Preview for the 124th Army-Navy Game
It feels like everything is changing in college football. Bowl season isn’t what it used to be. Over 4,000 players are in the transfer portal already and more are coming. Coaches flitter like hummingbirds from job to job. The landscape has changed.
What hasn’t changed is that Army and Navy play a standalone game in Week 15 and it is a great celebration of the sport and two branches of the United States Military. This year’s game will be played at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, marking the first time ever that it will be played there.
Army has won five of the last seven meetings, a rather rare show of dominance for the Black Knights, who lost every iteration of the game from 2002-15. The last time Army had this kind of success was in the early-to-mid ‘90s with wins in five straight from 1992-96 and wins in 11 of 15 meetings from 1984-98.
Even though a win here would be the sixth for either program, this is the bowl game for both teams. Neither will be playing another game after this one. The stakes are always high because of the bragging rights on the line, but this year’s game will mean a little more, especially to the seniors.
It hasn’t been a great season for either service academy, but Army finished on a high note with a stunning win over Air Force, followed by wins over Holy Cross and Coastal Carolina. Because of the way that the schedule shook out, the Black Knights actually haven’t played since November 18, so it has been a prolonged layoff.
Navy lost 59-14 to SMU in the final week of the regular season, but that came on the heels of two nice wins over East Carolina and UAB. The surprising thing is that Navy, who plays in the AAC, actually had a much worse strength of schedule (120th) than Army (96th). The Black Knights are an Independent team and can schedule whoever wants to play them and they did play two ACC teams, a quality UTSA squad from the AAC, and Troy, who won the Sun Belt. They also played LSU, but lost that game 62-0.
Navy was 25 spots higher by yards per play allowed with 5.64 to Army’s 5.98, which ranked 94th, but a lot of that had to do with the LSU game. The Black Knights defense allowed 9.5 yards per game in that one. The Middies had the lesser offense by about 15 spots, averaging 4.82 YPP to Army’s 5.13.
Obviously neither team stands out statistically and both run a very similar offense, so familiarity often leads to a tighter game and a lower-scoring affair. This total of 27.5 is extremely low and three of the last four games would have gone over that number, though last year’s game needed double overtime.
Army is looking for their fourth Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy outright win since 2017. They hadn’t won the challenge trophy since 1996 prior to that. If Navy wins, the title would go back to Air Force, who won both of their games last season.
This isn’t a strong play, but I think Army is the better team and my power ratings do agree with this line move.
Pick: Army -2.5