WHO: Navy (6-6) vs. Virginia (6-6)
WHAT: The 10th Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman
WHEN: 1:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, Maryland
THE SKINNY: Navy will get a chance to play a home game in the bowl season, but this is just about the perfect matchup the Military Bowl would have hoped for. With one team from Maryland and the other from Virginia, the Military Bowl should have quite a lively atmosphere this season as the Midshipmen play at home against the improving Virginia Cavaliers from the ACC.
Virginia became bowl eligible for the first time since 2011 in the second season under head coach Bronco Mendenhall. While the Cavs still have a good amount of room to improve on offense, quarterback Kurt Benkert has thrown for over 3,000 yards and 25 touchdowns this season. Virginia will need to have a good showing from their quarterback against an average Navy pass defense if the Cavaliers are to win their first bowl game since 2005.
The key for Navy will be milking as much of the clock as possible and wearing down Virginia’s defense. Malcolm Perry made a splash in the Army-Navy Game as Navy’s quarterback and looks to continue to grow as Navy’s starting quarterback in the Military Bowl leading the Midshipmen with their signature option offense. Don’t expect Abey to throw a pass too often, but when he does he will have to be careful not to make a mistake. Virginia’s defense has a couple of first-team All-ACC players in linebacker Micah Kiser (this year’s Campbell Trophy winner) and safety Quin Blanding that could pose trouble for Navy.
Virginia has seen an option offense before this season, and that one worked out well for them. Virginia took a 40-36 victory against Georgia Tech in the second half of the season. This one could develop into a similarly high scoring game, but don’t count on that being the case. Navy will work to keep this one a little lower scoring with the hope of being able to sustain some long scoring drives in the second half on their home field. In the end, however, Virgina may have a few more big plays go in their favor.
THE PICK: Virginia 27, Navy 23