Navy Should Dominate Army, But...

It seems like ages ago when ‘the streak' took on such a different meaning in Annapolis. Of course that streak ended to Notre Dame in 2007 and so did 43 years of wondering when Navy would finally beat the Irish. Now when you talk about streaks and the Mids, the one that comes to mind is their seven consecutive wins over Army. So is this the year it ends? Don't be surprised if it does…be shocked.

According to oddsmakers, who have instilled Army as a two touchdown underdog to Navy, the gap between the two teams is actually wider than it was last season when the 7-4 Midshipmen were an 11-point favorite over a 3-8 Army team. Anyone looking at just the records of Army (5-6) and Navy (8-4) would probably wonder how that is possible. After all, the last time Army had five or more wins and a chance to go to a bowl game was 1996.

 

Add to Army's win total, my colleague Matt Zemek's three reasons why this could be the year the Cadets end the streak, and Navy fans might begin to think there is definite reason for concern.

 

However, here are three quick reasons why Navy fans should feel pretty good about the Midshipmen's chances of extending the streak to eight games.

 

First, let's take a closer look at what both teams have done this season.

 

A lot will be said in the pre-game hype about how Army has won five wins for the first time since 1996. However, who exactly have they beaten? Eastern Michigan (0-12), Ball State (2-10), Vanderbilt (2-10), VMI (2-9), and North Texas (2-10), that's who. The combined record of these teams is a not-so-inspiring 8-51. The average score of those five wins was 21-15. So Army may have five wins, but it has taken a lot of work to get them.

 

Now let's take a look at Navy's four losses. They have come against Ohio State (10-2), Pittsburgh (9-3), Temple (9-3) and Hawaii (5-7). The combined record of those teams is 33-15. The average score of those four losses was 27-21. So Navy may have four losses, but it has taken their opponents a lot of work to win them.

 

It's crazy talk, but Army is about 30 points away from being winless and Navy is about 25 points away from being undefeated.

 

Navy's worst game was against Hawaii. Army's best game was against Vanderbilt. One could probably argue that even Navy's worst game might be good enough to overcome Army's best effort. I am not willing to say that, but it's not that far fetched. On the other end of the spectrum if Navy plays like they did against Ohio State or Notre Dame, and Army plays like they did against VMI, this game could turn into something similar to the 2002 affair.

 

Second, Army will be without its best player and defensive leader, junior linebacker Stephen Anderson.  Even though Anderson has missed the last two games, he still leads the team in tackles by a wide margin. Although Josh McNary and Andrew Rodriguez have both had impressive seasons, VMI rushed for 328 yards against the Cadets mainly due to the fact that Anderson wasn't there to patrol the middle of the field. If VMI can scorch Army's defense like that, there is no reason to believe that Navy will ever have to put the ball into the air. And unless the Cadets scheme to take away the fullback at all costs, Navy's Vince Murray could be looking at a huge day.

 

If you look at the Navy depth chart, Anderson would probably be one of about four or five Army players on both sides of the ball who would start for the Midshipmen. The talent is just not there yet for the Cadets and the loss of Anderson can not be underestimated.

 

Third, Navy's defense is still the strength of their team, and that is not good news for Army's offense which has struggled to score a touchdown in the last three meetings. Heck, this Navy defense is better than either unit that held Army to a combined three points in the past two games. Add to that the fact that the Cadets are now running pretty much the same offense as the Midshipmen see everyday in practice, with a freshman behind center, and a shutout is completely possible. Navy's defense is still a lot faster than Army's offense and speed still counts for a lot when defending an option team. I'm not sure what the Cadets' plan will be for countering that, but if they can't get slot back Patrick Mealy to the corner, it will put a lot of pressure on Trent Steelman to find holes up the middle or take advantage of every possible opportunity through the air.

 

Of course this analysis, like any other, is on paper. And this analysis, unlike some others, was written by a Navy fan. So there is the chance that Army will find a way to make this a game. There is even a better chance that between now and kick-off, I will find a way to convince myself that Army can win the game. Heck, I am already having those thoughts…

 

What if Navy's offense puts together four quarters like their first few minutes against Louisiana Tech; their second quarter against SMU; their third quarter against Pittsburgh; and their fourth quarter against Hawaii? What if the bad Navy offense shows up like Zemek said is possible?

 

What if Navy's defense puts together four quarters like the first quarter against Louisiana Tech; second quarter against Pitt; third quarter against Hawaii; and fourth quarter against Temple? What if the bend and break Navy defense shows up?

 

What if Army scores first? Navy is 15-2 under head coach Ken Niumatalolo when they score first but only 1-8 when they don't.

 

What if it snows, Army wins the turnover battle, coach Rich Ellerson runs every trick play in the book with success, and Steelman plays like Ronnie McAda?  Wait a minute; Navy could lose this game by two touchdowns, what are the oddsmakers thinking?

 

Ok, I'm officially nervous about this game – it must be Army week!


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