Start Time: Saturday, December 9th, 2017 at 3:00 p.m. EST
Location: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
All-time series: Navy leads, 60-50-7
Last Meeting: 12/10/16. Army 21 - Navy 17
Betting Line: Navy -3
Army Black Knights Outlook
Wouldn’t it be great if Army started the game with a spread look and began passing? Probably not, but Navy wouldn’t be ready for that. Too bad Jeff Monken is anti-passing, but he does have a good reason why. Monken’s team has passed just 60 times this season. Think about that, they’ve thrown that many passes all season while Washington State and Texas Tech could easily eclipse that in one game. Crazy. The Black Knights have completed just 18 of those passes, with two of those turning into touchdowns with five interceptions. It’s not that Monken hates passing, it’s that his team is so much better running the ball.
Army, as a team, is averaging 6.2 yards per rush, which is more than they average on pass attempts. That’s enough to keep the ball on the ground, and it begins with Ahmad Bradshaw. Army’s quarterback has carried the ball 189 times this year for 1,472 yards and 11 touchdowns. He is the key piece in the offense, and has the ability to manipulate defenses with the triple option. His stable of backs also contribute. Darnell Woolfolk, Andy Davidson, and Kell Walker have combined with Bradshaw for 3,210 yards and 32 touchdowns on the ground. What else does an offense need?
We’ve all heard the stat before, but winning three games without throwing a pass is outstanding. Their season high in pass completions is eight, and neither Bradshaw nor backup Kelvin Hopkins Jr. have completed more than five in any game. The triple option allows you to do that. Playing Navy produces the challenge of familiarity, so we may see a few more pass attempts, but Monken is set in his ways on the ground. Don’t get your hopes up too high.
Army is 8-3, but could easily be 10-1 as two losses by a combined seven points could have swung the other way. A big reason is the play of a defense that needed to replace multiple starters coming into this year. The Black Knights lost a lot on defense, mostly their leaders at linebacker. Players like Cole Christiansen and James Nachtigal have stepped up, but it’s been the play of Alex Aukerman that has really been noticeable. Aukerman has made a habit of getting behind the line of scrimmage to make plays, and has 14.5 tackles for loss with six sacks. So it’s not just the offense you have to worry about, but the defense too. Navy’s triple option also won’t provide anything that this group hasn’t seen before.
Last year’s win marked the end of an impressive Navy win streak. Army was starved for a win in this rivalry and finally got one. With the Commander in Chief's Trophy on the line for the first time since 2012, an Army win would be a huge shift in the rivalry between the academies.
Navy Midshipmen Outlook
Navy is on the opposite end of the spectrum. After starting the season 5-0, they’ve lost five of the last six games. The encouraging news for the Mids is that while they have been on the wrong end of result, they haven’t lost a single game by more than 10 points. They have more than held their own in just about every outing this season.
It all starts with quarterback Zach Abey, who leads Navy with 1,322 yards rushing and 14 rushing touchdowns, and another 803 yards and seven touchdowns through the air. The Army-Navy matchup will always be extra special to Abey because he made his first career start in last year’s loss after Will Worth broke his foot in the American Athletic Championship game. However, he‘s feeling the burden as the quarterback who snapped Navy’s 14-game winning streak over Army by throwing two interceptions and only 201 total yards in last year’s loss.
Abey will be the primary ball carrier for the Mids, but keep an eye out for Malcolm Perry, who has stepped in at quarterback when Abey was injured earlier in the season. He should get a good chunk of work as a slotback after averaging 8.9 yards per carry this season and recording nine total touchdowns. Chris High will also see his share of action as he is second on the team in carries.
Navy’s defense doesn’t get enough credit as it should, and even we are guilty of that after listing only D.J. Palmore in our All-AAC teams. Micah Thomas is underrated at linebacker, leading the team in tackles, interceptions and takeaways. Meanwhile, Palmore leads the team in tackles for loss and fumble recoveries. This duo will need to wreck havoc if they hope to slow down Army’s top-ranked rushing offense.
Joey Broback: This is one of the best games of the year because fans get to watch offenses they don’t normally see. For the casual fan, finding who has the ball might be difficult, but that’s a big reason why this game is so much fun. The tradition between these two teams also adds to the rivalry. Kinda like P6 Pick’em this year. One of us had to come out on top, and some of us had slightly more insight than the other. Sorry Joe. Had to get one last jab in.
Army 21 Navy 20
Joe Serpico: They might not have the most talented athletes and the two offenses may not be as exciting as the spread offense, but this is without a doubt the top rivalry in college football. It’s great to see both programs back to their winning ways, which makes this matchup even more exciting. Army is looking to win the Commander-in-Chief Trophy for the first time since 1996, while Navy has won the award 10 times since 2003. The score has finished 21-17 in the last two meetings, and a similar outcome can be expected in this one. In my eyes, this game is a toss up so give me Navy as the winner for no reasons other than I live an hour away from Annapolis and want to pick against Joey one last time this season.
Navy 24 Army 21