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Navy stellar as road ‘dog, able to hang with Falcons

The Navy-Air Force clash in Colorado Springs, Colo., today is the first leg in the three-way battle for the annual Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy.

Navy has dominated in recent times, winning 15 of those games in a row — eight against Army and seven against Air Force.

But Air Force was inarguably the most impressive of the military academies during the opening month of the college football season. The Falcons’ 3-1 start includes a lopsided victory over Brigham Young and a near-miss at national championship contender Oklahoma.

“We know we better be ready to go because this is one of the better Air Force teams we’ve played,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said.

While quarterback Tim Jefferson and the Falcons’ offense are functioning at peak efficiency, it’s difficult to pass up Navy and double-digit points considering its recent domination in the series.

The Midshipmen have been stellar as a road underdog, compiling a 21-8 record against the spread (ATS) in the role over the past nine years.

Take the Middies plus 10 points, and here are six more plays for today (home team in CAPS):

■ Texas (+3½) over Oklahoma — The Longhorns looked putrid last week in getting hammered by UCLA. Texas coach Mack Brown, however, has been money as an underdog (4-0 ATS the past 10 years as a regular-season underdog) and off a straight-up loss (11-5 ATS). Texas has defeated Oklahoma in four of the past five meetings.

■ Michigan-INDIANA (Over 65) — All indications are that Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson will be near 100 percent for Michigan’s Big Ten opener. With the Heisman Trophy candidate at the controls, the Wolverines’ offense is a nightmare for mediocre defenses such as Indiana’s. Greg Robinson’s defense, however, is more of a nightmare for Michigan fans.

■ NORTH CAROLINA STATE (+3½) over Virginia Tech — Wolfpack quarterback Russell Wilson is off to a rousing start and throws to a bevy of big, talented receivers. The Hokies’ secondary showed weaknesses in their opener against Boise State. Backing Atlantic Coast Conference home ‘dogs in league play has been a moneymaker in recent years.

■ BAYLOR (-9) over Kansas — The Bears’ pitch-and-catch combo of Robert Griffin and Kendall Wright appears to be back in sync. Kansas is coming off a convincing win over perennial loser New Mexico State, but Baylor is 14-5 ATS the past decade as a favorite and needs this victory to ultimately achieve its goal of bowl eligibility.

■ BOWLING GREEN (-3) over Buffalo — Buffalo has been slow to adjust to the spread offense, while redshirt freshman quarterback Matt Schilz is likely to be starting again for Bowling Green. The Falcons have been better to this point.

■ HAWAII (-8) over Louisiana Tech — Amazingly, Tarik Hakmi becomes the fourth starting quarterback for Louisiana Tech this season. Hawaii leads the nation in passing offense at 405.5 yards per game, and Louisiana Tech has had great difficulty defending the pass over the past several years. The Bulldogs lost in their past four trips to the Islands.

Last week: 2-5 against the spread

Season: 12-13-1

Texas-based handicapper Paul Stone of Vegassportsauthority.com is providing college football analysis for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

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