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Liberty Bowl: Army vs. West Virginia odds, preview, and pick

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December 27th, 2020

West Virginia concluded the regular season with a 5-4 record, finishing sixth in the Big 12, and will now play in the Liberty Bowl for the third time. They’ve lost both previous appearances, most recently dropping a 45-37 shootout to Texas A&M in 2014.

Army’s season appeared over following the cancelation of the Independence Bowl, but the Black Knights received a Liberty Bowl invitation after Tennessee opted out. An independent, Army enters with a three-game win streak and a 9-2 overall record.

The schools will meet for the first time in 79 years, and both are defensive-oriented.

Thu, December 31 2020, 9:00 PM

West Virginia Mountaineers

Moneyline

-295

Spread

-7.5

Total

O 42

Army Black Knights

Moneyline

+230

Spread

+7.5

Total

U 42

West Virginia analysis

Ranked first in total defense for seven weeks, West Virginia wound up allowing only 308.6 yards per game. The formidable defensive line is anchored by ESPN All-American Darius Stills. Freshman Akheem Mesidor made an immediate impact by leading the team in sacks.

The Mountaineers' leading tackler, linebacker Tony Fields, will bypass this bowl game to prepare for the NFL Draft. But West Virginia has a pair of elite defensive backs in Dreshun Miller and Tykee Smith to assist in stopping the run.

The Mountaineers had success against one-dimensional opponents lacking a passing game, shutting down TCU by a 24-6 margin in Week 11. They posted a 5-0 record, covering every time, when holding opponents to 21 or fewer points. Army may have trouble moving the ball on their defensive front.

However, West Virginia has lost two of their last three games. They showed little fight offensively in the season finale, being shut out for three quarters before losing 42-6 to Iowa State.

The Mountaineers rank 105th in rushing, averaging only 122.5 yards per game, but tailback Leddie Brown has been a bright spot (945 rushing yards and nine touchdowns) for the low-rated offense.

Despite having solid depth at wide receiver, quarterback Jarret Doege has not met expectations. The inaccurate signal caller will try to bounce back after completing only 21 of 41 passes against Iowa State.

West Virginia and Army odds and statistics

Team NamePassing YardsRushing YardsPassing Yards AllowedRushing Yards Allowed
West Virginia Mountaineers
275.0, 27th
122.5, 105th
176.0, 11th
132.6, 31st
Army Black Knights
36.2, 127th
275.0, 5th
146.1, 4th
123.2, 22nd

Army analysis

Army runs the triple-option. Their fifth-ranked rushing attack averaged 275 yards per game, but they were able to bolster statistics by defeating Middle Tennessee State, Louisiana-Monroe, Abilene Christian, Citadel and Mercer this year.

The Black Knights didn’t get much going in a 24-10 setback to Cincinnati in Week 4, scoring their lone touchdown defensively. They grinded out low-scoring wins over Navy (15-0) and Air Force (10-7) to conclude the season.

Tyhier Tyler leads a deep backfield. Army is one-dimensional though, as they attempted only four passes over the last three games. They rely upon defense to keep themselves in games.

Jon Rhattigan, who plays fast and physical, led a nasty stop unit with 77 tackles. He and Arik Smith are part of an outstanding linebacker corps. Army excelled at getting off the field on third downs, allowing opponents to convert at only a 32.7% rate.

Army was exposed at times by passing offenses, but they line up well against teams that want to pound the ball on the ground.

Scoring will be at a premium in the Liberty Bowl

Both offenses are inefficient, and the Liberty Bowl has all the makings of a defensive slugfest.

Army has been held under 300 total yards in their last three games – they recorded only 162 yards against Navy – and it’s difficult to envision them scoring many points on West Virginia.

The Mountaineers allowed only 20.4 points per game despite playing in the high-scoring Big 12 conference. They should beat Army.

However, I don’t trust West Virginia’s offense to cover the point spread, and the trends do not favor them.

Will West Virginia cover the spread against Army in the Liberty Bowl?

West Virginia is 0-6 against the spread in their last six bowl games, and Army is 5-1 ATS in the last six against the Big 12.

I will bet the Under in what should be a low-scoring Liberty Bowl.

NCAAF pick: Under 41.5


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