Motivation is the compelling issue in this game as SMU is one win away from becoming bowl eligible so today’s season-finale (at home) takes on added significance for the Mustangs, who have not reached the postseason since 2012.
Meanwhile, Navy clinched a spot in the AAC Championship game following its 66-31 win at East Carolina last week so the coaching staff is more concerned about maintaining the Midshipmen’s health than leaving the state of Texas with a win.
I backed SMU against South Florida last week and the Mustangs delivered an easy 35-27 cover as 12.5-point underdogs. Prior to that game, the Mustangs showed a lot of heart in their 55-31 win over East Carolina as 6.5-point road underdogs.
What made that victory even more impressive was the fact that it came only six days after the Mustangs suffered an embarrassing 51-7 loss to Memphis.
Let’s also note that SMU took down Houston 38-16 in October as a 23-point road underdog so the Mustangs are more than capable of defeating Navy on Saturday.
Last week’s loss to the Bulls doesn’t bother me because (a) SMU once again outperformed the betting market, and (b) SMU is 5-1 ATS in its last six games following a loss and 5-1 ATS in its last six conference affairs.
I’m never fond of laying points on the road with a team that struggles to get stops on defense, and that’s what we have with Navy in this game.
The Midshipmen are 0.7 yards per play worse than average defensively this season (6.6 yards per play to teams that would combine to average just 5.9 yards per play), and Navy’s secondary has been 1.2 yards per pass attempt worse than average with opposing quarterbacks completing 63.4% of their pass attempts.
More concerning is the fact that the Midshipmen are giving up 230 rushing yards at 5.8 yards per rush attempt and 421 total yards at 6.9 yards per play on the road this season.
Navy’s potent triple-option offense has an advantage against a solid SMU stop unit that is 0.1 yards per play better than average (5.6 yards per play to teams that would combine to average 5.7 yards per play).
SMU’s coaching staff, beginning with head coach Chad Morris, deserves a lot of credit for the team’s improvement on defense where the Mustangs are 13 points and 90 yards per game better than last year’s unit.
Despite improvement on both sides of the ball, SMU remains undervalued by the betting market and takes the field with legitimate revenge for last year’s 55-14 loss at Navy.
Finally, Navy is traveling for the second straight week, has Army on deck (1-6 ATS as a favorite before playing the Black Knights) and have nothing to play for after securing a spot in the AAC Title game.
Grab the generous points with SMU as Oskeim Sports’ Free Pick for Saturday, November 26!