Head-to-head: Army vs. Air Force

Army will face rival service academy Air Force this Saturday in the final home game of the season at Michie stadium. For Army this is their chance to stake a claim for the annual Commander-In-Chief's Trophy. Air Force, which already defeated Navy, can win the trophy outright for the first time since 2002 with a victory.

Army enters the game after a win over an overmatched VMI team, 29-7. Air Force gamely battled No. 8 Utah losing by just 28-23 despite committing five turnovers.

Air Force
Army rushing offense
Air Force rushing defense
After rushing for 316 yards against VMI the Black Knights current are ranked seventh in the country in rushing. Trent Steelman didn't have his best game last week as he fumbled a mesh exchange with Hassin while rushing for 42 yards on 10 carries. "B" back Jared Hassin ran for over one hundred yards for the third straight game. Hassin ran for a career high 158 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown. Hassin, who rushed for 669 yards this year, runs with an upright running style and needs to do a better job protecting the ball. Pat Mealy looks healthy after struggling with a knee injury as he ran for 97 yards against VMI. Slot backs Malcolm Brown, 308 yards, 3 touchdowns, and Raymond Maples, 106 yards, both missed last weekend's game but are expected to play against the Falcons. The most important player returning from an injury is center Zac Peterson. Peterson is Army's best offensive lineman. Air Force does an excellent job forcing option teams between the tackles. Backup center Tom Hagan has struggled the last two games when he replaced Peterson. Air Force's run defense has struggled mightily the last month. The Falcons were allowing 156 rushing yards a game through their win over Navy. Since that time they've allowed over 263 rushing yards per game since. TCU rushed for 377 yards against the Falcons two weeks ago. Air Force's rushing defense is currently ranked 110th in the nation in run defense The Falcons play a 3-4 front which is allowing over 205 rushing yards for the season. Air Force has had good success in recent years defensively with its Cover 3 scheme against option teams designed to take away the pitch back and force the game between the tackles. Air Force best player on defensive line is defensive end Rick Ricketts. This year Ricketts has 46 tackles and was credited with an assist on a sack. Air Force inside linebackers Jordan Waiwaiole, 12 tackles against Utah, and Brady Amack who has 59 tackles-- make most stops on the Falcons defense. Nose guard Ryan Gardner, who has been out with an injury, is expected to play this Saturday against the Black Knights.  
Army passing offense
Air Force passing defense
Trent Steelman on the season has completed 53.2 % of his passes for 568 yards and 4 touchdown with no interceptions. Steelman threw the ball poorly against VMI, completing only 4-of-11 passes for 65 yards. For the second week in a row Trent overthrew a wide open Brian Cobbs on the second series that would have been touchdown. Steelman did make a perfect throw on a 41 post pattern in the first half that George Jordan dropped. Wide receiver Davyd Brooks, seven catches for 93 yards and a touchdown, is Army's most talented receiver and needs to be more involved. The last two games Army missed potential big plays in the passing game due to dropped balls or poor passes. That has to stop if they want to beat the Falcons. Air Force secondary is one of the strengths of their team.. The Falcons secondary is led by their two exceptional cornerbacks, Reggie Rembert and Anthony Wright. Rembert was named first team All-MWC last year and has intercepted three passes this year. Wright has started 27 straight games and finished last year with seven interceptions. He picked off three passes against Houston last year in the Falcons blowout bowl win over Houston. Safety Jon Davis leads Air Force with 73 tackles and two interceptions.  
Air Force rushing offense
Army rushing defense
Air Force enters the game ranked second in the nation in rushing offense averaging over 313 yards a game. The Falcons has averaged 29 points per game. Fullback Jared Tew was injured a few weeks ago and has been replaced by Nathan Walker who ran six times for 31 yards. Tailback Asher Clark is the Falcons big play runner. Clark has rushed for 735 yards and is averaging 5.8 yards a carry. Quarterback Tim Jefferson, 570 yards, leads Air Force with nine rushing touchdowns. Offensive coordinator Clay Hendrix deserves a tremendous amount of credit for retooling the entire offensive line with five new starters. Army has struggled containing physical running teams that have come right at them this year like Temple and Eastern Michigan. For the season the Black Knights rank 27th in the nation in rushing defense. Against VMI Army allowed 123 yards rushing and 3.8 yards a carry while surrendering one rushing touchdown. However, given VMI's problems running the ball this season it was less than impressive. The Keydets entered the game averaging just 68 rushing yards a game. They averaged just 2.4 yards per carry. Nose tackle Mike Gann left the VMI with an ankle injury but is expected to play. A.J. Mackey did a solid job filling in after Gann was injured but the Black Knights need a healthy Mike Gann to slow the Falcons rushing attack. Defensive end Marcus Hilton, 24 tackles, will return after missing the VMI game. Stephen Anderson had seven tackles against the Keydets before leaving the game for precautionary reasons. Anderson was injured in last year's game against the Falcons.  
