The Army Black Knights (3-2) will meet the Lafayette Leopards (1-5) at Michie Stadium in West Point this Saturday. The season may have started with a three-game winning streak for the Black Knights, but consecutive losses against Buffalo and Duke has taken some of the shine away from the September performances. Army now gets an FCS school on the schedule and the Black Knights will be looking to steady the ship and give a show of intent with half the season still ahead.
ARMY PASSING OFFENSE
LAFAYETTE PASSING DEFENSE
REMARKS: Lafayette hasn't shown a whole lot of ability to stop the pass, but the Army passing game seems to have regressed a little over the past few games. The Black Knights passed for less that 50 yards last weekend (although to be fair opponent Duke was also under 50 yards for the game) and there seems to be little cohesiveness in the passing attack. The triple-option needs at least the threat of an effective passing game to be at its most dangerous, something Army looked like it might have earlier in the season and that the Black Knights need to get back to in a hurry.
ARMY RUSHING OFFENSE
LAFAYETTE RUSHING DEFENSE
REMARKS: Army was held under 200 yards rushing for the first time in 2016 against Duke, but there are a couple of reasons to believe that this was an anomaly as opposed to a sign of things to come. Firstly, Duke has proven over the last few seasons to be the masters of holding option offenses in check as head coach David Cutcliffe seems to have the scheme set to nullify that particular attack. Secondly, the remnants of Hurricane Matthew made for awful field conditions and allowed Duke to stack all 11 defenders in the box. Lafayette comes into this after giving up 516 yards rushing to Fordham on Saturday. Army averages 332.8 yards per game on the ground and will be looking to go above that total against the Leopards.
LAFAYETTE PASSING OFFENSE
ARMY PASSING DEFENSE
REMARKS: It is safe to say at this point that the Army passing defense is legitimate. The Black Knights rank fifth in the nation in total defense and ninth in scoring defense, allowing less than 16 points per game. The linebackers were expected to be strong headed into the season and that unit has been as advertised. The level of play in the passing game though has been picked up because of the play on the defensive line and in the secondary. When Army held Duke scoreless in the second half on Saturday it was the third time this season the team has blanked an opponent for an entire thirty minute period.
LAFAYETTE RUSHING OFFENSE
ARMY RUSHING DEFENSE
REMARKS: The other reason the Black Knights defense has been so effective is because Army is stopping the run just as effectively as they are stopping the pass. This is where the linebackers have really come into their own, with Andrew King against standing out in the middle of the defense. Army ranks 12th in the nation in rushing yards allowed per game as they give up less than 100 yards per contest. Army has also given up just five touchdowns on the ground and the other team rushes for just 3.28 yards per carry against Jeff Monken's defensive unit.
REMARKS: The Army kicking gave was shut out against Duke as the weather completely took away that option from the coaching staff when Army was even approaching normal field goal range. That means that Mitchell Howard and Blake Wilson are still each 2-of-4 on field goals for the season, with only Wilson having hit anything over a 29-yarder. Lafayette doesn't exactly have a Lou Groza Award nominee in the kicking position, but Jacob Bissell has only missed one kick inside 40 yards all season.
REMARKS: Head coach Frank Tavani has been on the Lafayette coaching staff in one way or another since 1987. He started with the school as their running backs coach for 12 years, before getting the head coaching gig in 2000. In his 16 years as head coach the Leopards have made the FCS playoffs one four occasions (always losing in the first round) and they have had winning records six times. The problem here is that the last time the Leopards did have a winning record was in 2008 and sometimes longevity like this simply means there were no better job offers available. Tavani is a good, solid, program man at Lafayette, but Jeff Monken is undoubtedly the better coach.
REMARKS: One item working in the Black Knights favor heading into this one is that Army lost last year to Fordham. It is very easy to take these games against FCS schools lightly, but because of that upset a year ago Army is going to be focused and ready for this contest. FCS upsets do happen, but they tend to be in the first couple of weeks of the season before the FBS schools get their rhythm, unless the FCS school is very good (which Lafayette are not).
PREDICTION: Army 38, Lafayette 13. Some prognosticators have Army taking a narrow win in this one. I just don't see that happening given the way Army runs the ball and the way Lafayette fails to stop the run. Add in the fact that the Black Knights defense is playing at a superior level right now and you have all the ingredients for a sizeable victory.