Let’s say you only have a few hours each weekend to watch college football and you limited your viewing experience to enjoying just one service academy game a week. While I don’t condone this practice, I figured I would offer some help. If that is indeed the case, we wanted to create a cheat sheet guide of the best service academy games in 2019. This guide identifies which game is the best on a weekly basis so you will know just how to efficiently spend your time enjoying all things Air Force, Army, or Navy football related.
Week One: Holy Cross at Navy (Saturday, Aug 31; 3:30 ET on CBSSN)
Surprisingly, this was a challenging week to pick. Army opens up the season on a Friday night and features the only dual FBS match-up, albeit a weak one in the Rice Owls. Colgate was supposed to be somewhat of a challenge for the Falcons after finishing 2018 10-2, but the Raiders looked lost in their season debut falling 34-14 to Villanova. That leaves us with Navy. While Holy Cross isn’t exactly a powerful or tested FCS opponent, the Midshipmen will finally have a chance to display some of their question marks heading into the season. We know Malcolm Perry will start at QB, but how will the new offense look? How does defensive coordinator Brian Newberry change the identify of the Midshipmen with his new defensive scheme? If you are a service academy football fan this game should spark your interest due to the number of off-season changes that resulted from Navy’s 3-9 campaign just last year.
Week Two: Army at Michigan (Saturday, Sep 7; 12:00 ET on FOX)
While this is the only service academy game in week two, it may be the biggest non-CIC involved match up for any of the academies. Michigan comes into the season ranked 7th in both the AP and Coaches Poll. College football fans across the country remember the scare Army put on the Sooners last September forcing overtime in Norman and many Army fans are confident that the Black Knights will test another highly respected P5 foe in the Wolverines. This game will be the perfect transition after watching College GameDay all morning.
Week Three: Air Force at Colorado (Saturday, Sep 14; 1:00 ET on PAC12N)
It makes sense to sit down and watch Air Force in week three if you already gave Navy and Army their shot in the first two weeks. Beyond that cyclical take, this game also provides us an in-state, uh, “rivalry” game within the first month of the season. Okay, so it may not clearly meet the rivalry definition but it is a rare member of the AAE family battling a P5 opponent; a P5 opponent that isn’t exactly known for winning at the FBS level. This is a game that Air Force can undoubtedly win and deserves your attention. Don’t forget though, Navy opens up AAC play this same week against ECU and Army takes on UTSA. Our own Scott Lopez called an upset in favor of the Roadrunners in a recent AAE podcast (one of a few hot taeks from Lopez…).
Week Four: Air Force at Boise State (Friday, Sep 20; 9:00 ET on ESPN2)
Air Force football twice in six days? Sign me up. Many pundits have the Broncos as the MWC Champion and some have them as their pick to represent the G5 conferences in the NY6 bowl games this season. The Falcons will have a tough turn around after a short week where they just played against a physical Colorado squad. If the blue field doesn’t mess with your eyes too much this is one you will want to watch. Navy has their second bye and Army plays Morgan State, so you won’t be missing much there.
Week Five: Navy at Memphis (Thursday, Sep 26; 8:00 ET on ESPN)
The battle for the AAC West is supposed to go through Memphis this year, at least that is what everyone is telling us in August. Navy has had success against the Tigers in the AAC carrying a 3-1 record against them since joining the conference in 2015. In fact, one of Navy’s three wins last season came against a Memphis squad that won the West and pushed UCF in the AAC title game. Army has a bye and Air Force hosts San Jose State (one of the worst programs in college football) on Friday night.
Week Six: Air Force at Navy (Saturday, Oct 5; 3:30 ET on CBSSN) AND Tulane at Army (Saturday, Oct 5; 12:00 ET on CBSSN)
Leg one of the CIC trophy takes place in Annapolis in week six. It goes without saying that any CIC match-up is going to make this list and this game usually packs plenty of excitement. Both teams have likely kept certain plays hidden in in prior game film and the Midshipmen vs. Falcons battle usually comes down to the wire. That wasn’t true last year where Troy Calhoun and his Air Force team obliterated Navy 35-7 in a game that didn’t even feel that close. I strongly urge everyone to sneak in two games in week six as Army will host a very talented Tulane team led by Willie Fritz at noon. Why not just fit six-plus hours of football in your schedule this glorious Saturday? You don’t even have to change the channel.
