Flash back to 1996: the United States Military Academy produced a 10-2 football team thanks to the coaching of Bob Sutton and great option quarterback Ronnie McAda.
Since that season, Army has produced exactly one bowl appearance and one slightly over .500 record.
Now ESPN is predicting another rough season for the Black Knights. The Worldwide Leader's preseason FPI standings has Army ranked second to last in the FBS, only above Eastern Michigan.
So one would think that the Football Power Index would predict Army to beat the only FBS program ranked lower than them, right?
Yeah, about that. According to ESPN the Magazine's College Football Preview issue, the Cadets have a 46 percent chance of defeating Eastern Michigan.
The only two programs West Point is expected to beat are the FCS schools (Fordham and Bucknell) on their schedule. Which is odd because Army's FPI projected win total is 3.5. I guess they'll beat the FCS schools, Eastern Michigan, and be up at halftime against UCONN?
ESPN doesn't think Army will be capturing the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy this season either. The index gives the Black Knights an 18 percent chance of beating Air Force in Colorado Springs and a 16 percent chance of ending the streak against Navy in Philadelphia this season.
Those aren't even the lowest totals either. The FPI predicts Army has a 17 percent chance of victory against Rice, a 12 percent chance against Duke, and a two percent chance of pulling off the upset at Happy Valley against Penn State.
Some of these predictions are a little off though. A 30 percent chance to beat UCONN? Army beat UCONN last season 35-21 and won't that program be distracted with their weird relationship with UCF?
Less than a 30 percent chance of beating Tulane at Michie Stadium? That percentage would be more believable if they were playing in New Orleans, but Tulane is a notoriously bad road team. The Green Wave has won only four road games in the last four seasons.
However, these FPI rankings aren't etched in stone. As evidenced that Army has already moved up two spots since that issue was published. In that time, Army has jumped Charlotte University and UNLV to gain the 125th spot. Don't get excited though, the Cadets still have less than a 50 percent chance of beating EMU.
So these constantly fluctuating index numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. Last year's preseason rankings had Army ranked above Air Force, and as it turned out Air Force had a pretty good season last year.
Army will likely face another uphill battle this season, but they need a little more credit than what they're getting. Some of these schools aren't even ranked that much higher than the Cadets and still have a disproportionate chance of victory (I'm looking at you, UCONN).
The dark clouds over the Army football program may not be parting this season, but let's not bury this season before it's dead. After all, Air Force was expected to be awful last season and won 10 games. If Army could do even half of that, it'd be a step in the right direction.