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America’s Game: THE Army-Navy Preview

Here is everything you need to know before watching America’s Game

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NCAA Football: Army at Navy James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Wake up AAE family, it’s Gameday! And not just any gameday. It’s THE GAMEDAY. And College Gameday! It’s America’s Game(Day)!

The contributors here at Against All Enemies have been providing you with some fantastic content all week leading up to the 119th edition of the Army-Navy football game and I’m here to give you a one-stop shop of links to all of that content to serve as your primer to get you ready:

Here’s a look at why Austin Lanteigne believes the Army-Navy game should be on every college football fan’s bucket list.

We’ve got alternate uniforms commemorating “The Big Red One” for Army and Bill the Goat for Navy!

Jalen Hurts gave us the storybook ending for the ages last Saturday. Does Zach Abey have a similar redemption narrative to write just one week later?

College Gameday is returning to the Army-Navy Game for the 5th year in a row, and Rocky has you covered on what to expect from Lee, Kirk, Rece, and the gang!

We did a Q&A with Inside & Outside Army previewing the game with some outside AAE perspective.

We’ve got a look at why our writers believe Army will beat Navy and why they believe Navy will pull the upset against Army!

For those less prone to let emotion factor in, we’ve got a by the numbers look at the offenses versus defenses of Army and Navy!

We even have you covered if you just are looking for a betting advantage with an Army-Navy version of our weekly risk management series.

But the heart of this week has been our series on what the Army-Navy game means to various groups of people across the national landscape. Everyone put a lot of heart and soul into this series, and I know I’m biased but I believe it’s worth your time to read before watching today’s game.

What the game means to:

The Students

The Schools

The Alumni

The Service Branches

College Football

The United States of America

I’m proud of the team here at AAE for giving you this much content to peruse before turning to CBS, but if you just need the down and dirty on where to turn the channel or radio dial this afternoon, we’ve got you covered there as well:

Army Black Knights (9-2) at Navy Midshipmen (3-9) Game Day Info

City: of Brotherly Love aka Philadelphia, PA

Stadium: Lincoln Financial Field

Capacity: 69,176 (sold out); also, President Donald Trump will be in attendance

Surface: Grass

Tickets: Starting at $216 on StubHub (good luck)

Kickoff Time: 3:00 pm ET

TV: CBS (3:00, ET): Brad Nessler, Gary Danielson, Jamie Erdahl

ESPN College Gameday (9:00-12:00 AM, ET)

CBS Sports Network: ARMY-NAVY MARCH ON (12:00 NOON-1:30 PM, ET)

CBS Sports Network: ARMY-NAVY TAILGATE (1:30-2:30 PM, ET)

CBS: COLLEGE FOOTBALL TODAY (2:30 PM, ET)

Streaming: CBS Sports (link provided)

Radio: Navy Football Radio Network (WBAL 1090, WNAV 1430, TuneIn Radio)

Army Sports Network (WBNR 1260, WLNA 1420, TuneIn Radio)

Satellite: Sirius Ch. 137 and XM Ch. 201

Odds: Army is favored by 6.5

All-Time Series: 60-51-7 in favor of Navy

Last Game: Army won 14-13 last year and has won two in a row

Weather Forecast: Kick-off temps around 35 degrees, partly cloudy with 0% chance of rain, winds at 7 MPH.

Army Head Coach: Jeff Monken is in his fifth season with the Black Knights. He is 71-44 overall as a head coach, including 33-28 at Army. He is 2-2 against Navy.

Navy Head Coach: Ken Niumatalolo is in his eleventh season in charge of the Midshipmen. He is 87-57 as head coach, including 8-2 against Army.

Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy: President Donald Trump will be in attendance for the game, so it’s fitting that an outright CIC Trophy is on the line for Army this year. Win, and the trophy remains in West Point for the second year in a row. Lose, and they would still retain the trophy, but it would be a three-way split between all three service academy teams this year.

Threads:

Alright, if that’s not enough to gear you up for the big game today, I’m going to give one final breakdown position by position of who has the edge in the game and give you my prediction for how this game will turn out.

Offense:

Quarterback: Navy has played three different quarterbacks throughout the season, starting with the most elusive player on the field today in Malcolm Perry, switching to Garret Lewis, and then settling back on Zach Abey, who started two years ago in this game. The offense has looked more complete and in sync in recent games with Abey under center. It took about a game and a half for Navy to find their groove again with Abey, but in the second half against UCF and in the Tulsa and Tulane games, he has looked much better. He has 14 rushing touchdowns on the season (most in short yardage situations) and is completing 50% of his passes with 1 passing TD this year.

