Head-to-Head: Army vs. Wake Forest

After falling to 0-2 on the season, the Army Black Knights travel to North Carolina to meet the Wake Forest Demon Deacons on Saturday. Army lost 41-40 in an offensive shootout at Michie last week against Northern Illinois. Wake Forest enters the game 2-1 but is coming off a 52-0 loss to No. 5 ranked Florida State.

Army's rushing offense
Wake Forest 's rushing defense
Edge: Army

The Black Knights enter the game ranked second in the nation in rushing. Army rushed for 486 yards, averaged 6.5 yards per carry and scored six rushing touchdowns last week. B-back Larry Dixon was named the FBS Offensive Player of the Week after his three touchdown, 136 yard rushing performance against Northern Illinois. The Black Knights had three players rush for over 100 yards each in a single game for the first time since 1996. Trent Steelman (116 yards) and Raymond Maples (159 yards) joined Dixon in rushing for over 100 yards. The Army offensive line benefitted with the return of Remington Watch list candidate Ryan Powis who missed the opener. If Wake Forest's nose guard Whitlock can't play I think Powis against his replacement Tylor Harris is a mismatch.

Wake Forest currently ranks 103rd in the nation in run defense. They allowed 385 rushing yards against Florida State. Wake Forest had trouble stopping the run last year while playing a lot of underclassmen. The defense looked improved the first two games as they allowed only 3.3 yards per rushing attempt. Wake Forest plays a 3-4 defensive alignment. Their excellent starting nose guard Nikita Whitlock (64 tackles, 14.0 for loss, 3.5 sacks in 2011) was injured against North Carolina and is questionable for the weekend's game. Freshman Tylor Harris started last week at nose guard. The strength of the Demon Deacons is their inside linebackers. Linebacker Riley Haynes leads the team with 22 tackles and has an interception. Fellow inside linebacker Mike Olson (57 tackles, 6.0 for loss in 2011) might be pushed soon by hard hitting redshirt sophomore Brandon Chubb. He led the Demon Deacons with seven tackles against Florida State.

Army's passing offense
Wake Forest 's pass defense
Edge: Wake Forest

Trent Steelman has thrown just eleven times this year producing 58 passing yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. Three wide receivers have caught only one pass each. The Malcolm Brown wide receiver experiment got off to an inauspicious start. Brown dropped the first pass thrown to him. He didn't know the formation late in the first half costing Army a delay of game penalty. He also has to stop watching the play and block. On The Opening drive he was watching Baggett's 28-yard run instead of running all out to block the safety.

This year the Demon Deacons are ranked 70th in the nation in pass defense efficiency. Right outside linebacker Justin Jackson leads the team with two quarterback sacks. Justin, a redshirt junior made 59 tackles, 6.5 for loss last year. Defensive end Kris Redding has recorded two sacks and forced two fumbles this year. Strong safety A.J. Marshall intercepted a pass which he returned for a defensive touchdown and had two pass breakups in the first three games. Marshall is a former cornerback with good range. Starting cornerback Merrill Noel (66 tackles, 2 interceptions in 2011) played very well last year as a redshirt freshman and looks like a future All-ACC candidate.

Wake Forest's rushing offense
Army's rushing defense
Edge: Even

Wake Forest returns only one starter senior center Garrick Williams on the offensive line. The rebuilt offensive line has struggled to establish the run averaging just 1.9 yards per rushing attempt. The Demon Deacons do average 307 pounds across their offensive line. Army's defensive line will not remind anyone of the Florida State Seminoles defense that shutdown Wake Forest. Wake Forest has a fast running back in the often injured junior Josh Harris. Harris hasn't found much room this year but he has eleven rushing touchdowns in his career. Deandre Martin is currently the team's leading rusher with 101 yards and two scores on 33 attempts. Quarterback Tanner Price is mobile and has scored two touchdowns.

Army is ranked 98th in the nation in run defense allowing an average of 200.5 rushing yards per game. Last week the Huskies ran for 173 yards, two touchdowns and 6.7 yards per carry. In fairness to the Army defense it was actually much better against the run than those numbers indicated. Take out the defensive meltdown on Jordan Lynch's 88-yard touchdown run and the Huskies averaged just 3.4 yard per carry. Still there were too many breakdowns and missed tackles. Whip end Holt Zalneraitis (3 tackles in 2012) made no plays last week and twice lost containment on two touchdown runs. Holt's play needs to improve. Defensive tackle Mike Ugenyi played much better than last week. He had four tackles and a key fumble recovery. The tackles will be tested this week against Wake Forest's much bigger offensive line. Bandit linebacker Nate Combs is all the way back from his knee injury. He has 10 tackles, two sacks, recovered a fumble and forced a fumble in the first two games. Right now he is the Black Knights best defender.

