite as efficient on a per carry basis, but he has forced an impressive 16 missed tackles per PFF.
Air Force’s run defense has been solid, ranking 47th in rushing EPA per play allowed and fourth in PFF tackling grades. However, we should still expect Navy to have success running the ball given they’re 38th in rushing success rate this season.
Check out the touchdown run by Alex Teczapic.twitter.com/oWLCr26qN3
— Navy Athletics (@NavyAthletics) October 14, 2023