Army has Kelvin Hopkins, Jr. and he has been the go-to guy all season. He needs 105 yards passing in the game to pass 1,000 on the season and is completing 56% of his passes with 6 TDs and 3 INTs. He’s added 783 yards on the ground with 10 rushing touchdowns. He has been efficient for most of the season, operating within the offense and helping his team convert better on third and fourth down than any other team in the country. He also is a prime reason Army leads the nation in time of possession.

Edge: Army

Slotbacks: Navy’s slotbacks are led by Malcolm Perry, who moved back over from quarterback. He will be the most electric playmaker on the field today with a chance for some explosive plays and you can bet Navy will look to utilize him early and often. Perry has 1,035 yards rushing with 7 touchdowns on the season. CJ Williams has been impressive this year as well, and Tre Walker is the starter opposite Perry.

Jordan Asberry and Kell Walker are the primary A-backs for Army. Both are solid runners but are above average slotbacks out of the backfield receiving. They each have 9 catches on the season, tying each other for the team lead. Asberry in particular has made some really big plays all season and has three receiving touchdowns to his credit.

Edge: Navy

Fullbacks: Navy has a trio of fullbacks that will be involved in this game, starting with senior captain Anthony Gargiulo, who has 389 yards rushing on the year. Nelson Smith, his primary backup has shown glimpses all year of being the next great fullback at Navy. He is second on the team with 402 yards rushing and has a great burst of speed that leads to big plays when he gets to the second level. Mike Martin will also find his way into the game and provides a nice change of pace at the B-back position.

Army is led by Darnell Woolfolk who has had himself quite the career. He has 823 yards rushing on the season to go with 14 touchdowns, giving him over 2,300 yards for his career and 37 touchdowns. He is the glue of this offense for Army and makes play after play to keep drives alive. Calen Holt and Connor Slomka are two other names to watch. Slomka in particular is used as a short yardage guy and is a main reason why Army has been so efficient on third and fourth downs this season as well.

Edge: Army

Wide Receivers: We all know that the wide receiver position isn’t utilized particularly often in this matchup but it will no doubt be important at some point in the course of this game. Navy has a freshman in Mychal Cooper that has the makings of a future star at the position for the Midshipmen. The 6-5, 220 pound plebe has great ball skills and speed and will be a target to watch out for throughout the game. Taylor Jackson leads the way for the Mids with 12 catches for 211 yards and 1 TD on the season.

Army has two receivers in Christian Hayes and Cam Harrison capable of making the big play. They each have a touchdown on the season with 11 total catches between them.

Edge: Even

Offensive Line: Navy’s offensive line is led by senior right tackle Andrew Wood who has started pretty much from day one for the Midshipmen. He is joined by Ford Higgins, Chris Gesell, Laurent Njiki, and Jake Hawk up front. Navy is third in the country in rushing yards per game with 289, but some of the struggles this season offensively come back to poor offensive line play at times. They will need a strong performance out of this senior-heavy group in order to win today.

Army is led up front by senior center Bryce Holland and junior guard Jax Deaton. They have paved the way for an Army rushing attack that is just ahead of Navy at 303 yards per game, good for second in the country, and they are another important component of why Army has been so dang efficient on offense this season, especially in short yardage situations.

Edge: Army

Defense:

Defensive Line: Navy is led up front by Jarvis Polu and Jackson Pittman. They are joined by Anthony Villalobos to make up a formidable defensive line that has been an important factor for the Navy defense this season. Pittman has 32 tackles including 3 tackles for a loss, one pass breakup, and two forced fumbles on the year. Polu has 30 tackles with 1.5 for a loss, a pass breakup, two QB hurries, two fumble recoveries, one forced fumble, and two blocked kicks on the season. This is probably the strongest part of the Navy defense this season.

Army is led up front by Wunmi Oyetuga and Raymond Wright. Oyetuga has 15 tackles including 1.5 for a loss, two fumble recoveries and a blocked kick. Wright leads the way with a sack, 2.5 tackles for loss, and a fumble recovery to go with 14 tackles on the year.

Edge: Navy

Linebackers: Taylor Heflin and Hudson Sullivan lead the way for the Navy linebacker corps at the MIKE and SAM positions, respectively. Heflin leads Navy with 93 tackles. He has 9 tackles for a loss and three sacks on the season, two fumble recoveries, and a forced fumble. He will be one of the biggest factors on defense for this Navy team. Nizaire Cromartie is another one to watch out for at the Raider position as he also has three sacks on the season, tied with Heflin for the team lead.

