The 2017 Military Bowl will feature the Virginia Cavaliers and the Navy Midshipmen. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 EST on Thursday, December 28 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.

Oddsmakers view the game as a PK between Virginia and Navy. The over/under is set at 55 points. Click here for a full list of bowl game betting odds and links to game previews.

Military Bowl Vegas Spread Preview: Virginia vs Navy

Just being in a bowl game is a big deal for Virginia. The Cavaliers haven’t gone bowling since they played in the 2011 Chick-fil-A Bowl. Of course, the Cavs lost five of their last six games to end the season. Nevertheless, head coach Bronco Mendenhall did a great job of getting the program turned around in a hurry. Virginia was 2-10 a year ago in Mendenhall’s first season in Charlottesville. But now the Cavaliers are 6-6 and one win away from their first winning season since 2011.

Navy, on the other hand, had a down year based on their standards. Much like Virginia, the Midshipmen started the season strong but faltered down the stretch, losing six of their final seven games to finish 6-6. Unlike Virginia, this will be the 9th time in 10 seasons that head coach Ken Niumatalolo has led the Midshipmen to a bowl game.

2017 Military Bowl Free Pick & Betting Predictions: Virginia

It’s tough to go against Navy, especially when the Midshipmen are playing on their home field. But I’m going to lean toward the Cavaliers in this game. Mendenhall led BYU to 11 bowl games in 11 years. He knows how to prepare a team for a bowl game. He will have the Cavs, a team with no bowl experience, excited to play and ready to win.

The biggest factor that makes me lean toward Virginia is the fact that they play Georgia Tech every year. The Yellow Jackets run the same kind of triple-option that Navy does. The Cavaliers won’t be daunted by the task of having to learn how to defend the triple-option because they already have experience facing it. In fact, the extra time should make them even more prepared.

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More importantly, the Cavaliers played well defensively against Georgia Tech earlier this year. To be fair, they were burned on a few long pass plays. But that should be less of a concern against Navy. The Virginia defense held Georgia Tech nearly 90 yards below their season average in rushing yards. The Yellow Jackets rushed for just 4.2 yards per rush against Virginia, more than a full yard below their average. If the Cavaliers can produce a similar effort against Navy, they’ll be in good shape.

Of course, the Virginia offense will also have to contribute to the cause. This unit was up and down all season. Ironically, Virginia was one of the worst rushing teams in the country, averaging just 3.2 yards per rush and less than 100 yards per game.

However, senior quarterback Kurt Benkert had an impressive season. He made plays for the Virginia offense when they needed him to and actually played one of his best games late in the season against a talented Miami defense. I like him to close out his career on a high note after a disappointing senior night in which the Cavs were shutout against Virginia Tech.

Obviously, neither team enters this game with a lot of confidence after both struggled to win late in the year. But that should make for an interesting game since both teams will be desperate to finish the season with a win. I think the difference in this game will be Virginia’s experience facing the triple-option. That helps to take away Navy’s biggest edge, and for me, swings this PK game in Virginia’s favor.