Key Matchups: Army vs. Duke

The fourth game of the year matches the Army Black Knights (Sagarin 114, 2-1) and the Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Duke Blue Devils (Sagarin 86, 1-2.) Last year, the Blue Devils won a well played game 35-19.

Army will attempt to ride the wave of confidence and enthusiasm and reach the 3-1 mark, while Duke, who will try to take out their frustrations after an embarrassing effort against #1 Alabama last week. Duke has scheduled Army as their "patsy" for their Homecoming Weekend  celebration this week.

 

Last Week

Army limited a much maligned North Texas team to 201 total yards and earned their first shut-out since 2005, in a 24-0 victory.

 

North Texas started the game with their back-up quarterback, Derek Thompson, but he was knocked out with a broken leg early in the second quarter.  Last year's starter and this year's third string quarterback, Riley Dodge, tried to move the Mean Green, but Army was just too much.  The Cadets had five sacks (two more by Josh McNary) and bottled up the Mean Green's top runner, Lance Dunbar, limiting him to 42 yards on 12 carries.

 

Army took the opportunity to rest Hassin and Mealy, as each carried only 5 times.  Mealy was wearing a splint on his leg in the second half, but hopefully he will be ready to go against Duke.  A cast of underclassmen filled in and continued the relentless assault on the North Texas front 7.  Brian Cobbs and Malcolm Brown showed a lot of speed getting around the corner on sweeps.  Jacob Bohn and Jonathan Crucitti did a nice job filling in with 65 yards between them.

 

Last week we saw what Coach Ellerson will do when he has an opponent by the throat and a game completely under control. For the first time in his regime, RE had an opponent so dominated and dispirited that they wanted to go home halfway through the third quarter. He continued to bludgeon the enemy with sledgehammer blows between the tackles and about the head and shoulders with about as predictable and relentless a running attack as has been seen in these parts for twenty years or more, leaving North Texas with not the slightest opening or hope for a comeback. It was anything but pretty, or even the slightest bit entertaining, but wow, was it convincing and emphatic. Army left no doubt who was the superior team at the end of this contest. RE showed that when he has a game under control, there will be no trickery and no shenanigans. He will run it and run it and run it until the cows come home.

 

We normally get great mileage out of pointing out the negatives in Army's performances and warning West Point Nation not to get too excited over victories against weak opponents like North Texas. But there were no negatives in this game. Army so thoroughly annihilated the Mean Green that the only criticism we could possibly muster was that they were too methodical and boring in their approach to administering such a beating.

 

In Durham, Duke was annihilated by #1 Alabama.  The game was over in the first quarter, but the Crimson Tide continued to roll up 62 points over 626 yards.  Duke did manage to score 13 points, rack up 302 yards in offense and force 3 turnovers.

 

Who is favored?

Duke is favored by 6 points.

 

What to look for?

So far in the early going, Army has shown vulnerability in stopping the run. This week their obvious lack of size up front will be put to the test in a big way against Duke. It is the worst possible week to be facing the Blue Devils. Coming off an embarrassing loss to the Crimson Tide, they will certainly be looking to take out their frustrations and have a strong bounce-back effort against the Black Knights. Army will have to successfully stop the run, because Duke, who rushed for 146 yards vs. Alabama, will certainly try to exploit the ridiculous size advantage they will have up front against Army's defensive front seven in this match up. If Army is unable to hold up against the run, they will have almost no chance of staying competitive in this game. It figures that Army will need their offense to produce at least 30 points to have a chance to win this game. Last year, scoring 30 points against anyone would have been unthinkable. This year, with the significantly improved speed they are showing on offense , in particular from slotbacks Brown and Cobbs, who are consistently making big plays running to the outside, scoring 30 points doesn't seem so unreasonable anymore. But stopping the run and holding Duke under 30 will be difficult to say the least.

 

They must start and play the entire game the way they played Hawaii in the second half.  Error free, ball control offense and a tenacious defense.  But their ability to stop the run in this game will determine whether 30 points is enough for them to head down to North Carolina this weekend and come away with an unexpected victory, or not. We do not believe Army's front seven is up to the task.

 

 

Final Score – Duke 42 – Army 35 (predictions 2010, 1-1)

 

Game will be shown on ESPN 3, 3:00PM EST.


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