Head coach Jeff Monken and the Army Black Knights open the 2020 football season at home against MTSU on Saturday. Like programs across the country, Army has scrambled to reassemble a full schedule, but being an Independent afforded them more flexibility.
And so, here we are!
Let’s start with the MTSU Blue Raiders. Middle Tennessee State returns QB Asher O’ Hara, who was largely responsible for all offensive production by the Blue Raiders last season, both on the ground and through the air. Though elusive, O’ Hara arguably does not pose the same dynamic threat as did Malcolm Perry of Navy, who gave Army fits in last year’s Army-Navy game.
For Army, Christian Anderson looks to be the starter under-center, and despite limited snaps in 2019, Anderson did show off decent speed and power running ability, both crucial for an Army QB. It remains to be seen if he’ll be able to channel the same decisiveness of Ahmad Bradshaw and Kelvin Hopkins have in recent years in being able to also identify effective pitch plays.
Army’s defense returns quite a few familiar names, especially along the D-Line and linebacker positions. Play-makers such as Amadeo West, Arik Smith, Jeremiah Lowery, JB Hunter, Peyton Reeder, and Kwabena Bonsu should all sound familiar to Black Knights’ fans and will look to anchor Army against MTSU, and for the rest of the season.
The Blue Raiders haven’t faced a Service Academy triple-option since 2013, and with some porous defensive numbers from 2019, that should bode well for Army fans. MTSU allowed opponents to average 4.9 yards per carry along with allowing teams to throw for an average of over 260 yards per game. While the Black Knights will likely still keep passing to a minimum, you can bet that they’re aiming to take advantage of MTSU’s poor run defense.
The Blue Raiders are aware of the challenge they face, but it’ll come down to whether or not they can execute their defensive plans effectively enough against Army’s offense.
Things to Consider
As it is, things are hard to weigh before a season opener. You can use stats from last year and assume that returning players will likely put up about the same or slightly better numbers. But you never know. There are a ton of factors at play over the off-season, and the coronavirus pandemic has certainly thrown in another layer of disarray.
However, it’s worth noting a few things that may (or may not) influence the outcome of Saturday’s game.
- The Army football team, and the Corps of Cadets at large, have been operating in a bubble for several months, continuing to conduct summer training as well as athletic practices and training. While there have been adjustments, the Academy has been chugging along pretty much business as usual, providing somewhat of a bummer from all the turmoil outside of the granite walls of West Point.
- On the other hand, two players from MTSU have opted out of the 2020 season, leaving the Blue Raiders with a slightly less experienced backfield than they may have been anticipating.
- The Corps of Cadets will be the only fans in attendance. Empty stands may have been eerie to play in front of, but at least they would have been neutral. I’m not sure how USMA officials have planned to space out cadets, they can still get pretty rowdy even if there will only be 4,500-ish of them. Plus, they’ll all be cheering for one team and heckling the other team. Talk about a home-field advantage.
Anyways, the important stuff is below. Hopefully, you’re as excited as I am to see a return of Army football.
How to Watch
Kickoff: 1:30 p.m. (EST) on Saturday, Sept. 5
Watch: CBSSN — Ben Holder will handle the play-by-play duties, the color analyst is Ross Tucker and the sideline reporter is Tina Cervasio. Active and Reserve service-members can also stream the game for free.
Where: Michie Stadium — West Point, NY
Spread: The Black Knights are favored at -3.5, with the over-under at 55 points.