Academy Preview: The Plan For Stanford

Stanford's visit to West Point highlights the upcoming weekend of service academy football, though Air Force's clash with Boise State is also hugely important.


A MIGHTY TEAM COMES TO MICHIE

Stanford and Army first met each other on the gridiron in 1928, when Stanford's greatest coach – Glenn "Pop" Warner – prowled the sidelines. Now, 85 years later, Stanford is once again a powerhouse in college football. This development lends a great deal of romance and excitement to Saturday's noon kickoff at Michie Stadium. It's been quite a long time since an Army home game has featured a member of the sport's upper class. The Black Knights did play Notre Dame in 2010 in what was technically a home game, but that contest was held at the new Yankee Stadium, not on the West Point campus. Army hosted a powerful Louisville team in 2004, but the Cardinals gained their reputation at the end of that season (with a win over Boise State in the Liberty Bowl), not at the beginning. It's hardly hyperbole to view this game as the biggest non-Air Force Michie Stadium home game in the 21st century.

Stanford doesn't see the triple option at all in the Pac-12 Conference. Army's unique approach might be able to keep the Cardinal off balance for one quarter. However, as the game goes on, Stanford's muscular bodies should be able to lean on and wear down the Black Knights. The key, then, will be for Army to be resilient on defense in the red zone. Stanford will move the ball, but if Army can force three or four field goals and keep Stanford in the area of 26 points, a handful of really big plays could potentially give coach Rich Ellerson's team a chance to be in the hunt in the final minutes of regulation time.

If Stanford's visit to the banks of the Hudson is special, Air Force's journey to Boise, Idaho, is soaked in urgency. In the Mountain Division of the Mountain West Conference, Air Force has already lost to Utah State. If the Falcons lose to Boise State, they can essentially kiss the division goodbye before the calendar officially marks the changing of the seasons from summer to autumn. This is a beatable Boise State team, chiefly because its offense has undergone a makeover with an unproven quarterback (Joe Southwick) and offensive coordinator (Robert Prince). If Air Force's pass defense is up to the challenge, this game could become very uncomfortable for the hosts… and very winnable for the visitors from Colorado Springs.

Navy needs to not get ahead of itself this week. Navy football historians will recall that the Midshipmen lost at home to Delaware in 2007. The Blue Hens ambushed Annapolis that day, and so – on the heels of an exhilarating win over Indiana – the Mids must be able to re-focus and not experience a letdown. Keep this point in mind: A lot of pundits were going ga-ga over Indiana following the Hoosiers' 73-point explosion in week one against Indiana State. Well, that was an FCS opponent, not a formidable FBS adversary. Navy promptly punctured Indiana's balloon. Now, the Midshipmen – mindful that Indiana was never really all that special a team to begin with – must not buy into the notion that they have arrived in their own right. Coach Ken Niumatalolo needs to tell his team that the battle for respectability and stature in college football is only just beginning. There's a lot for this team to improve on - especially when defense is the topic of discussion – heading into game number two of a long season.

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