Start Time: Noon EST / 11 a.m. CST
Location: Michie Stadium, West Point, NY
TV/Streaming: CBS Sports Network
Radio: Mean Green Radio Network, Army Black Knights Radio Network
Live Stats: CBS Gametracker
Betting Line: Army -19, O/U 65
Series Record: Army leads the all-time series, 4-0.
Coming off a bye week after a win over fizzling Marshall, the Mean Green look to keep that momentum going this week against the equally surprising Black Knights. Neither has produced much over the past several seasons, and at long last both get to face off against a surging opponent in what is shaping up to be an unpredictable match-up.
North Texas Mean Green
As any fan reading this knows, expectations were uncertain headed into the season. A quality head coach and a huge rebuilding project, this is the kind of thing that can take a single season or a single game, if the chips fall just right. So far, Littrell has been better than expected, but is he really that exceptional? Or is he just better than the last two guys, which is an exceedingly low bar?
That is really the test this week, as all of UNT’s wins have come over underperforming opponents. The Rice victory seemed impressive at the time, but in retrospect it’s an OT win over an 0-6 team. The Marshall victory seemed like the moment the program turned, but Marshall continues to struggle against all opponents. Or, maybe that’s all incorrect, and those schools will finish with decent records, proving the strides the Mean Green have made. It’s up in the air. Which serves as a great transition to....
Mason Fine has been the quarterback the school has been looking for, throwing for 981 yards so far through six games. He has been good, not exceptional, but sometimes in C-USA that’s all you have to be. His arm serves as a counterpoint to the non-existent passing game from Army, where Ahmad Bradshaw has thrown for 235 yards in only 33 attempts all season. This is a strong running team that UNT is facing, and the Mean Green defense has proven it can stop the run. Against MTSU’s passing game, not so much, but after only beating teams with losing records, this is the week UNT could turn it around, and their defense is what could clinch the victory.
Army Black Knights
Another surprising upstart, the 4-2 Black Knights would have everyone talking, if not for the fact that they had the worst record of all the service academies until last week, when Air Force finally lost a second game, and Army beat up on an FCS opponent. Sorry, Black Knights, but you just can’t seem to catch a break.
Unlike North Texas, Army actually has beaten an FBS team with a winning record, beating Temple (currently 4-3) back in Week One. How did they do it? By grinding it out on the ground (we see you too, Navy), rushing for 329 yards and just wearing down the Owl offense, while completing only two passes on five attempts. This is a patient, physical team that will test Mike Ekeler’s defense throughout, grinding down the clock as they spread the ball around the field.
Army’s top two rushers have carried for a combined 951 yards so far this season; they have eight RBs with over 100 yards on the season, they have 18 rushers with at least one carry. North Texas, by comparison, has six (and one of them is the QB).
It should be noted, Army’s defense has also been exceptional, holding Temple to 13 points, and grinding out a 13-6 loss to Duke. And while Duke is not having a great season, they’ve been ranked a lot more recently than Marshall, and are currently 3-4 including a win over Notre Dame. They’re no pushover, and suddenly out of nowhere, all three service academies are scary to play, in the same year.
Why North Texas will win
Putting the ball in the air and confounding the Navy defense. UNT doesn’t have a lot of ground resources, but they have Jeffrey Wilson and that’s enough. Big yardage and big plays could put them ahead as the defense keeps the Knights’ gains short.
Why Army will win
Strength in numbers. If they can bowl over the North Texas defense, it won’t matter what UNT’s offense is doing. None of the Mean Green’s wins were over particularly strong running teams, just wear them out in the cold weather as your band rattles them with stirring renditions of John Philip Sousa.
Back in August, our North Texas preview summarized this game in one sentence: “Army is terrible and their best player just quit. Even the most cynical fan has to give us this one.”
As it turns out, Army is not terrible. As it turns out, they have many, many good players. No one expected North Texas to do this well, but no one expected this out of Army, either. While both are improved, Army has just been the more impressive squad up to this point in the season, and it pains us to say it. Barring some heretofore unforeseen heroics by Fine, we can lean toward UNT possibly covering the spread, but we just can’t call the final outcome any other way.
Final Score: Army 30, UNT 17