Navy Under Friday Night Lights At Central Michigan

By: Willie Bee | Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A pair of 2-3 college football teams might not sound like an exciting matchup, and it seems an unlikely one to get prime-time treatment from the self-anointed "worldwide leader in sports."  But Friday night's contest at Central Michigan between the Chippewas and Navy Midshipmen could turn out to be one of the more entertaining games of the week for fans and bettors alike.

It already qualifies as one of the more interesting games on the Week 7 betting board in terms of early movement.  The opening spread was all over the place with Navy -2½ at some sports books charted by Don Best's Pro Odds, other locales having it a pick 'em and a few shops offshore starting Central Michigan at -1½.  It has since settled with the Chippewas laying 2-2½ and a 60-point total that has shot up since beginning at 57.

One reason for what has been a 2-4 point swing into Central Michigan's favor is the status of Navy quarterback Trey Miller.  The junior pivot was in a walking boot at practice on Monday after injuring his left ankle in the final quarter of last week's overtime win over Air Force, and his availability for Friday's game should be known by Wednesday.  Miller leads the Midshipmen in rushing and had 110 yards on the ground while completing all three of his passes at the time of the injury.

Freshman Keenan Reynolds relieved Miller and guided the Midshipmen (2-3 straight up, 2-3 against the spread) back from a 21-13 deficit at Air Force with around 10 minutes remaining in regulation.

The early movement in the Chips' direction isn't anything new this year.  Three of their games – at Iowa and Toledo, home vs. Michigan State – saw spreads move towards Central Michigan (2-3 SU) who is 1-4 ATS in 2012 after going 1-11 at the betting windows in 2011.

The Falcons shot themselves in the foot with three turnovers to help Navy along last week, and while head coach Ken Niumatalolo was obviously pleased with the outcome, expect him to run Navy through practices this week as if the Middies lost the game.  Air Force's top-ranked ground attack literally ran roughshod over Navy for 507 total yards of offense (363 rushing), and they're going to face a different animal this week with CMU preferring to put the ball in the air behind senior QB Ryan Radcliffe who is well on his way to a third consecutive 3,000-yard passing season.

Navy hasn't allowed a lot of yards through the air this year (146 per game, 30th in nation), but that has been a product of playing several teams who like to keep it on the ground.  Radcliffe, who has received good protection from his line all season, should have time to throw and challenge the Midshipmen in what very well could be a 'who scores last' affair.

The key to the game, however, will be Central Michigan's ability to at least slow Navy's option or force Miller/Reynolds to make mistakes the few times they do throw. If oil flowed as easily from underground formations as points are put up on the Chippewas, gas would be going for about 89¢ a gallon.  Only four teams have been scored upon more than Central Michigan (40.8 ppg), and the Chippewas rank 103rd in total defense (457 ypg) with more than half of that coming via the ground.

There isn't much as far as series history for bettors to consider, but what's there is pretty recent.  Navy has won the only two other meetings (2003, 2010), splitting at the window while the 'over' cashed each time.  The collision in 2010 went down to the wire in Annapolis before the Middies pulled off a 38-37 win by stopping CMU's 2-point conversion try with only a few ticks left on the clock.  Navy was a 2-TD favorite in that game.

The current weather forecast for Mount Pleasant on Friday is a good one – upper-40s and clear at kickoff from Kelly/Shorts Stadium which is set to come a little past 8:00 p.m. (ET) on ESPN2.  Navy will return home to host the Indiana Hoosiers on Oct. 20 while the Chippewas get back to their MAC schedule and host Ball State the same day.

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