Key Matchups: Army vs. Navy

The twelfth game of the year matches the Army Black Knights (Sagarin 115, 3-8) and the Navy Midshipmen (Sagarin 79, 4-7) in the greatest rivalry in all of sports. Navy leads the all-time series 55-49-7. This game represents what college athletics should be and all that is good in America.


However the last 9 years have been an outright embarrassment for Army.  They have been outscored 322-91 and have made every type of error imaginable.  In some of these games Army has been able to stay competitive into the half; others were lost from the onset.  Both teams have had disappointing seasons and will look to end on a high note with a victory over their arch-rivals. 


Three Weeks Ago

In Philadelphia, Trent Steelman left after the second play of the game and any hopes of Army staying in the game evaporated with his departure.


We had pointed out since Spring Practice that this squad was very small up front and that the larger teams that committed to running between the tackles would run all over Army.  To our surprise, none of the larger teams attempted to do this – until this game.  After one quarter, the Owls had blasted through the Cadet defense for 151 yards rushing, and 194 by halftime.  They finished with 335 yards on the ground on 42 carries, for an average of 8 yards per rush.  Bernard Pierce had 157 yards on 21 carries and Matt Brown had 133 yards on 8 carries.  QB Chris Coyer was 4 for 5 for 79 yards with a 50 yard TD pass.  Army did force 3 punts.


Without Trent Steelman, the Army Offense could generate very little against the Owls.  Angel Santiago is the Quarterback of the future, but without the threat to throw or pitch the ball to the slot-back, the offense was unable to generate anything positive.  Army had 92 yards of total offense in the first half. 


Army was much more productive with Max Jenkins at the helm in the second half, however it was more a matter of playing the Owl second and third string than it was his ability.


On a bright note, Raymond Maples had 93 yards on 12 carries and now has 984 yards on the year. 


In San Jose, Brandon Rutley had his best game of the year as he ran for 132 yards on 27 carries and caught 8 passes for another 101 yards, as the Spartans beat Navy 27-24. 


Navy was limited to 254 yards on 49 attempts.  Chris Proctor completed 9 passes on 20 attempts for 90 yards.  Navy was only 5 of 14 on 3rd down tries as the Spartans put 8 in the box and forced Navy to throw when it mattered.



What to look for?

For the first time, this game will be played at FEDEX Field in Washington D.C., in what seems to be a very fitting host of this game.


Navy scores 29.9 points a game and is 4th in the country in rushing yards per game @ 313.7 and an average of 5.5 yards per carry.  They have fumbled the ball 14 times and lost it 7 times.  They allow 29.6 points per game and give up 4.7 yards per rush.


Army is 1st in the nation in rushing with 350.9 yards per game, but they are dead last in passing, averaging a whopping 48 yards with 33 total receptions on the year.  The Black Knights average 5.59 yards per carry and they will most likely be the only team to break the 4,000 yards in 2011.  Army gives up 28.4 points per game and scores 25.2.  They have fumbled the ball 32 times and this has resulted in 19 turn-overs.  Finally, they give up 4.92 yards per rush.


Both of these teams have had very disappointing years.  Navy's run in the in the top 35 teams appears to be over as the last of PJs players are leaving the squad.  It is not simply the recruiting aspect that has been lost, but the coaching as well.  It has been a year of "what if's" for Army.  More directly – the question is: "What if they did not fumble the ball 3 times a game?"


Navy is a slightly better team in 2011 although there is not a great chasm between the teams as there has been over the past decade.   However, Navy is bigger, faster, has better special teams and does not fumble nearly as often.


An Army fan will look at this game and see that when Steelman, Maples, Dixon, Hassin and Brown play, their offense is at its best.  All these players will be ready Saturday.  Navy's weakness is their rushing defense and if Army does not fumble, they should be able to move the ball and score.


On the other side of the ball, Navy should be able to wear down the Cadet defense and score 35 points.  The added dimension that Navy has over Army is Chris Proctor, who is not only big, but also can throw effectively.  He was 14 for 24 for 132 yards against Air Force earlier in the year.


Neither team punts the ball particularly well (Army 38.24 avg. - Navy 37.45 avg.) and it is always an adventure when they kick a field goal (Army 3/6 - Navy 8/13.)


Army has had a tendency to make a real game-changing mistake that takes them out of an otherwise competitive game.  Last year Trent Steelman fumbled going into the end-zone and Wyatt Middleton ran the ball for 98 yards and a touchdown.  Obviously, Army must not make the crucial turn-over and if they do, they cannot collapse mentally.


We think that Army will play as they did against Northwestern.  They will move the ball effectively, dominate time of possession and will not lose the turn-over battle.  Army will put it together for a tremendous victory in our nation's capitol.


Who is favored?

Navy is favored by 7 points


Final Score –


Army 28 – Navy 27 (predictions 2011, 5-6)


Game will be shown on CBS @ 2:30PM EST. Top Stories