We have already taken a look at five reasons why Army will win this Saturday, and Austin laid out for everyone why offensive and defensive efficiency will be the name of the game.
But I’m here to tell you that Navy football is pulling out of Philly with the win on Saturday night and I don’t care what stat you spout off, or anecdotal crap you have so say, because Army ain’t winning that trophy outright.
Yes, Army is 9-2 with a great post-season match up facing Houston in the Armed Forces Bowl. Believe it or not, I’m actually happy for them. After Navy beat them ten years in a row it stopped being fun for me to see how awful the Black Knights were year in and year out. The lack of parity certainly wasn’t good for the rivalry, and after a while it begins to look a lot like this:
All that being said, I’m really not worried about the 3-9 Navy team taking the field at Lincoln Financial in Philly this Saturday and here are my reasons why:
1. Redemption. If you’re reading this article, you probably already know that Zach Abey was the only quarterback in the history of the 118 year Army Navy Game series to get their first start under center in this historic match-up. As you know, it didn’t end well for him in 2016; Army got their first win in 14 years, but one can hardly place the blame solely at Abey’s feet. He didn’t get a shot at redemption last year, because the Malcolm Perry at QB experiment was already in the works. Can you imagine how he feels going into this game – his last game ever playing college football – with a shot to redeem himself, and cap off an otherwise forgettable season with a win Navy fans will likely never forget? That’s a lot of pressure, but there is zero chance he has ever felt as much pressure as he did as a young sophomore getting his first start in this game back in 2016. He knows what this game is about. He has played pretty well since they put him back at QB primarily this season. He has one thing on his mind, and I believe he can will this team to victory.
2. Army’s Not Even Close to Starting Their Own Dynasty. I will be the first to admit, last year’s match-up was undoubtedly the most closely contested game in nearly two decades. Navy out-gained the Black Knights in total yards, and Army won time-of-possession by about three minutes. Neither team turned the ball over. Navy had two more penalties than Army, and if you ask me, the two penalties that made a tough field goal even harder are the reason Army won the trophy last year. That’s not making excuses, Army deserves a ton of credit for playing a tough and disciplined game last year – they earned the trophy. Some, however, choose to look at their back-to-back victories and point to it as an indicator Army has finally surpassed Navy in terms of talent and coaching, which is absolutely laughable. They may have caught-up, but they are quite a ways out from overtaking the Mids.
3. Army’s Schedule is a Joke. On that same note, Navy (#39 strength of schedule) is playing in the conference that is dominating the Group of Five. That same conference is forcing many to consider rethinking the CFP format and why they need to do something about it. Army had some solid match ups this year, against OU specifically, and I absolutely will not take away what they did in Norman. On the other end of the spectrum, however, are matchups against teams like Liberty, San Jose State and two FCS opponents in Lafayette and Colgate, which is why their strength of schedule is ranked at #98. I know this season has been pretty bad for Navy, but you really want to tell me they wouldn’t be bowling with opponents like that on their schedule? This is exactly why the records of these two teams are not indicative of a quality gap between these programs.
4. Navy’s Defense Forces Turnovers. In fact they have forced nearly twice as many as Army; at the risk of beating a dead horse, they do it against much better competition too. Navy has recovered 12 fumbles and made 9 interceptions; Army has forced a total of 12 turnovers on the season. Army has demonstrated some pretty solid ball security this year though, having only lost 4 fumbles and 3 interceptions, so it’s not like the Black Knights will make it easy on the Mids. I do, however, expect to see this happens a few times on Saturday:
5. Pride. The Men of Ken have entirely too much pride to cap this season off with another loss — especially to Army. I certainly don’t believe there is a talent gap between the programs. The Black Knights have absolutely been more polished throughout the season, but that isn’t indicative of talent. I have seen Ken Niumatalolo teams with less talent pull off bigger victories.
Even with all that said, this is a rivalry game, and records and everything else go out the window. Army could be going to a New Years Six Bowl in a few weeks, and I’d still put my money on Navy in a match up like this. There are just too many intangibles, and too many coulda, woulda, shoulda’s to write the Mids off right now. This will be another gritty game on Saturday.
I was supposed to come up with five reasons why Navy will win, but honestly there’s only one I really care about. It’s the First Class Midshipman who will commission as a United States Marine in May who will be running the Ivin Jasper Triple Option Machine. Zach Abey is back under center, and I believe in him. More importantly this team believes in him.
#BeatArmy #SingSecond #RedemptionForAbey