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Armed Forces Bowl Primer: Middle Tennessee State vs. Navy

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Quarterback Keenan Reynolds is one of five quarterbacks to throw and rush for at least 1,000 yards this season, but can he lead Navy to a win against Middle Tennessee State in the Armed Forces Bowl? Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images.
Quarterback Keenan Reynolds is one of five quarterbacks to throw and rush for at least 1,000 yards this season, but can he lead Navy to a win against Middle Tennessee State in the Armed Forces Bowl? Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images.

For the first time in history, a bowl game will be able to lay claim to all three service academies.

Having already featured Army in 2010 and Air Force from 2007-09, the Armed Forces Bowl (11:45 a.m. ET, ESPN) on Monday will host Navy, looking for its ninth win on the season, against Middle Tennessee State, riding a five-game winning streak.

So, who has the advantage?

Middle Tennessee State

Motivation: The Blue Raiders' senior class has only made one previous bowl appearance, that coming in the inaugural GoDaddy.com Bowl in 2011, when Middle Tennessee State lost to Miami (Ohio), 35-21. With a win in this year's Armed Forces Bowl, the Blue Raiders would have a six-game winning streak, their longest since 2009.

If You've Never Seen Them: The Blue Raiders have a balanced offense, averaging 207 passing yards and 208 rushing yards. Quarterback Logan Kilgore is going to look to keep Navy off balance, using running backs Jordan Parker (767 rushing yards) and Reggie Whatley (640 rushing yards) to get the ground game going. Meanwhile, Middle Tennessee State's run defense will be put to the test against Navy's option offense. The Blue Raiders have only allowed an average of 116.6 yards on the ground over their last three games.

Weakness: Middle Tennessee State is going to allow yards on defense, giving up an average of 405 yards per game, but while the Blue Raiders have had success in their last three games against the run, Middle Tennessee State hasn't faced an option offense like that of Navy.

Navy

Motivation: Navy was blown out in last year's Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl by Arizona State, 62-28. The Midshipmen seniors have only been to one other bowl game, the 2010 Poinsettia Bowl, which they also lost.

If You've Never Seen Them: Navy runs the triple option to perfection. Keenan Reynolds passed for 1,038 yards and rushed for 1,260 yards this season, making him one of only five quarterbacks in the nation to both pass and rush for 1,000 yards. Navy likes to control the clock, holding the ball for an average time of possession of 31:09 compared to 29:51 for its opposition, and will do everything it can to shorten the game.

Weakness: Navy hasn't faced much competition this year, having only played three games against eventual bowl teams in Duke, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame. The main issue for Navy is that its defense has been hit or miss. The Midshipmen showed they can hold teams down in wins over Army and South Alabama, but they also gave up 50 points to San Jose State.

Las Vegas Hilton Line: Navy -7.

Related: Scouting The Music City And Armed Forces Bowls