The Navy Midshipmen begin their voyage by playing host to the Marshall Thundering Herd on Saturday afternoon in the season opener for both schools. This will be the first-ever meeting between the programs and the college football odds have the home team as the slight betting underdogs.
Navy finished 3-7 last season, only the second losing record under coach Ken Niumatalolo. College football picks have them slated to finish near the bottom of their conference, but they can prove to be a potent underdog and they can start by turning back the Herd.
Marshall Thundering Herd: Staying Strong
The Herd finished 2020 with a 7-3 record (4-1 Conference USA) and captured the C-USA East Division. The program now aims for a fifth straight winning season as most of their key players return under first-year coach Charles Huff.
This includes eight of their starters from a conference-leading defense. The Herd limited opponents to just 13 points per game. They will be without linebacker Tavante Beckett and defensive end Darius Hodge, but transfers like Shane Simmons and Charles Moore should bolster the defensive line.
On offense, there are more question marks for Marshall. Quarterback Grant Wells faded down the stretch in 2020 but there is plenty of continuity here with three starters returning to the offensive line along with most of the team’s top receivers.
Navy Midshipmen: Lots of Holes to Patch
It may be a bounce-back season for Navy despite the early expectations. They’ll have to do something about their offense, which finished last in the American Athletic Conference and scored just 16.6 points per game. This is a far cry from the 37.2 the group averaged in 2019.
Assuming the Midshipmen can hover somewhere in the middle and scored points in the mid-20s, their defense will need to continue being a top unit. Like Marshall, Navy is returning plenty of starters from last season (eight). This includes star linebacker, Diego Fagot.
● LB Spotlight ●
Diego Fagot – Navy
• Fagot is one of the best Linebackers in #CFB and an elite tackler. In his career he has 188 Tackles, 24.5 Tackles for Loss, 8.5 Sacks, 1 INT, 4 Pass Breakups, 1 TD and 4 Forced Fumbles. pic.twitter.com/AepEbj1Rti
— NCAAF Nation (@NCAAFNation247) August 24, 2021
Navy allowed an average of 30.3 points last season but limited its last three opponents to 19 points or less. This included No. 22 Tulsa. Consider last season an aberration as this program should return to being a winning team in the AAC.
Pick: Believe … in the Navy
Going by last season’s performances, it’s no wonder Marshall is the betting favorite per the sportsbook. The team appears to be a better version of the Navy, featuring a stalwart defense with a shaky offense. But Marshall also has more continuity overall, except for one critical place: defensive coaching.
The team is switching from Brad Lambert, who left for Purdue, for Launce Guidry. The change in coordinators could throw a wrench in Marshall’s well-oiled defense, which Navy could exploit.
It will be up to new quarterback Xavier Arline to get the team going. The offensive line will also have to hold, especially with so many new players. But don’t sleep on the Navy. The Midshipmen are 2-1 against the spread (ATS) in their last three games as an underdog of six points or less.
Instead of taking the points here, just roll with Navy to pull off the upset, much like its Army counterparts.
Pick: Navy Midshipmen +120
Totals Pick: Sink, not Swim
We’re rolling the dice on our pick up there, but this over/under is more of a given. Both of these teams have solid defenses but unspectacular offenses. That’s a recipe for a low-scoring game. The betting trends confirm it, too.
The under has hit in the Herd’s last four games as a favorite and against the AAC. Navy had a rough opener last season and allowed a gazillion points. But with a more “regular” flow to the season, they should look more like the last three games.
Pick: Under 47 (-110)