Week Seven: Fresno State at Air Force (Saturday, October 12; 7:00 ET on CBSSN)
While Boise State is favored to win the Mountain Division, the Bulldogs of Fresno State walk into the season as the favorites to win the West. Air Force gets the privilege of playing both teams and the preseason-West favorites must travel to Colorado Springs to take on the Falcons in what will likely be a chilling evening game. Fresno State’s success will depend upon new quarterback Jorge Reyna’s ability to learn quickly this season and Air Force should have a strong understanding of what makes the Bulldogs successful at this point in the season. Army hits the road to take on Western Kentucky while Navy travels to Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Week Eight: USF at Navy (Saturday, October 19; 3:30 ET on CBSSN)
I have a feeling Charlie Strong may be on the hot seat heading into this game, or at least feeling some pressure. This is a game that Bulls fans will feel like they must win and I am sure the “new” Navy will be well acclimated to their own adjustments on both sides of the ball this late in the season. This will be Navy’s most challenging cross-division game of the season (others include ECU and UConn). The Air Force at Hawaii game has plenty of appeal but the 11:00 PM EST kickoff means you probably wouldn’t watch it all the way through. I can predict that I will fall asleep on the couch in the second quarter just because my body no longer lets me stay up that late; besides, we are already going to ask you to stay up late in just a few weeks. Army plays a Georgia State team that went 2-10 last year.
Week Nine: Utah State at Air Force (Saturday, Oct 26; unannounced - ESPN Network)
This was another difficult week to pick just one game. Army plays a weak San Jose State squad but I do suspect points to be scored in that game and would be the perfect noon time activity. Navy will battle Tulane for the Trident Trophy. The outcome of this game has been decided by just one score in each of the last three years. Air Force hosts Utah State in what may be the most exciting game of the week for the AAE family in week nine but we don’t have a kickoff time nor an announced television channel. You really can’t go wrong with any game this weekend.
Week Ten: Army at Air Force (Saturday, Nov 2; 3:30 ET on CBSSN)
Another “must watch” if you follow AAE. The winner of this game in 2018 ultimately decided who earned the CIC title and this year could be the same. Falcon fans will tell you that the Black Knights won’t be able to withstand the altitude or the bitter cold that Colorado provides in November, while Black Knight fans will point to their new found yearly consistency under Coach Monken. This game should be a doozy and certainly commands your attention. In fact, I order you to watch this game; I mean, Navy fans have no excuse as they will have a free Saturday afternoon as the Mids take on UConn on Friday evening.
Week Eleven: UMass at Army (Saturday, Nov 9; 12:00 ET on CBSSN)
In a recent AAE podcast Justin pointed out the number of points UMass scored on a regular basis last year. With this game occurring the week after Army’s first leg in the CIC race it is a game worth keeping an eye on, for sure. Yes, Army should easily win this game but there is potential for a trap here. It is at least worth watching for a half or so, just to see what happens. Navy has a bye and Air Force travels to New Mexico take on the Lobos on an unannounced network at 2:00 EST.
Week Twelve: Navy at Notre Dame (Saturday, Nov 16; 2:30 ET on NBC)
Look, I am not saying this will be a competitive game but anytime a service academy gets to battle a potential top-ten team in the country we should all throw in our support. Air Force playing at Colorado State will likely produce a more competitive game, but it is hard to dismiss Navy when they play Notre Dame. The Midshipmen have found four wins over the last 12 years in this rivalry and often keep things interesting. VMI at Army isn’t worth your time.
Week Thirteen: SMU at Navy (Saturday, Nov 23; 3:30 ET on CBSSN)
Default selection - It is the only game of the week for the AAE family. If you aren’t a Navy fan it is a perfect weekend to knock out your DIY projects.
Week Fourteen: Army at Hawaii (Saturday, Nov 30; 11:59 PM ET on CBSSN)
Houston has had Navy’s number at home and I figured you probably don’t want to watch a game on Facebook (looking at you Air Force vs. Wyoming). I mean, don’t get me wrong, that game usually involves plenty of extracurricular activities after the whistle and if you haven’t watched a game on Facebook you might as well give it a try just to say you experienced it. At the end of the day though (literally), you should force yourself to watch some football after dark as Army will travel to Honolulu to take on a group of battle tested Warriors. Have the cup of joe ready, you’ll be lucky to be asleep by 3:00 AM ET.
And the easiest choice of all...
Week “It is its on weekend!:” Army vs. Navy (Saturday, Dec 14; 3:00 ET on CBS)
The final leg of the CIC trophy takes place in Philadelphia over its own weekend and is an obvious “must watch” for not only AAE fans, but college football fans from around the world.
Let us know where we messed up in the comments below!