This Saturday marks the 52nd match up between the Midshipmen against the Falcons. This is not the premier match up in the race for the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy, but it has been the most compelling one for the better part of two decades.
The winner of the Navy Air Force game has gone on to at least a share of the CiC, 20 of the last 22 years. But that’s all in the past—let’s take a look at why Navy is going to win this game in 2019.
Let’s just keep it simple here people...in a comparison of season stats to date Navy has the edge, and it’s not all that close.
Points Per Game Points: Air Force 34.5 Navy 36.7
Points Allowed per game: Air Force 21 Navy 17.3
Total Yards: Air Force 442.8 Navy 457.3
Passing Yards: Air Force 110 Navy 112.7
Rushing Yards: Air Force 332.8 Navy 344.7
Total Yards Allowed: Air Force 301.8 Navy 251.3
Passing Yards Allowed: Air Force 211.5 Navy 167
Rushing Yards Allowed: Air Force 93 Navy 84
See, it’s not even close. Navy has a clear statistical advantage in terms of performance thus far. Malcolm Perry has been having quite a season this year averaging more than 200 total yards and three touchdowns per game. I don’t see how the Falcons are going to contain him, or the 13 other Mids he’s handed off/pitched the ball to, if he is able to stay health on Saturday.
Service academies are usually solid at containing the run, but Malcolm has demonstrated how much of a threat he can be if you give me room to throw. I expect a career day for Malcolm tomorrow with another 150 yards passing and 100 yards rushing.
Don’t forget what this defense has been able to do this season either. The Mids have held their opponents to 84 yards on the ground per game this year; Memphis put up the most on the ground with 105 as a team. The Falcons are used to a comfortable 332.8 rushing yards per game, but no opponents has rushed for a quarter of that at Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium thus far this season, which brings me to my next point.
The Back and Forth on Home Turf
Air Force has just two wins in Annapolis over the last 22 years; the most recent was a 1-point victory in overtime during the 2011 match up. Historical match ups aren’t always a reliable metric, but the home team has walked off the field singing second for the last six years in a row. Navy is also 2-0 in NMCMS so far and I think there’s a good chance that streak is extended on Saturday in front of a sold out home crowd.
Some folks will point to the fact that Navy has played one less game this season than Air Force, and that’s true, but Navy is playing a tougher schedule, 72nd strength of schedule to Air Forces 82nd to be exact. Boise on the road was a tough game no doubt, but I would put that on par with Navy’s loss to Memphis last week. Navy sitting at 2-1 and Air Force sitting at 3-1 is about as close as you get for two service Academies, but Navy gets the edge here too, simply because they are hosting the Falcons.
How about pride? The class of 2020 is dangerously close to becoming the first class to have no part of a CiC trophy since the class of 2003. 2020 is also currently 1-5 against their service academy brethren. Those are huge problems for a program that expects to win.
We can sit here all day and come up with other reasons why Navy will come out on top, but any fan of service academy football knows these games always come down to the wire. Air Force and Navy have had pretty similar performances to date against comparable opponents. Vegas may be giving Air Force the advantage, but Navy has averaged less than one loss at home a year over in the last decade—That is a serious home field advantage.
With a sold out crowd in Naptown, my money is on Navy! 28-27 Midshipmen!