Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, Monday, 11:45 a.m. ET, ESPN
Suggested slogan: Yo dawg, I heard you like the armed forces...
How Middle Tennessee got here: In short, by beating a lot of bad teams. The Blue Raiders did knock off Marshall 51-49 in a shootout, but that's easily the best of the team's wins. The other ones came against eventual 3-9 Memphis, 6-6 FAU, 2-10 UAB, 1-11 FIU, 1-11 Southern Miss, 2-10 UTEP, and I-AA's 2-10 Western Carolina. What does this team do well? It's hard to say. Run the ball is my best answer, as lead backs Jordan Parker (5.1 YPC) and Reggie Whatley (6.8 YPC) rush for a good per-carry average. It's kind of sad, really, what realignment has done to CUSA, that a team like this who has defeated only one decent team went 6-2 in-conference. It's basically an expanded Sun Belt at this point.
How Navy got here: When you're talking about a triple option team, you're going to be talking variance. Sometimes the option is working, and sometimes it's not. Sometimes the opponent is ready for it and sometimes it isn't. Sometimes the team beats Indiana, and sometimes it loses to Western Kentucky. Sometimes it get blown out by Duke, and sometimes it falls by four to Notre Dame. Sophomore QB Keenan Reynolds built on his nice freshman year by throwing for over 1,000 yards and rushing for over 1,200 this season. He's a great leader on the field and has shown a good command of the offense.
College football fans care because: Most of them like watching the service academies, and this game is the only bowl that has one.
SEC fans care because: We're proud to be Americans, where at least we know we're free.
Watch this game if...: You like to watch some triple option. Who doesn't?
Bottom line: Navy's typical physical disadvantage is probably not going to be as great here (if it's there at all) against Middle Tennessee as it would against a top tier team. That said, the flexbone is best when it's a change up. Navy from the Paul Johnson/Ken Niumatalolo era is just 3-6 in bowl games. The extra time to prepare does seem to have helped opponents. Navy is the better team, but Middle Tennessee has defeated a better team in Marshall. The Middies probably should win, but it won't be a titanic upset if they don't.
Brandon's pick: Navy 24, Middle Tennessee 14
Line: Navy by 6.5