Air Force passing offense
Army passing defense
Tim Jefferson hasn't been as accurate a passer his junior year as he had been in the past. Jefferson has thrown seven touchdowns but has completed only 50.4% of his throws while throwing six interceptions. Jefferson has played well but has been banged up in recent weeks. Losing some of his best receivers to injury hasn't helped. Wide receiver Kevin Fogler will miss this weekend's game with a knee injury. Last year Fogler had 25 catches, averaged 22.7 yards a catch and scored five touchdowns including a 73-yard touchdown against Army last year. Tight end Chaz Demerath who missed the TCU game due to injury returned against Utah with a catch. Explosive wide receiver Jonathan Warzeka led the Falcons in receiving and has scored a combined five touchdowns. Air Force's new offensive line does a good job in pass protection but will be tested by Army's flex front. Army will look for its double eagle flex to create pressure against the Air Force offensive line. Josh McNary had a surprisingly quiet game against VMI. McNary has posted nine sacks and is fourth in the nation in that category. Cornerback Antuan Aaron who was held out last week is expected to play against the Falcons. Donovan Travis has returned to health and had terrific game against the Keydets with nine tackles, an interception and a pass break up. His interception and lateral to Jordan Trimble for a 42-yard touchdown sealed the win. The Black Knights are 33rd in the country against the pass but are tied for 10th in the nation inside the defensive red zone.  
Special Teams
Air Force has a history of excellence on special teams but haven't been inconsistent this year. Place kicker Erik Soderberg has hit on only 5-of-9 field goal attempts this year. He is 0 for 3 beyond forty yards. Anthony Wright and Reggie Rembert are both dangerous punt returners. Wright had an 88-yard punt return for a touchdown against Army last year. Johnathan Warzeka has averaged 29.4 yards per kickoff return and has returned one for a touchdown this year. Punter Ken Bartholomew averages 41.5 yards a punt. Troy Calhoun has had quarterback Tim Jefferson quick punt effectively nine times this year. Uncharacteristically, the Falcons have given up a few long returns this year. . Kicker Alex Carlton had his best game of the season hitting both his field goal attempts from over 40 yards against VMI . Jonathan Bulls has averaged 39.5 yards per punt and placed 10 punts inside the 20-yard line. Army's punt coverage has been outstanding allowing just 27 return yards on 14 punts the entire season. Army's kickoff coverage was terrific allowing an average of just 15.5 yards on six returns against VMI. Josh Jackson has returned 15 punts for 112 yards and averages 7.5 yards a return.  
Both of these teams are extremely well coached and well prepared. Air Force lost all five starters on the offensive line to graduation yet are one of the nations best rushing teams. Calhoun's team is playing at a very high level despite its difficult schedule and injuries. The four teams that have beat Air Force this year sport a combined 30-3 record. They battled Oklahoma and Utah down to the wire. Rich Ellerson and his staff does a tremendous job. Army leads the nation in turnover margin. That's the sign of a well coached team. Army's defense dominated Air Force in the first half last year before falling apart in the second half.  
Army has been consistently outplayed by Air Force. The Black Knights have posted a dismal 2-19 record against the Falcons the last twenty one years. Air Force is more battle tested and has been competitive in every game except the TCU contest. A victory over Army would give them the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy. Army will have a packed house and enthusiasm on their side but they haven't played as well offensively the last six quarters and have injury problems.  

PREDICTION: Air Force, 23-17.

COMMENTS: Army's defense dominated the Falcons in the first half last year before falling apart in the second half and losing 35-7. In my preseason predictions I predicted an Army win. However, Army isn't playing as well offensively due to injuries. They have consistently missed potential big plays in the passing game the past few games. I'm concerned about Army ability to keep Air Force's running game in check. Air Force is more battled tested. I hope I'm wrong but I see the Falcons prevailing.

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