Virginia (6-6) vs. Navy (6-6)
1:30 p.m. ET, Dec. 28, Annapolis, Maryland (ESPN)
Pick’Em, O/U: 54
HOW THEY GOT HERE
Virginia: The Cavaliers rebounded from a porous first season in Bronco Mendenhall’s first year with the team to get bowl eligible in 2017. The highlight of the season probably came in Week 4 when Virginia dominated Boise State on the road 42-23. That was win No. 2 in a streak of four-straight during a 5-1 start. So yes, that means UVa went 1-5 to finish the season. At least that Georgia Tech win got them a sixth win.
Navy: Hey, here’s another team that stumbled in the second half of the season. Navy started 5-0 and finished 1-6 as the schedule got tougher. After a three-point win vs. Air Force, the Midshipmen lost three-straight games. A win over SMU got Navy bowl eligible and the school has finished the season with three-straight losses — to Notre Dame, Houston and Army.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Malcolm Perry, QB, Navy: Perry has emerged as Navy’s top rushing threat and quarterback late in the season. He’s the team’s second-leading rusher and has 1,068 yards on just 122 carries. The man he supplanted, Zach Abyey, has 280 carries for 1,325 yards. That’s a 4.7 yards per carry average. Perry’s average is at 8.8. Perry had 30 carries for 250 yards in a 14-13 loss to Army in the snow on Dec. 9.
Quin Blanding, S, Virginia: Blanding is second on the team in tackles with 120 and is one of three Virginia defenders with four interceptions. The do-it-all senior will probably be an early-round selection in the NFL draft. The only Cavalier with more tackles is linebacker Micah Kiser, who also has 5 sacks. The dynamic duo will have to play smartly to keep Perry and Navy’s triple-option in check.
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH
Virginia’s rushing defense is just No. 82 in the country and gave up 178 yards a game. Navy averages 343 rushing yards a game, second only to Army. While Virginia beat Georgia Tech — fifth in the country in rushing — it’ll be fun to see how the Cavaliers try to contain a Navy attack that’s been much more explosive with Perry at the helm.
WHAT’S ON THE LINE
It’s a short road trip for Virginia. Just 155 miles separate Charlottesville from Annapolis. But it’s a home game for Navy, The Midshipmen were last in the Military Bowl in 2015 and won the game to finish 11-2. It’s the Midshipmen’s sixth-straight bowl game. The game is Virginia’s first bowl game since 2011 and the Cavaliers are looking for their first bowl win since the 2005 Music City Bowl.
Nick: Navy 27, Virginia 20
Sam: Virginia 31, Navy 27
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