Today we have hit the final part in 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, nine through seven and six through four. That means this week we look at the three toughest opponents on the Black Knights schedule this fall.
- The run defense is very good, especially for a team that runs a 3-3-5 as its base. Holding Army and Georgia Tech (another option squad) to just 286 yards combined last fall was phenomenal.
- The pieces on offense are ready to break out. Watch for T.J. Rahming at wide receiver and Shaun Wilson in the backfield to make this side of the ball better.
- Losing in-the-box safety Jeremy Cash to graduation is a huge blow. Cash was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year and in three seasons he had 38 tackles for a loss. His disruption level cannot be underestimated.
- Starting quarterback Thomas Sirk ruptured his Achilles in early February. If he is lost for 2016 Duke is in big trouble.
- The pass defense fell apart in the second half of the season. Duke gave up 335 yards per game to opposing passing offenses over the final six games of 2015.
- Coach David Cutcliffe has done an outstanding job at Duke by always beating the teams the Blue Devils are supposed to beat. Does that change in 2016?
- Offensive coordinator Scottie Montgomery is now the head coach at ECU. Will the offense take a step back without him?
Prediction – Duke will be too strong for Army this time around.
- Temple returns more defensive play-makers than almost any other team in the AAC.
- The Owls have a high level return game thanks to Jager Gardner returning kickoffs and Sean Chandler handling punt returns.
- Temple is much better on passing downs than on standard downs as quarterback P.J. Walker does a nice job of finding his targets and the Owls have some players who can do damage in space.
- Running back Jahad Thomas loses yards on too many plays. Think of him as a Barry Sanders lite who will lose three or four yards looking for the big play to develop.
- Temple struggles to score the ball at times. In their four losses the Owls scored less than 23 points in each game.
- Three legitimate stars have been lost to the NFL on defense. The biggest being all-world linebacker Tyler Matakevich.
- Matt Rhule has turned Temple around both on the field and with his recruiting. Can the Owls maintain their 10 win level this fall?
Prediction – Temple should be too good for Army, but the Owls might be due for some regression.
- The depth at quarterback is the best in the country. That means whoever wins the starting job will be one of the best out there.
- Star running back Tarean Folston returns after missing pretty much all of 2015 and will form a loaded backfield with Josh Adams.
- The upside in the secondary is tremendous with a number of underclassmen pushing established, and very good, starters during the spring.
- You could run on Notre Dame last fall. It is hard to see how that changes as the Irish must replace the three best play-makers in the front seven.
- The offensive line has depth, but it must replace three starters who combined for 106 career starts.
- Replacing dynamic weapons Will Fuller and C.J. Prosise is vital if the Irish wish to make a National Title run.
- There is no way Notre Dame can be as bitten by the injury bug as they were last season.
- Brian Kelly quietly had the best coaching job of his career, and probably the best in the entire nation, last fall. He is a legitimate star head coach.
Prediction – A comfortable win for Notre Dame.