Saturday marks the 119th meeting between the Army Black Knights and the Navy Midshipmen, a series that Navy currently leads with a 60-51-7 record. But we all know that in this series records don’t really matter. After Navy dominated the series at the turn of the millennium winning 14 straight games, it would appear the pendulum is swinging back in the Black Knights favor. Army has won two consecutive meetings and is currently favored in every major Vegas bidding site in this weekend’s upcoming contest. If the Black Knights are going to extend their streak to three, we have five reasons as to why we think that will happen.
1. Offensive Efficiency
Army West Point currently ranks first in the country in third-down percentage converting an impressive 57% of their tries, but the offensive efficiency doesn’t stop there. Coach Monken is known to go for it on fourth down and is often rewarded for doing just that. In fact, the Black Knights also lead the country in fourth-down conversion percentage converting an astounding 91% of fourth down tries on the season. Second-place Texas is really not even that close behind as the Longhorns sit 14 percentage points behind West Point. Army dominates the country in the category. Navy, on the other hand, has attempted the same number of fourth down tries as Army (33) and has converted just over 60% (20) of the time. Not bad, but still not the nation’s leaders.
2. Defensive Efficiency
Guess what? As much as the Army offense stays out on the field by converting third and fourth down plays, Army West Point defensive coordinator Jay Bateman has developed just as much success on the defensive side of the ball. The Black Knights currently rank third in the country in third-down defense, limiting opponents success to just 27% of third-down tries. Furthermore, Army is second in the country in first down defense thus finding a pretty successful three-and-out percentage and ultimately limiting opponents to just an 18.7 ppg average.
3. Time of Possession
I feel like this part should come with the disclaimer that Navy fairs pretty well in the TOP category as well, but only Army ranks first in the country (Navy is sixth). The Black Knights lead the country in average TOP at 39 minutes and currently sit one minute off of the lead for total time of possession. That award goes to Boise State who, oh yeah, has already played 13 games. Safe bet – Army will finish the 12-game season leading the country in overall TOP.
4. Healthy and Ready
When rival service academy fans look to discredit Army’s success in 2018, people are quick to point out their “easy” schedule. While the metric used to identify strength of record is certainly worthy of debate, Army can’t hide from the fact that they have only played one FBS team (Eastern Michigan) with a winning record in the last two months. This isn’t a knock on Army, but actually a metric that should benefit the Black Knights heading into Saturday’s game. They should be rested, healthy, and ready to go. There is a school of thought out there that believes finishing the season against two FCS foes should benefit Army before their annual clash with Navy. While I am still reserved in my judgment regarding that belief, I will readily admit that a healthy team is certainly a plus.
5. They Just Know how to Win
No matter the opponent, the Black Knights have shown they have the ability to compete with anyone. That concept was clearly understood in Norman, Oklahoma when Army took the playoff-bound Sooners into overtime. Even including that loss, Army is 10-3 in one-score games dating back to the Army-Navy game in December of 2016. If this game is close, Army has proven time after time again that they know how to win. That is exactly why they have beaten Navy the last two years by a combined five points and should have the edge in another close contest this Saturday.