Rich Ellerson admits the team is undersized even by their standards and they are playing many players a year earlier than they'll like.
Army's offense nearly doubled its point production in 2010 over the previous season. Army returns plenty of proven players like two year starting quarterback Trent Steelman, fullback Jared Hassin and quality A & C backs like Malcolm Brown, Raymond Maples and Brian Cobbs. The incoming freshman class upgraded the speed at the skill positions. The offensive line that features four new starters is an unknown but has played well this off season. I expect the offense will once again be improved. To win Army must move the ball, score and keep its undersized defense off the field.
The defense is a complete unknown. The Black Knights have just three returning starters from last year's team. The good news is team speed on the defensive depth chart has improved overall. The problem is Army lost all its experienced impact players. The lack of size is a major concern and at too many positions a starter has failed to be established. That sometimes means a coaching staff can't find a player who can meet their standards. With the reliance on youth and the inexperience of the defense the best thing they have going for them is an experienced coaching staff that will maximize their ability. I believe the team will take a step back this year but the arrow is still pointing up. This staff has added some really talented players these past two years but the senior class that was recruited by Stan Brock has suffered from tremendous attrition providing the team with very little size and no impact players. Let's look at each game.
Sept 3 @ Northern Illinois
Northern Illinois dominated the MAC in 2010 winning their regular season league games by an average of 32 points per game and finished the year 11-3. The Huskie offense is led by one of the country's best dual threat quarterbacks in Chandler Harnish. He plays behind a great offensive line. The Northern Illinois defense is suspect and they have a new coaching staff. I would have liked Army's chances better if they hadn't lost their experienced senior cornerback Antuan Aaron and Richard King unexpectedly in the off season. This is a talented passing team and a difficult matchup for an inexperienced Army secondary. Against Northern Illinois shaky defense Army's offense should have success. Out of the first three games this is probably the one Army has the best chance to pull an upset. Army Loss
Sept 10 San Diego State
The Black Knights home season opener at Michie stadium is probably the most difficult game on the schedule. Like Northern Illinois, the Aztecs success last year caused them to lose head coach Brady Hoke to Michigan. San Diego is loaded on offense with running back Ronnie Hillman.(1,532 yards, 17 tds) and senior Ryan Lindley (28 td passes). Last season the Aztecs crushed Navy 35-14 in the Poinsettia Bowl. They also beat Air Force. They open this season with a game against Cal Poly which means by the time they arrive at West Point, Rocky Long's team will be playing its third consecutive game against a triple option offense. Army Loss
Sept 17 Northwestern
Northwestern returns star quarterback, Dan Persa, from an Achilles tendon injury and a total of 17 returning starters. Coached by alumnus Pat Fitzgerald they are a dark horse in the Big Ten Legends Division. Army Loss
Sept 24 at Ball State
Last year Ball State finished the season just 4-8 but hired a new very talented head coach in Pete Lembo who's compiled a career record of 79-36 at FCS schools Lehigh and Elon. His high powered offense lacks the trigger man to be as productive as it should be in a few years once his program is fully in place. Ball State had one of the worst run defenses in the MAC last year. Ball State will be better this year but Army, which defeated them in Rich Ellerson's first season in 2009, should prevail.
Oct 1 Tulane
The Army Black Knights rolled over the Tulane Green Wave last year in an easy 41-23 win in New Orleans. Army ran for 317 yards and scored four rushing touchdowns. Army should win at home. Army Win
Oct 8 at Miami (Ohio)
Miami experienced the greatest turnaround of any team in all of college football last season. They improved from a 1-11 record into a 10-4 record and a MAC Championship. Miami has a new coach in former Michigan State offensive coordinator Don Treadwell. Even with its success last year Miami struggled to run the ball effectively. Their defense lived off the turnover last year. This is a good matchup since Army doesn't turn the ball over and the Miami offense is one dimensioinal. Army Win
Oct 22 at Vanderbilt
Once again Army faces a new coach in James Franklin who was Maryland's offensive coordinator last season. Vanderbilt is one of the most experienced team's in the SEC this year. Vanderbilt's offense wasn't very good in 2010 but they should be a better team this year. Army beat Vandy in 2009 but it took two Commodore touchdowns being called back by penalties to do so. Army can win this game but beating an SEC team on the road is never easy. Army Loss
Oct 29 Fordham
It been a long time since the days of the Seven Blocks of Granite at Fordham. Fordham just started awarding football scholarships again in 2009. The Rams last played Army in 1949. Tom Masella's team was just 5-6 last year and lost to Division II Assumption at home last year. Army should win easily. Army Win
Nov. 5 at Air Force
Army has been consistently outplayed by Air Force. The Black Knights have posted a dismal 2-20 record against the Falcons the last twenty two years. Since 1977 Army has only one win in Colorado Springs. This is a very good Falcon team that defeated Army 42-22 at Michie Stadium on their way to winning the Commanders-In- Chief trophy last season. Army has upgraded its talent and closed the gap but Air Force is a better team. Army Loss
Nov 12 Rutgers (at Yankee Stadium in Bronx, N.Y)
Last season Army dominated the play on both sides of the ball in the first half to race to a 17-3 lead. Rutgers rallied back to win 23-20 in overtime in one of the most disappointing games of the season for Army. Rutgers offensive line was awful last year as they could couldn't run block or protect. Army set a school record eight sacks in last year's game. Rutgers is a young team with some talent but the Black Knights match up well against them and are due for a break. Army wins in an upset. Army Win
Nov 19 at Temple
Once again Army faces a new coach as Florida offensive coordinator Steve Addazio's takes the reins Al Golden who left for Miami. Golden had done a terrific job building this program which used to be one of the worst in the nation. The Owls return star taiback Bernard Pierce and his back up, Matt Brown, who rushed for 226 yards and four touchdowns at Michie last year. Temple lost two All-MAC offensive lineman from a group that dominated Army's defense in 2010. The good news is Temple lost a lot on defense and last season, against a better group, Army ran for 235 yards, averaging 4.1 a carry and scoring four touchdowns. I think Temple takes a step back this year and Army wins an offensive shootout. Army Win
Dec. 10 Navy (at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia
Army enters this game trying to break the longest consecutive game losing streak, nine games, in the rivalry's history. Army finally broke the four-year streak without a touchdown last year. Ricky Dobbs beat the Black Knights with his passing ability over the top the last two years. Kriss Proctor can run the option but isn't a good passer. I think this will be the closest game in years since the Black Knight have done a solid job limiting Navy's spread option the last two season. Army can beat the Mids and the gap has closed but Navy is still the better team. Army Loss
I predict a 6-6 season with the team having to outscore opponents and limit the time of possession to win. The defense will struggle at times but will gain some valuable experience and emerge a much better team next season and beyond.