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Beware of Gambler's Fallacy in betting Army-Navy game

December 14, 2019 12:25 AM

For the past 15 weeks, we've had countless college football games to get down on each Saturday. Today, we have only one game: the 120th installment of Army vs Navy. 


For gameday analysis and betting updates, be sure to join Michael Lombardi, Patrick Meagher and myself this morning from 9 a.m.-noon ET on The Lombardi Line. We'll be breaking down all the late sharp action leading up to kickoff. Plus we will break down a plethora of bowl games in the coming weeks.


For now, let's discuss where smart money is flowing for today's college football game. 


3 p.m. ET: Army (5-7) vs Navy (9-2, ranked 23)

In one of the oldest traditions in sports, Army and Navy meet for the 120th time with the winner taking home the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy. Army will be playing for pride while Navy is scheduled to play Kansas State in the Liberty Bowl on Dec. 31. Army had an up-and-down season, starting 3-1, then dropping five straight before going 2-1 in their final three games. The Black Knights are 5-7 ATS, averaging 30.25 PPG on offense and giving up 22.33 PPG on defense. Navy has had a stellar year, going 8-3 ATS and averaging 39.27 PPG on offense and giving up 24.18 PPG on defense. The Midshipmen are led by senior QB Malcolm Perry, who has rushed for 1.500 yards and 19 touchdowns. 


This line opened with Navy listed as a 10.5-point favorite. Two-thirds of the bets are laying the points with Navy, likely due to its superior record and ranking. However, despite this lopsided support, the line has remained frozen at 10.5 or even dipped to 10. This sharp line freeze and reverse line movement signals liability on road dog Army. The Black Knights have value as a contrarian unranked dog against a ranked opponent in the most heavily bet (and only) game of the day. Army also has value as a double-digit dog in a low-total game (40.5). Low totals benefit dogs: The fewer number of expected points levels the playing field and makes it harder for the favorite to cover the number. 


Sharps have also gotten down on the total. It opened at 43. Despite two-thirds of the bets taking the over, the line has fallen to 40.5 or even 40, signaling sharp reverse line movement on the under. When two military academies go head-to-head, the under has gone 34-9 (79.1%) since 2005 according to Bet Labs Sports. This is due to both teams running the ball almost every play and chewing up the clock with the triple option. 


Here are the last five Army-Navy results

2018: Army 17-10

2017: Army 14-13

2016: Army 21-17

2015: Navy 21-17

2014: Navy 17-10


The under has hit in the last 13 Army-Navy games. Many public bettors are falling victim to Gambler's Fallacy and targeting the over simply because "it's due." However, this logic is flawed. Think of it this way: if you're at the roulette table and you see the ball land on black 10 spins in a row, many people would bet red on the 11th spin simply because it's "due." However, each spin of the roulette wheel is independent of previous spins, just as each game is independent of previous games. It's just as likely to land on black as it is to switch to red. 


The forecast also calls for 15 MPH winds and possibly some rain. The under is 99-87 (53%) this season when the wind blows 10 MPH or more and 54% since 2005. When the wind speed is 15 MPH or more the under is 57.8% since 2003. This game will be played at Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles. The under is 7-5 in Army games this season but the over is 7-4 in Navy games. 


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