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Army replaces Tennessee in Liberty Bowl, will face West Virginia

Tennessee opted out due to positive Covid-19 cases. Army stepped up to fill the vacancy. 

NCAA Football: Air Force at Army Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

A 9-2 season.

A schedule remade from scratch.

A rivalry win.

A CIC victory.

And Army football was nearly left without a bowl bid — until now.

With teams opting of collegiate bowl games due to various Covid-19-related news, many teams out of the Power Five limelight were left to fend for themselves, including Army football. The Black Knights were originally scheduled to play in the Independence Bowl on Dec. 26, but like so many sports events this year, was cancelled because there was no available opponents.

Thanks to the structure of the collegiate bowl system and contractural agreements between other schools and bowl organizations, this year’s 9-2 Army team was left in the wind but once again, was determined to finish out their season.

“These young men haven’t quit all year and we surely won’t quit now. They deserve better. Period,” said Army Athletic Director Mike Buddie on Sunday.

Nothing this year in college football has been concrete and in just 24 hours, Army got what they wanted.

Tennessee (3-7) was slated to face West Virginia (5-4) in the Auto Zone Liberty Bowl but news of positive Covid-19 cases changed that matchup.

“After receiving Sunday’s COVID-19 test results, the University of Tennessee football program has paused all team activities and will be unable to compete in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. The test results revealed an increase in positive cases among student-athletes and staff and subsequent contact tracing,” said Tennessee Athletics in a statement.

With a vacancy and an opponent left in waiting in WVU, the Black Knights had their chance and took it.

“All we want is a bowl game. All we want is a chance to play,” Army football head Jeff Monken told ESPN.

And that they will.

The Liberty Bowl is slated for Dec. 31 at 4 PM EST and will be will be broadcast on ESPN.

This will make the fourth bowl game appearance under head coach Jeff Monken. The team is currently 3-0 in their previous bowl matchups.