The 12th and final game of the year matches the Army Black Knights (3-8, Sagarin #129 and the Navy Midshipmen (7-4, Sagarin #76). This is the 108th meeting between the teams. Navy leads the all time series 51-49-7 and has won the past 5 meetings.
Army and Navy were both idle Thanksgiving weekend. The previous week, Army played an enjoyable game against Tulsa and lost a shoot-out 49-39. This was the best game Army played on offense in a decade. You can credit Tim Walsh with persistence as the Army running game finally worked. Perhaps they finally found the long lost replacement for Carlton Jones, RB - Ian Smith. He made great cuts, broke tackles and hit the holes with decisiveness and with a lot of power. Where has he been all year? What have they been saving him for? The sophomore had played a lot at the end of blowout games, but it was about time they gave him a chance when it mattered. There did not seem to be much difference in the play calling - it's just that Smith was much more effective than all their other runners put together. Tulsa's defense was unathletic and unimpressive, but they stuffed Mealy and McMahand just like the previous ten opponents. Smith was very impressive and he probably should have gotten more carries than he did.
Suddenly, Carson Williams looked great with an effective running game supporting him. What was not easy to see on TV, was that when Ian Smith was in the game, Tulsa started moving 8 guys into the box. No other team, not even Rhode Island, showed Army's runners that much respect. As a result, Williams had receivers open all over the field against man coverage - and we saw what he can do when people are open. Williams was 26-38 for 328 yards with 3 TDs and 1 Interception. It's just too bad that when the game was on the line, and Army got the ball back with 3:00 left, down by 3, he made his 3 worst throws of the day, and on 2 of those throws he missed wide open receivers.
All of that having been said, Army lost this game because of Stan Brock's extremely poor decision-making and clock management at the end of the 1st half. Army fans were all trying to figure out why he called a time out with 1:15 left in the first half – he broke his own team's offensive rhythm and gave Tulsa a chance to regroup on defense when they were clearly off balance and on their heels. That time out saved at least 30 seconds on the game clock, and EVERYONE in the stadium felt it was much more important to kill off the 1st half than to play for a field goal. Army could not stop Tulsa, so the last thing they needed was to leave 35 seconds for Golden Hurricane to snatch the lead going in to half time, especially since they were getting the ball to start the 2nd half. Just awful play calling by the coach! That was a crucial point in the game - if Army had just run out the clock there, and had gotten the same result with their first possession of the 2nd half, then they would have been up by 10, and then Tulsa would have been really chasing them the rest of the game.
The staunch Army defense gave up 622 yards. Army provided little pass rush and Cameron Clemons had a career day against the Cadets. Tulsa ran their version of the spread offense brilliantly, illustrating why they are ranked in the top 10 in the nation on offense. As Army has shown against other opponents who ran the spread against them over the last two seasons, they proved that they still don't have nearly enough speed on defense to effectively contain the spread.
At Annapolis, Navy gave up 355 yards to an anemic Northern Illinois offense (Sagarin #144). The Midshipmen did post 419 yards, caused a turn-over and were able to win their 8th game of the year 35-24. Northern Illinois rushed for 149 yards, but were able to win the time of possession by 10 minutes.
What we Learned
Army must have a competent running back to be effective on offense. If Ian Smith can be effective for 2 more years - Army may have some reason for optimism. We also learned that Army's defense is no match for a top 10 spread offense. Perhaps the season has beaten them down, but 622 yards is a lot to give up at any point in the season.
At Annapolis, we learned that, although Navy is running its wishbone attack as effectively and efficiently as they ever have, there are significant holes in their defense. Navy gave up 24 points to Northern Illinois, who was averaging just 17 points per game. That includes games against S. Illinois and Idaho. If those games are taken way, the Huskies average just 15 points a game.
The entire nation saw Navy end its 100 year losing streak to a horrendous version of the Fighting Irish a few weeks back with a dramatic 46-44 overtime victory, thanks mostly to a lot of boneheaded play-calling by ND head coach Charlie Weis. Of course, that was one week after Navy gave up 59 points to Division 1-AA Delaware, and one week prior to giving up 62 points to North Texas. Navy is not winning very many games with defense, and there is no reason to believe that Army can't move the ball against them. It is very clear that the way to stop Navy's offense, is to keep them off of the field, so time of possession must be heavily in Army's favor for them to have a chance in this game.
Who is favored?
Navy is favored by 14 points.
What to look for?
Army will probably bring the anemic pro-set offense. However, with Ian Smith, against Navy…it just may work. If Army can establish the run, force Navy to keep 8 in the box and give Carson Williams man-to-man coverage to throw against, Army will have a chance to stay in this game. Army must win the time of possession, but be willing to pass the ball down field often.
We just can't see Army stopping Navy for less than 42 points. Navy averages 44 points a game. Thankfully, Navy doesn't run the spread. Unfortunately, Army hasn't fared all that much better against the wishbone attack in recent years, either.
Common opponents were Temple, Wake Forest and Air Force
Both teams faired evenly against the competition for the exception of Air Force. However, Army has lost their last 5 and Navy has won their last 3.
Look for this game to come down to a final possession. Let's hope that Army will be able to make a play and break this ugly losing streak.
Final Score – Army 41 – Navy 45 (Predictions versus the spread this year 4-7)
Game will be televised on CBS 12:00 EST.