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Navy vs Air Force Preview: A CIC Rivalry of Inches and Bad Breaks

Navy and Air Force look to renew their annual rivalry tomorrow in Colorado Springs and both squads are looking for a season-changing win and the start of reclaiming the CIC trophy

NCAA Football: Air Force at Navy Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

This week we find our first Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy matchup with the Navy Midshipmen traveling to Colorado Springs to face the Air Force Falcons.

Neither team has had the start to their 2018 campaign they were hoping for. Navy (2-2) got beaten by Hawaii in the season opener. They seemed to be back on track after a huge win over Memphis and a convincing follow-up against Lehigh only to fall to a winless SMU by one point in OT. Air Force (1-3), after a season opening tune-up v Stony Brook, hasn’t been able to get out of their own way in contests against FAU, Utah State, and Nevada — they had chances to win in each of those last three contests.

Absolutely none of that matters this weekend. It’s not at all cliché to say things like records and season performance to date don’t matter at all in a service academy rivalry. It all comes down to who wants it more on Saturday. The Air Force and Navy matchup in particular has been particularly nasty in the 21st Century.

After a brief comeback stretch of victories for Navy in the early 2000’s the series record stands at 11-9 in favor of Navy over the last 20 years. Three contests have gone to overtime, and nine of those contests have been settled by a touchdown or less. One such contest was last season, in which Air Force scored 35 points in the second half only to lose on a Zach Abey to Tyler Carmona TD pass with 15 seconds left in the game. A heartbreaker for Air Force to say the least, considering the comeback they had just mounted. A bullet dodged by Navy, which nearly blew the one of the biggest leads in series history, at home no less.

This weekend you should expect more of the same from these two teams. Air Force has yet to put it all together and limit their mistakes in critical moments. Navy has flashed back and forth between dominance, and an inability to get out of their own way. Both teams currently have three headed monsters at the QB position, albeit for very different reasons. The two programs seem to be on the verge of their seasons heading one way or the other. Saturday’s performance could be indicative of how the remainder of the year plays out for both teams.

How To Watch:

Time: 3:30 p.m. (EDT) on Saturday, Sep. 15.

Watch: CBS Sports, AFN

Location: Falcon Stadium, Colorado Springs, CO

Rankings: Navy enters week six of the S&P+ rankings at 77; Air Force is at 117.

Betting Lines: Navy is favored by 3 points on the road.

Keys to Success

Navy is expecting to get Malcolm Perry back, who left the SMU game two weeks ago after exhibiting concussion like symptoms. That’s great news for the Mids, especially since Zach “Slash” Abey is listed as questionable with a lower body injury. Navy’s short yardage specialist could be a critical factor in this matchup as service academy defenses tend to match up very well against the option. Don’t expect a ton of huge plays, every inch will be scratched and clawed for on both sides of the ball.

Air Force lost to Nevada in a tough one last week. Make no mistake, however, this is a good option football team. If Navy has had a tough time getting it all together, Air Force has had it even worse. The talent is there, and the QB trio of Sanders, Worthman, and Hammond have all displayed flashes of excellence at various points. The defense shut out Stony Brook, but has allowed more than 34 points in every game since.

But like I said earlier…none of that matters on Saturday.

I thought a lot about this all week…and it goes equally for both teams:

Hang on to the rock. Wait for the other guy to screw up first.

The Hype

This will be a hard fought game of inches, just like Coach Tony D’Amato said it would be.

NAVY

Well if you’re in Annapolis and like wings

AF

If you enjoy a fly over…then you will LOVE the NINE (NOT A TYPEO) AF has planned for Saturday.

Predictions

Everyone pigs out on wings. They also get cricks in their necks from staring up at all the flyovers during pre-game.

Navy screws up first, and Air Force converts it into points. We go into half time 7-0 Air Force.

Niumat gives one of his patented pep talks in the locker room, which yields a turnover margin of +1 for Navy at the end of the affair. Jasper’s renowned halftime adjustments are just enough to give Navy a boost to eek out a long drive; a Perry 75 yard scamper will follow shortly after.

Navy Wins 14-10 -- just barely enough to cover. They head home with the first W in the race for the CIC.