Preseason Predictions: Army Football 2012

Rich Ellerson enters his fourth season as Army head football coach with his Black Knights looking to rebound from a miserable 3-9 campaign last season. Last fall the Black Knights ran for school record 4,158 yards. The 2012 running back positions are the strength of the offense but they have to work on improving ball security.

Army returns plenty of proven players like four year starting quarterback Trent Steelman, fullback Larry Dixon and quality depth at running back with Raymond Maples leading the way. The move of Malcolm Brown to wide receiver improves the athleticism and speed at that position. The offensive line is anchored by sophomore center Ryan Powis, already a Remington Watch list candidate, and rock solid senior guard Frank Allen. The kicking game should be improved. To win Army must run the ball, avoid turnovers, score in the red zone and keep its undersized defense off the field.

The defense lost only one quality senior starter in rover Steve Erzinger. It's no secret that Army's defense struggled last year .The Black Knights finished 2011 ranked 100th in the nation in run defense and 98th in passing efficiency. The interior of the defensive line has been rebuilt and is bigger than last season but is still not going to scare anyone coming off the bus. Unfortunately quick end Jarrett Mackey's surgically repaired knee has not responded as the team had hoped and he isn't ready for the start of the season. The linebacker play should be better with Geoffrey Bacon and Justin Trimble benefiting from their playing experience last year. The secondary is still a concern with only solid cornerback Josh Jackson and rising sophomore safety Hayden Pierce inspiring confidence. The defense received a boost from last year's prep team in terms of talent but most of it is at least a year away from helping. Army is still unproven at some position but the upgrade in talent and team speed through Ellerson's recruiting is noticeable and started to see the field last year. Let's look at each game.

Sept 8 @ San Diego State
Last year the Black Knights lost their season opener at Michie Stadium to San Diego State, 23-20. The Black Knights rushed for 402 yards but killed themselves with eight fumbles while turning over the ball three times. San Diego State isn't as strong as last year with the graduation of the best passer they ever had in Ryan Lindley at quarterback. They also have to replace star running back Ronnie Hillman and retool their offensive and defensive lines. Super-fast wide receiver Colin Lockett returns and is a big threat. He scored on a 68-yard touchdown pass at Michie against Army. Lockett later ran by Josh Jackson but dropped a sure touchdown pass. San Diego State will have already played before lining up against the Black Knights which is usually an advantage. Army has to travel 3,000 miles to play this game. The Black Knights match up fairly well but I think the Aztecs prevail at home. Army Loss

Sept 15 Northern Illinois
Northern Illinois has won at least eleven games (22-6) in each of the past two seasons. Last year their offense lit up Army posting 47 points in the opener for both teams. Thankfully quarterback Chandler Harnish has graduated. The Huskies still appear to be one of the best teams in the MAC conference. New quarterback Jordan Lynch is talented. Against Arkansas State in their bowl game he was in for one series and completed all three of his attempts for 59 yards. He finished the drive with a score on a 3-yard touchdown run. Northern Illinois must replace four starters on an offensive line that dominated Army's undersized front in 2011. The Black Knights are a different team at Michie and I believe they'll prevail in a high scoring game. Army Win

Sept 22 @ Wake Forest
Wake Forest is coming off a 6-7 season. The Demon Deacons entered this season unsettled. They have a tremendous quarterback in junior quarterback Tanner Price who completed 60 percent of his passes while throwing for 3,017 yards and 20 touchdowns. Wake Forest has an excellent running back in the often injured junior Josh Harris if he can stay on the field. Wake Forest had trouble stopping the run last year while playing a lot of underclassmen. The defense should improve this year. Wake Forest's head coach Jim Grobe is an excellent coach and his teams tend to overachieve and play well in September right out of the gate. Grobe spent years running an option offense while at Air Force and Ohio so he understands how to defend the option. Army Loss

Sept 29 Stony Brook
Stony Brook is an FCS team but far from a patsy. Stony Brook enters this season ranked 16th in the FCS bowl rankings. The Seawolves posted a 9-4 last season and have won the Big South Championship the last three years. This is an explosive offensive team. Senior quarterback Kyle Essington came off the bench last year and led the team to a 9-1 record while throwing for 20 touchdowns. In 2011 Stony Brook rushed for 3,475 yards, averaging more than 267 yards per game. They have two talented running backs in Big South Player of the year Miguel Maysonet, a candidate for the Walter Payton Award and Iowa transfer Marcus Coker. Stony Brook will move the ball but their defense will have trouble handling Army's triple option attack. Army Win

