The ninth game of the year matches the Army Black Knights (3-5, Sagarin 127) and the rival Air Force Falcons of the Mountain West Conference (6-2, Sagarin 43). This is the 43rd meeting between the schools as Air Force leads the rivalry 28-13-1. Air Force has beaten Army the last two meetings. The 2006 game at West Point was significant as it was the one that marked Bobby Ross' eventual departure. The Falcons have won 3 games in a row, while Army has won 3 of 4.
Army beat Louisiana Tech 14-7.
This game was all about the Army defense. The Black Knights allowed only one score, while starting 5 series on their own end and killing potential Bulldog momentum after 4 turn overs. The Cadets had 5 sacks and allowed only 152 yards (68 rushing.) Of course it was raining with 20 mph winds, and it also helped that the Bulldogs' QB was the lowest rated starter in Division 1-A football.
The Army offense was able to generate 235 yards. The Bulldogs dared Chip Bowden to throw the ball and he had to for Army to score their second touchdown, Bowden was only 3-9 on the day, missing badly on open receivers almost every time. Collin Mooney, for the first time in four games was held to less than 100 yards (57 on 17 carries). Ian Smith scored twice; a 1 yard run and a 2 yard reception.
Air Force beat New Mexico in Colorado Springs 23-10. Air Force was limited to 228 yards. Air Force committed two first quarter turn-overs and was trailing 10-0, when Aaron Kirchoff returned a fumble 96 yards to bring the score to 10-7. The Falcons stopped New Mexico twice on 4th and 1 situations inside the 10 yard line. Air Force was very opportunistic and won the game.
What we Learned
Opponents have learned that they can put 9 in the box on Army and force Bowden to throw. We have also learned that throwing is not necessarily Bowden's strength, to be incredibly charitable. It would be extremely difficult to find anyone who has ever played the position who throws the ball worse and less accurately than Bowden.
We learned that the Army defense is stout. While they were helped by the weather last week, the defensive unit is finding itself. They are utilizing various formations, stunts and blitz packages to become a real concern for any opponent. Of course, the bone is helping significantly as they are only on the field for 25 minutes a game. Of the great Army defenses that have been wasted over the past 10 years – this may be the best. What marks a difference with this team is that they can put real pressure on the quarterback, which makes up for size and speed deficiencies elsewhere. For these last two seasons, Junior DT Ted Bentler has been the tower of strength in the middle of the line, making life miserable for the opposing interior offensive linemen he faces every week. Now we are seeing the emergence of sophomore DE Joshua McNary, who feasts on opposing right tackles with his blazing speed. Last week, the 240 lb McNary made his 330 lb opponent look silly while registering 2 sacks and numerous pressures.
Air Force is well coached and opportunistic. They do not have the speed and talent on offense like they did last year. The loss of Chad Hall and Sean Carney have made this much more of running team – however, they look like the run and shoot compared to Army. The Falcons have passed 42 times for 647 yards. They have rushed for 2,328 (291/game) yards and are ranked 4th in the country. They are very scrappy, creative and opportunistic and allow just a tad over 300 yards per game on defense. An interesting trend shows that occasionally they are able shut teams down completely and other times will allow over 400 yards in a game. Of course, important to note is the strength of Air Force's schedule playing in the Mountain West Conference. Their schedule lacks the kind of cream puff opponents that Army struggles against.
Who is favored?
Air Force is favored by 10 points
What to look for?
Air Force will put 9 in the box and force Army to throw. Will this create opportunity or confusion for Army?
Army will bring a very good and confident defense to combat the Air Force option.
I expect this to be a low scoring game. Army will have a chance to win if they:
· Do not turn the ball over
· Are able to make a few successful passes early and allow Mooney some running room
· Can hold the ball for 33 minutes
· Make a big play
It goes without saying that Army must play their best game of the season on defense against the Air Force option. If the Falcons approach their average of around 300 yards rushing in this game, that means Air Force will be scoring lot of points, and Army will not be able to keep up the pace. But this Army defense is loaded with talent and plays at a very high level. I expect that, with no threat of any kind of passing from the Falcons' freshman QB, Army's defense will successfully contain their option attack and keep the team in the game.
Air Force will try a couple of trick plays, whether a running back is throwing the ball or it is a fake punt or field goal. Army must be ready and take advantage.
Final Score – Air Force 17- Army 14 (Predictions this year 5-3)
The game will be televised on ESPNU at 12:00PM EST.