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),
Now let's take a look at Navy's four losses. They have come against
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
Second, Army will be without its best player and defensive leader, junior linebacker Stephen Anderson. Even though
If you look at the Navy depth chart,
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
What if Navy's defense puts together four quarters like the first quarter against Louisiana Tech; second quarter against Pitt; third quarter against
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!