Oct 6 Boston College
The Eagles have fallen. Boston College offense struggled last year as they stumbled to a 4-8 record. BC has failed to score more than 28 points in any game against FBS teams the last two years. This once successful program has regressed under Frank Spaziani who is 20-19 during his three year reign. The Eagles' defense lost Luke Kuechly one of the best defensive players in the school's history to graduation and the NFL. This is not the same Boston College program of the last decade when the Eagles, not Notre Dame, were the best Catholic football university in the nation. I believe the Black Knights will win at home. Army Win

Oct 13 Kent State
Former Ohio State assistant Darrell Hazell had a solid 5-7 debut season at Kent State. The defense led by Roosevelt Nix., the MAC Defensive Player of the Year, held six MAC opponents to 22 points or less in the high scoring league. The Kent State offense is inconsistent. Army beat the Golden Flashes in 2010 by a 45-28 score. Army should win at home. Army Win

Oct 20 at Eastern Michigan
Ron English has done a terrific job in building this program from a winless team his first year to a 6-6 record last year. English has done it with a power running attack that ranked 14th nationally in rushing last fall. The team's offense is built around dual threat quarterback Alex Gillett who led the team with 736 rushing yards. The Eagles have to replace three starters on a defensive line that played surprisingly well last year. The Eagle punishing running game will challenge the rebuilt Army defensive line. This is a tough game but I think Army wins a close game. Army Win

Oct 27 Ball State
Ball State posted a 6-6 record in Pete Lembo's first season. Lembo's offense dominated Army in a 48-21 victory at Scheumann Stadium last year. Ball State quarterback Keith Wenning threw for 324 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Jahwan Edwards rushed for three scores. Ball State defense isn't very good but their main weakness is in their secondary. Army's not going to beat them throwing the ball and the Black Knights defense doesn't match-up well against the Cardinals spread passing attack. Army Loss

Nov. 3 Air Force
The Black Knights have posted a dismal 2-21 record against the Falcons the last 23 years. Last year Army completely outplayed the Falcons early and took a 14-0 half-time lead only to squander it as Air Force scored 24 straight unanswered points in the second half. That victory allowed the Falcons to claim their second straight Commander In Chief's Trophy. This year the Falcons return only five starters from last year's senior laden club. In the last game a terrible official's call and a costly fumble cost Army two touchdowns and a victory. This year Army gets some payback at Michie stadium. Army Win

Nov 10 @ Rutgers
In 2011 an injury depleted Black Knights team gamely battled the Rutgers Scarlet Knights deep into the fourth quarter. It took a late blocked punt returned for a touchdown by Rutgers, followed by a touchdown run for the Scarlet Knights, to defeat the Black Knights 27-12. The punt block was a huge game-changing event. Army appeared poised to take the lead just moments before when freshman running back Stephen Fraser took an option pitch and raced down the sideline for a 52-yard gain to the Rutgers' 1-yard line. That play was wiped out by a tripping penalty. Rutgers is the most talented team on the schedule. Kyle Flood takes over as Rutgers head coach for Greg Schiano who left for the NFL after eleven years of building a fine program. Army has played Rutgers tough lately but the Scarlet Knights are a better team. Army Loss

Nov 17 Temple
The Temple Owls ran wild over Army's defense last year. The Owl running backs combined for 290 yards and five touchdowns in an easy 42-14 victory over the Black Knights. Temple's huge offensive line dominated Army in racing out to a 28-0 first half lead. Thankfully star tailback Bernard Pierce is now in the NFL but fellow tailback Matt Brown returns. Based his career statistics Brown (37 attempts, 367 yards, 9.9 avg, 6 TDs vs. Army) would win the Heisman Trophy if he played against the Black Knights every week. This is a very big, physical team which Army doesn't match up well against. Army Loss

Dec. 8 Navy (at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia)
Army enters this game trying to break the longest consecutive game losing streak, ten games, in the series history. I think this is the year Army ends the streak. Army ran for 298 yards, averaged six yards a carry and scored two rushing touchdowns in last year's 27-21 loss. Army had been unable to block the Mids' Jabaree Tuani the last four years but this year they no longer have to worry about him. The Black Knights have done a solid job limiting Navy's spread option running game under Ellerson. Navy new quarterback Troy Miller has the ability to hurt Army passing over the top deep like Ricky Dobbs did in the past. However I think Army finally wins a close game. Army Win

So I predict a 7-5 2012 season with Army winning its first Commander-in-Chiefs Trophy since 1996. Top Stories