Military Bowl: Navy and Virginia both enter on late-season skids

Dr. Saturday
Navy quarterback <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/ncaaf/players/268330/" data-ylk="slk:Malcolm Perry">Malcolm Perry</a> picks up positive yards on a run in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against SMU Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017, in Annapolis, MD. (Paul W. Gillespie/The Baltimore Sun via AP)
Navy quarterback Malcolm Perry picks up positive yards on a run in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against SMU Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017, in Annapolis, MD. (Paul W. Gillespie/The Baltimore Sun via AP)

Military Bowl
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.

Virginia safety <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/ncaaf/players/243339/" data-ylk="slk:Quin Blanding">Quin Blanding</a> (3) clebrates after making an interception against Pittsburgh during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh won 31-14.(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Virginia safety Quin Blanding (3) clebrates after making an interception against Pittsburgh during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh won 31-14.(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

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.

PREDICTIONS

Nick: Navy 27, Virginia 20
Sam: Virginia 31, Navy 27

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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