The Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman 2017 is only two days away and features an intriguing matchup between the resurgent Virginia Cavaliers of the ACC and the Navy Midshipmen of the AAC.
Virginia had its first non-losing season since 2011 by finishing 6-6 overall and 3-5 in ACC play, but did stumble to the finish line by finishing just 1-5 overall with every loss coming by double digits after a 5-1 start to the season.
Navy had a similar season and finished 6-6 overall and 4-4 in AAC play after starting the season 5-0 before ending just 1-6 overall, including a tough 14-13 loss to rival Army on Dec. 9.
The Cavaliers are 7-11 all-time in bowl game appearances with their last bowl win coming in 2005, but Navy has had more success in bowl games lately. The Midshipmen are 10-11-1 all-time in bowls games, but since Virginia’s last bowl win in 2005, Navy has won five bowl games during that stretch.
These teams have met many times in the past with Navy owning a 28-11 all-time series lead over Virginia, but the last meeting came all the way back in 1994 in a game that went to Virginia and the Cavaliers have won five straight in the series.
The odds favor the Midshipmen in this game and they are currently 2-point favorites over the Cavaliers and ESPN’s Football Power Index gives Navy a 60.4 percent chance to win the 2017 Military Bowl.
A key matchup to look for in this game will be Virginia’s ability to slow down the Navy rushing attack. Year in and year out, the Midshipmen are among the leaders in college football in rushing. And the same can be said in 2017 as they average 343 rushing yards-per-game.
Virginia has done a fair job of stopping the run this season, allowing 178.3 yards-per-game on the ground. If the Cavaliers can cut Navy’s rushing total down to a level it isn’t used to, Virginia stands a great chance of pulling off the upset.
Both Navy and Virginia come in limping after both teams finished the season poorly. The Midshipmen and the Cavaliers started the season a combined 10-1, but finished it a combined 2-11. Both teams should be motivated to play in this game to finish the season over .500 with a bowl win.
The Cavaliers haven’t won a bowl game in 12 years and haven’t even played in one in six years, so this will be a big game for a program looking to become a factor in the ACC. But they will be at a disadvantage from the start.
This will be nothing short of a home game for the Midshipmen who are playing in their on-campus stadium. So, despite this technically being considered a neutral-site game, Navy will have a distinct advantage in the home field department.
Despite the Midshipmen’s 6-6 record, they could just as easily have a better record if a few breaks went their way. Navy lost all six of its games by 10 points or less, including four losses by one possession or less.
All the different storylines surrounding this game aside, the 2017 Military Bowl is a game with much significance to two programs that look to leave it all out on the field and end the 2017 season on a high note.
Navy and Virginia kickoff at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland and the game will be televised by ESPN.