Wake Forest's passing offense
Army's passing defense
Edge: Wake Forest

Tanner Price, a junior quarterback, had a breakout season last year. Price threw for 3,017 yards and 20 touchdowns against 6 interceptions. He completed 60 percent of his passes in 2011. This year the lefty Price has completed 51 of his 88 throws (58%) for 604 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Michael Campanaro leads the team with 24 receptions, 268 receiving yards and has scored a touchdown. Last year Campanaro made 73 receptions for 833 yards and two touchdowns. Big wide receiver Brandon Terry is averaging 22.0 yards per catch (6-132 yards). At 6-foot-5, Terry presents a potential match-up headache for the Army cornerbacks.

The Black Knight's defense is ranked dead last in the nation in pass defense. The Army double eagle flex defense has struggled generating pressure without the blitz. Last week the Huskies Jordan Lynch threw for 342 yards and four touchdowns against Army. I do not believe the present secondary depth chart is accurate. The boundary cornerback was a disaster last week with neither Waverly Washington nor Tyler Dickson able to run with the Huskies receivers. Plebe Chris Carnegie and sophomore Marques Avery are taking reps with the first team according to Sal Interdonato of the Times Herald-Record. One will likely start opposite Josh Jackson. Chris Carnegie was the best cornerback last season at the United States Military Academy Prep School. Carnegie is an excellent athlete who is quick, agile and has good speed. Marques Avery may be another option but he has missed so much time the last two years with injuries. Avery has size and speed you normally don't see in an Army cornerback. In high school as a senior in 2009 he ran a 10.7 100 meters. Alex Meier and Brandon Fusilier Jeffires, who saw playing time last week, should see more minutes if not start. The Black Knight's pass rush might receive a boost with the return of Jarrett Mackey to quick end for some situational snaps.

Special Teams
Edge: Army

Northwestern kicker Jimmy Newman handles both the kickoff and placekicking duties for the Demon Deacons. He has made all six of his extra point attempts, but is 0-for-2 on field goal tries. Alex Kinal is averaging 39.6 yards per punt, including 12 that have been downed inside the 20-yard line. Campanaro has averaged 4.7 yard per punt return Lovell Jackson has returned seven kickoffs for 137 yards for 19.6 a return.

I must of jinxed Dan Grochowski, Army's new placekicker, has he missed an extra point at Michie. I have to admit I was surprised since watching "Groch" kick all last season at USMAPS he was Mr. Automatic. He was perfect on extra points and missed only one field goal the entire season. Chris Boldt is averaging 41.0 yards per punt. Eric Osteen has done a nice job on kickoffs producing three touchbacks with his nine kickoffs. Stephan Fraser who fumbled his only kick return chance in the opener and was benched. Fraser returned and was solid with a 25-yard return to his credit last week. Josh Jackson was had no room on punt returns so far this season. Coverage teams were solid after the breakdown week one.

Edge: Wake Forest

Rich Ellerson and his staff showed their not going to sit still and play defensive players who are not getting the job done. This week he auditioned a number of the defensive backs and Rovers that played so well last year at the prep school.

Jim Grobe is in his 12th season as head coach of Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons had won just 26 victories in the eight seasons prior to his arrival. In 2006 under his direction they won their first ACC title since 1970. Grobe coached at Navy and ran the option at Ohio when he was head coach there. He has plenty of experience defensing the option against both Georgia Tech and Navy since he's been at Wake Forest.

Edge: Army

Army's young team regained its confidence after it was shaken in the opener. They battled back twice from double digit deficits. Now they will give some of the talented plebes in the secondary a chance. While there will be some growing pains I think it makes them a more athletic and competitive defense. Wake Forest was banged up a little in the loss to Florida State. They will be out for some payback at home. The Demon Deacons lead the all-time series with the Black Knights, 7-4.

PREDICTION: Army, 35-31. I had this down as an Army loss on my preseason prediction but after reviewing the tapes of both teams, I think Army can pull the upset on the road. Wake Forest is more talented. If Army can limit their passing attack, I think Army can control the game with their ground attack. Army may be catching Wake Forest at the right time off a physical beating and being banged up by Florida State. .

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