Today we continue our preview to the preview series. Each week we will take three teams that Army will face in 2016 and quick hit on strengths and weaknesses of each. These mini-previews are going to be set out in the reverse order of the team’s projected strength for the 2016 season. So far we have looked at teams twelve through ten and nine through seven. That means this week the opponents continue to get better as we hit up teams six through four.
- The Bulls return linebackers Brandon Berry and Jarrett Franklin giving them two sideline to sideline tackling machines.
- Buffalo runs a very logical offense where the players who are producing the most see more touches of the ball. This sounds simple, but many coaches veer away from this and their teams are less productive because of it.
- The defense ranked #32 in the country in points per scoring opportunity. This is how the Bulls got their stops despite awful per play averages.
- Buffalo runs a bend but don’t break defense and gets very few stops in their opponent’s territory.
- Returning quarterbacks threw exactly one pass last year and a three horse race for the position will need to unearth some talent.
- The offensive line returns seven players with experience, but the top two linemen from last year are gone including all-conference left tackle John Kling.
- Head coach Lance Leipold was a D3 coaching legend at Wisconsin-Whitewater. He steadied the ship in Buffalo in his first year, what can he do in the second?
- Buffalo had a terrible record in one possession games. Can the Bulls turn that stat around and maybe attain bowl eligibility?
Prediction – If Buffalo tread water or progress they will win this game. If the Bulls don’t replace their leaders however Army could win in what would be a minor upset.
- The way Navy runs its offense, combined with the speed and skill of wide receiver Jamir Tillman and a host of explosive slot backs, means that Navy will not be short of big plays this fall.
- In 2015 Navy ran the bend but don’t break defense as well as anyone in the country. The line backing corps this fall should be even better than last year’s version.
- If running the option is all about coaching and scheme then there shouldn’t be as much of a drop in offensive production as some are predicting.
- No Keenan Reynolds means the offense is in transition at the quarterback spot for the first time in years. You cannot just trot anyone out there to replace one of the best running quarterbacks in the history of the game.
- The Mids have to replace five offensive linemen who accounted for 58 of last year’s 65 starts.
- Replacing Will Anthony, a uniquely talented pass rusher for a service academy, will be very difficult.
- Head coach Ken Niumatalolo took on the rebuild at Navy instead of jumping to BYU. Does this mean the Mids are better than prognosticators think?
Prediction – Don’t say this too loudly, but this could be the year Army finally defeats Navy.
- The Falcons defense is one of the most aggressive in the country with defenders bursting through the line of scrimmage on both running and passing plays.
- The Air Force offense is one of the few out there that actively gets better as the game progresses. The adjustments, and the big passing plays, are much more common after half time.
- Air Force returns its top seven running backs from 2015. The fullbacks were especially impressive one year ago.
- That same aggressive nature that is such a strength can lead to game changing big plays if a tackle is missed or an assignment is missed in the defensive back seven.
- Air Force only has to replace one significant contributor on defense, but he was their best run stopper and pass rusher. If a replacement for Alex Hansen cannot be found then the whole identity of the defense changes.
- Rivalry games often see the script torn up as both teams are more amped up for this than a run off the mill contest.
- The Falcons graduate two all-conference offensive linemen and have to replace three in total. With the juniors and seniors waiting in the wings be able to step up?
Prediction - Air Force is a good team with an awful schedule. The Falcons will have just too much for an Army squad that is a season away from competing at this level.