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Navy Midshipmen fullback Isaac Ruoss (32) runs the ball against UCF Knights defensive back Divaad Wilson (9). (Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire)
December 11th, 2021
The Black Knights and Midshipmen will square off in the annual Army-Navy Game for the 118th this Saturday when the two teams meet in East Rutherford.
After losing 14 consecutive meetings in this rivalry, the arrival of head coach Jeff Monken has seen the tide turn. That has been reflected in Army’s overall record as well, as this marks the fifth time in six years since he took over that they will play in a bowl game, facing Missouri in the Armed Forces Bowl. Last year, they dominated the Midshipmen in a 15-0 win, the first time they ever beat their rival at West Point.
Army lost three straight games in October, but sandwiched that with a pair of four-game winning streaks on either side. Two weeks ago, they traveled to Liberty as a field-goal underdog and pulled off a 31-16 upset. Fullback Jakobi Buchanan scored three rushing touchdowns in the game, marking the ninth time in 11 games that Army has put at least 30 points on the scoreboard.
Army's 6-foot, 260-pound RB, Jakobi Buchanan, has gone 194 straight rush attempts without losing yardage. pic.twitter.com/TTKwuVu9Kt— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) November 6, 2021
Army's 6-foot, 260-pound RB, Jakobi Buchanan, has gone 194 straight rush attempts without losing yardage. pic.twitter.com/TTKwuVu9Kt
Unlike years past, Army actually has a passing game to rely on as well. Senior quarterback Christian Anderson threw for more than 200 yards against Air Force, and orchestrated a fourth-quarter drive with his arm against Wisconsin, as they hung tough with the Badgers. Army rushed for 179 yards against Wisconsin’s top-ranked run defense and was in the game late.
The second-best rushing attack in the nation sees Army run for more than 300 yards per game, but more impressive is the team's 48.6% third-down conversion rate, which allows them to wear opponents down. The Black Knights have won their last four games by an average of 28 points, while the defense allowed just 15 points per during that stretch.
A look at Navy’s 3-8 record might make one believe they are a bad team, but Navy’s schedule is one of the five-toughest in the nation. They gave Cincinnati all they could handle in a 27-20 loss, and two weeks ago blew out Temple 38-10 despite being two-touchdown underdogs.
Navy’s run game ranks seventh in the country at 229.2 yards per game, and running back Carlinos Acie has burst onto the scene with 241 yards in their last two games. Isaac Ruoss leads the team with 608 yards and five touchdowns. One concern for Navy, though, is their offensive line, which is among the worst in the nation at tackles for loss allowed.
Navy will find it difficult to run against an Army run defense that is the 16th-best in the nation at just 103.7 yards per game allowed. If forced to throw, it could be problematic, as their quarterbacks have completed fewer than half their attempts. Sophomore Tai Lavatai has thrown for 367 of Navy’s 599 passing yards this season, and primary target Chance Warren can make plays, catching two touchdowns against Temple.
Navy Athletics presents: Bigger Than Football#GoNavy | @NavyFB | @ArmyNavyGame pic.twitter.com/uYckxtPyJz— Navy Athletics (@NavyAthletics) December 9, 2021
Navy Athletics presents: Bigger Than Football#GoNavy | @NavyFB | @ArmyNavyGame pic.twitter.com/uYckxtPyJz
Both of these teams love to run the ball, but only Army has shown the ability to consistently move the ball through the air. Additionally, Navy has struggled to find the end zone on the ground in 2021, with just 17 rushing touchdowns despite having attempted the third-most carries in the nation. Army has found paydirt on a running play 43 times this season, and all of Anderson’s rushing touchdowns have come in the red zone.
While Navy’s schedule likely hides the fact that they should probably be closer to a .500 team, it doesn’t change the fact that Army moved the ball on the ground consistently against the best rushing defense in the nation. Navy has struggled against the run this year, with their run defense ranked 92nd in the nation, and Army will wear down their thin defense with long, clock-consuming drives.
One other factor falling in Army’s favor is the weather. Last year’s game was shrouded in fog, and this year the forecast for East Rutherford is calling for rain with wind gusts of up to 35 miles per hour. This will make it more difficult to throw the ball, especially for Navy’s inaccurate quarterbacks, and it will make it difficult for Navy to keep Army’s defense honest.
Take the Black Knights to cover the spread, and pair it with a low-scoring Navy team total for a Same Game Combo play.
Score prediction: Army 28, Navy 10
Our predictive engine is calling for Army to win outright.
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