Army is led by James Nachtigal, Cole Christiansen, and Kenneth Brinson, and they have been a dominant unit. Nachtigal leads the team with 73 tackles on the year, but he also has 5.5 tackles for loss and 5 sacks on the season to go with a 52 yard fumble recovery and two forced fumbles. Christiansen is right behind him with 65 tackles, but his most impressive stat is his 10.5 tackles for loss. Throw in Brinson’s four tackles for loss and three sacks and you have a formidable spot in the Army D that has been the catalyst for getting them off the field on third down.

Edge: Army

Defensive Backs: The Navy defensive backfield is led by senior captain Sean Williams who seems to be everywhere. Williams is third on the team with 77 tackles, has two interceptions, four pass breakups, and a whopping FIVE forced fumbles on the year. He is joined by Jarid Ryan as the leaders of the DBs, as Ryan leads the team with three INTs and seven pass breakups.

Army has several studs in the defensive backfield as well, with Elijah Riley leading the way and being joined by Mike Reynolds and Jaylon McClinton. Similar to Williams, Riley is third on the team with 50 tackles, but he is their primary cover corner. He has seven pass breakups and six tackles for loss coming off the edge. He always gets the matchup against the toughest receivers and seems to make big play after big play. McClinton is right behind him with 40 tackles and an INT and Reynolds leads the team with two interceptions.

Edge: Army

Special Teams:

Kicker: Navy’s kicker is senior Bennett Moehring who is 10/12 on the season on field goals and 33/34 on extra points. He has had a solid season and minus missing a chip shot against Tulane the last time out, the only other kick he missed was his only attempt over 50 yards on the season.

Army’s kicker is former Sprint Football player John Abercrombie, who since taking over the position has not missed a kick. He is 7/7 on field goals and 34/34 on extra points.

I’m going to call this one even, because even though Abercrombie is perfect, he hasn’t attempted a field goal over 37 yards on the year, while Moehring is 3/3 on field goals between 40-49 yards.

Edge: Even

Punter: Navy punter Owen White has had a tremendous season. I know that’s not necessarily a good thing to say your punter has had one of the best seasons of anyone on the team, but he averages over 42 yards a punt and has 13 punts of over 50 yards on the season. He has 10 fair catches and has put 17 punts inside the 20 yard line.

Army has split duties between Nick Schrage and Zach Potter, with the two averaging 39 yards a punt. They have had two punts blocked this season, which could be something to watch out for in this game.

Edge: Navy

Returner: Malcolm Perry has moved to kick returner following his move to slotback and has proven to be a spark when given the chance. He averages 25 yards a return and could be a candidate to break a long one if given the opportunity today. Jacob Springer has handled punt return duties and has 10 returns for 90 yards on the season, including a 21 yarder late in the year..

Army has only returned 8 kickoffs on the season for an average of only 13 yards a return. Mike Reynolds is the punt returner and he averages over 13 yards a return on the season. His longest return was 22 yards on the season.

Edge: Navy

Total: Army 5, Navy 4, Even 2

Here’s the thing. Everyone else on the site has given you the breakdowns both statistically and otherwise heading into this matchup. I’ve tried to break down the position groups as best I can, knowing that some positions impact the game more than others. I believe Army has the slight edge overall, here, and I believe that is true of the game itself.

As the site manager for AAE, I may be one of only a few people in the country that has watched every single game for both of these teams (including that Twitch stream of the Army-Oklahoma game). I don’t say that to say I know better than anyone else or that somehow that should give me more credibility. I only say that to say I have actually seen each of these teams play over 20 times total this year, and going purely off my eye test, Army is the better team heading into this matchup.

Everyone knows I am a USNA grad and I absolutely hope Navy wins this game by two touchdowns.

But, weak schedule or not, here’s what I’ve seen from Army that I haven’t seen from Navy.

Army has played six maybe even seven complete games this season. Games in which the offense, defense, and special teams all performed well for the majority of the contest. I could say the same about Navy once.

And I think that matters.

I believe that the efficiency of Army on both offense and defense is not something that is simply a result of playing a weaker schedule than Navy. Just look at the common opponents in Air Force and Hawaii. I think Army is just a more fundamentally sound football team this year. Does that mean Navy can’t win today? Absolutely not. They have the playmakers and the ability to win this game without a doubt.

Explosive plays on offense and turnovers on defense would be my two keys for them to pull off the upset.

But Army absolutely deserves to be favored by a touchdown heading into the game based on their body of work this season, and even if I let a smidge of homerism creep into my prediction, I still think this is the result:

Army 24-Navy 17

At the end of the day though, America is the real winner today, so sit back and enjoy the spectacle that is Army-Navy football and America’s game. It’s the greatest day in college football all season!