In this streak, Army has come no closer than 12 points, and that was a back door cover.
This game is even more special, because Army has the added incentive of going to the Eagle Bank Bowl should they win.
Two Weeks Ago
Army blocked a North Texas field goal attempt late in the fourth quarter. On the ensuing play, Trent Steelman ran 55 yards on a QB scramble to set up the winning score. Steelman scored on a QB option two plays later. Ty Shrader intercepted a Riley Doge pass with 1:31 remaining to seal the game, 17-13.
Army only gained 287 yards in the contest, but it was enough. The defense allowed 447 yards in Mean Green Offense, but was able to force 5 turnovers. Steelman was 7 of 15 for 87 yards, with 5 of those going to Ali Villanueva.
In Hawaii, the Warriors racked up 428 yards, 366 coming in the air, to beat Navy 24-17. Navy rushed for 248 yards and finished with 336 total, but the Warriors were constantly in the Navy backfield disrupting the option when Navy was inside Hawaii territory. Ricky Dobbs was 5-9 passing and rushed for 127 yards. The Midshipmen chose to travel 7,000 miles the day before the game, which could have had something to do with their execution; however, it simply looked like the Warriors matched up very well with Navy with their speed and size and were well prepared for the option attack.
What we Learned
In Texas, we learned that the Army offense will probably not score more than three touchdowns in a game this year. They are simply too small up front, too slow in the backfield, and too predictable to sustain drives. It does look like Steelman and Villanueva are now able to complete passes. Steelman is starting to go to him with regularity, which is vital for the offense to have any success.
We know that the Army defense is stellar. The game summary will point out that Steelman scrambled to set up the winning touchdown, but the defense kept North Texas off the board and blocked a critical field goal attempt in the 4th quarter. It is hard to imagine an Army defense consistently performing better than this one has.
In Hawaii, we learned that scheme and speed can stop the Midshipmen. But more than that, keeping the ball away from the Navy offense helps also as the run and shoot Warriors held on to the ball for nearly 29 minutes.
Who is favored?
Navy is favored by 14 points.
What to look for?
Look for the Steelman/Villanueva connection. The success of the passing game is vital for their chances to stay in this game. Army has had two weeks to prepare for this game and I would expect a lot of misdirection, reverses and anything to keep the Navy defense off balance.
Look for a very inspired Army team - they will be playing for a lot. It will be a cold day in Philadelphia. I am sure that will have an effect on both teams' ability to execute.
I see this game evolving very similar to that of Air Force. Navy executes better and is faster. For Army to hang in this game for 4 quarters, they will have to force turnovers, not commit any on their end and move the ball. That may be a tall order, as they have not shown that they can avoid turnovers and move the ball with much success against anyone this year, especially the better teams they faced. And, by the way, the better teams weren't exactly world beaters. The teams that beat Army this year had a combined record of 38-33, but Army lost to these teams by an average of more than 16 points per game! Also the combined record of the teams Army defeated this year was 8-51, and for the most part, Army struggled mightily to beat those teams.
Navy falls into the category of one of the "better" teams Army will have faced this year. Actually, having beaten Notre Dame and Air Force, and having narrowly lost at Ohio State, Navy is easily the best team Army will have faced this season. Army will need to score at least 20 points to stay competitive in this game. It just seems that, the way Army has played on offense this year, there is no conceivable way they can score that many points against an opponent like this.
Final Score – Army 14 – Navy 35 (predictions this year 3-8)
The game will be presented on CBS @ 2:30 PM EST.