M&T Bank Stadium will be the site for the 117th meeting between the Navy Midshipmen and the Army West Point Black Nights. This is one of college football’s greatest traditions, as both schools represent the American military and its service men and women.
This year’s matchup in particular looks to be an especially competitive game between the two schools. Navy stands at 9-3 with impressive wins against Houston and Notre Dame on its 2016 resume. Even after losing quarterback Keenan Reynolds, who holds the NCAA’s Division I records for total touchdowns (88) and quarterback rushing yards (4,559), to last years NFL Draft, the Midshipmen have maintained a winning culture in Annapolis.
The Black Knights stand at 6-5, their first winning season since 2010. Although the rivalry has become largely one-sided in favor of Navy, who holds a 14-year win streak, Army has the motivation to win this year’s matchup. Here are some big reasons why the Knights can pull out a win Saturday.
First, Navy’s quarterback situation is in disarray. After losing its original starter, senior Togo Smith to a season ending knee injury in his first game of the year, Navy has been riding senior Will Worth at the starting role all season. Sadly, Worth also suffered a season ending injury to his right foot last Saturday in the American Athletic Conference Championship game against Temple. Now Navy must start its third quarterback, sophomore Zach Abey, who has limited experience to say the least.
The difference maker for Navy in their games with Army has commonly been strong and dependable quarterback play, Keenan Reynolds for example. Without this edge, Army can put pressure on Abey to perform and potentially force mistakes from the young QB.
Second reason, Navy’s triple option system is painfully predictable. Now, this is coming from a Notre Dame fan, who has to endure this offense on a yearly basis. Play calls are very easy to anticipate. Its still a confusing scheme for defenses to handle, partly because Navy is one of the only programs left in the FBS that still run an option based offense, but with the right coaching and player experience, of which Army has both, its effectiveness can be limited.
The triple option also relies heavily on the quarterback’s decision-making and ability to move the ball. Army’s defense needs to take advantage of Abey’s inexperience in this position in order to gain an edge.
Thirdly, this game is almost always close. Despite the apparent gap in talent and performance between the two teams, the sheer intensity of the rivalry produces a competitive atmosphere unmatched in college football. Army’s current quarterback Chris Carter helped to hold a lead for most of last year’s game but fell to a Keenan Reynolds go ahead touchdown for a final score of 21-17. It’s important to note that Army went 2-10 last season while Navy went 11-2.
Army also has a two week break to prepare for Saturday, while Navy only has a week due to them playing in an uncharacteristic conference championship game.
Whether or not you’re a fan of either team, this is an amazing game to watch every year. The rich history and tradition of both schools combined with the gritty rivalry of the U.S. armed forces culminate in one of the best games of the year. Keep an eye out for President-elect Donald Trump as well, who will be attending the game in Baltimore. Game time is Saturday at 3:00 PM on CBS.