Navy vs. Louisiana Tech prediction and game preview. Projecting who wins the Armed Forces Bowl between the Midshipmen and Bulldogs.
Navy vs. Louisiana Tech, Armed Forces Bowl Preview
When: Friday, December 23 – 4:30 p.m. ET
Where: Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, TX
The Midshipmen and Bulldogs had hoped to be carrying championship hardware into the postseason. Instead, they’ll be looking to end 2016 on a high note after dropping league title bouts on Dec. 3. Navy was cruising into the American championship game, but the program’s direction suddenly veered off course. Not only were the Mids crushed by Temple, 34-10, but QB Will Worth and SB Toneo Gulley also suffered season-ending injuries.
Louisiana Tech went toe-to-toe with Western Kentucky in the Conference USA Championship Game before falling short, 58-44. Tech will need to win in Fort Worth to avoid lugging a three-game losing streak into the offseason that belies Skip Holtz’s third straight eight-win season in Ruston.
What To Know About Navy
The Midshipmen are going to run the ball, because that’s what Ken Niumatalolo’s option is designed to do. The team ranks among the nation’s leaders in rushing, but one-time third-stringer, Zach Abey, is the new point man. While Niumatalolo has fostered a next-man-in culture, Worth won’t be easily replaced. And Gulley was a big-play slot guy averaging almost 10 yards a carry. Don’t bank on the Navy defense bailing the team out, especially against the Bulldogs. The Mids are allowing 30 points per game, and the secondary has been easy pickings against the better quarterbacks on the schedule.
What to Know About Louisiana Tech
The Bulldogs are also vulnerable on D, but more so against the pass, which is not Navy’s strength. Against the run, Louisiana Tech is only giving up 3.7 yards per carry. Plus, DE Jaylon Ferguson, LB Jordan Harris and S Xavier Woods can make plays all over the field. On offense, the Bulldogs will be in attack mode from the opening drive. Senior Ryan Higgins is the third different quarterback in the last three years to throw for more than 3,000 yards in this offense, and RB Jarred Craft and receivers Carlos Henderson and Trent Taylor are all 1,000-yard performers this season. Tech produced at least 44 points in all but one of its final eight contests.
Offense: Louisiana Tech. With Worth behind center, this would have been a push, but there’s uncertainty with an unseasoned quarterback at the controls of an offense that relies so heavily on snap decisions and clean ball-handling.
Defense: Push. Both defenses are unreliable, especially when the ball is in the air. The Bulldogs are tougher versus the run, but have also played a weaker schedule than Navy.
Special Teams: Louisiana Tech. Both punters sport strong legs. Bulldog Jonathan Barnes, though, is an offensive weapon, hitting 20-of-25 field goal tries.
Coaching: Navy. Holtz keeps winning in Ruston. However, Niumatalolo is among the most underrated coaches in the country for what he consistently does in Annapolis.
Intangibles: Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs will be rested for the Armed Forces Bowl. The Mids will have a shorter window to prepare and recharge, since they still must play Army in their annual rivalry game.
Matchup To Watch
Henderson and Taylor vs. Navy corners Tyris Wooten and Jarid Ryan
The Midshipmen have had problems all year controlling polished passing games, ranking 123rd nationally in pass efficiency defense. That’s going to be a problem in Fort Worth, because Henderson and Taylor form one of the best pass-catching tandems this side of Seattle. Taylor will hurt Navy underneath, while Henderson is a home run hitter averaging almost 20 yards a reception.
Navy vs. Louisiana Tech Betting Odds
Spread: No line as of post
Over/Under: No line as of post
Navy vs. Louisiana Tech Prediction
You can knock down the Midshipmen, but they’ll pop right back up. It’s the way they’re built by Niumatalolo. Sure, Louisiana Tech will again pile up gaudy offensive numbers, but so will Navy behind Abey, who will benefit by getting the Army game under his belt. Neither defense will show up, which is nothing new to either program. However, Navy’s discipline and ability to play keep-away will eventually wear down the Bulldogs in an entertaining and high-scoring study of contrasts that favors the team that runs the ball effectively.
Navy vs. Louisiana Tech Score Prediction: Navy 45, Louisiana Tech 40
Campus Insiders Staff Picks
Brian Stultz: Navy
Jeff Bartl: Navy
Rich Cirminiello: Navy
Robert Judin: Navy
Jordan Cornette: Louisiana Tech