In a continuation of the countdown to the kickoff of Army’s 121st year of football on September 4th against Eastern Michigan, I will break down Army’s upcoming regular season schedule. In the interest of keeping the post size down, I will start today with the first four games. Overall I expect an 8-4 regular season record for the Black Knights. Seven to nine wins would be considered a good season in West Point and is certainly attainable. Six or less would be disappointing for this team. Keep reading to see how the season breaks down.
September 4th at Eastern Michigan
The Eastern Michigan Eagles were one of the worst teams in the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision in 2009. The only team Eastern Michigan would have been favored to beat was Western Kentucky. The Eagles went 0-12, including a loss to Army to open the season. Eastern Michigan’s rush defense ranked 120th, worst in the country. The Eagles ranked first nationally in pass defense(150.5 yards against per game), but a major factor in such a ranking based on yardage is that teams did not need to go to the air to make plays against the Eagles’ defense. In defensive pass efficiency rating, the Eagles ranked 90th nationally. Eastern Michigan ranked 88th in rushing offense and 108th in passing offense. The Eastern Michigan passing attack struggled heavily not only in yards gained (152 per game), but it also threw the 17th-most interceptions in the country (16). Going to the air in 2009 was a high-risk low-reward option for the Eagles. Eastern Michigan returns six starters on each side of the ball. Many freshmen gained valuable experience for the Eagles in 2009, but they will still struggle this year.
This game can be penciled-in as a win for the Black Knights. A team with a porous run defense is a great matchup for the Army offense and a win on the road should boost Army’s confidence to start the season. This game will be the start of what looks like a long year for the Eagles. They seem to be at least a year away from competing in the MAC Conference and with games scheduled at Ohio State and Virginia, the road does not get easier from here.
September 11th vs. Hawai’i
This will be a tough matchup for Army. The result of this game could set the tone for what kind of season the Black Knights have in 2010. The Hawai’i offense posted 337 passing yards per game last year, and junior quarterback Bryant Moniz returns along with All-American wide receiver Greg Salas. The Hawai’i offensive line loses All-WAC selection John Estes and second team All-WAC left tackle. Aaron Kia. The unit returns only one offensive lineman with starting experience. This presents Army’s chance to frustrate the Hawai’i offense as the Army defensive front will present some unique challenges. Getting pressure on Moniz will be vital to the Army defensive effort. Defensively Hawai’i will be very young up front and Army will need to exploit their inexperience and impose their will running the football to control the clock and keep the Hawai’i offense off the field.
This game is a toss-up. Hawai’i has the potential to be an explosive offense with a good quarterback and experienced receivers, but its success hinges on an inexperienced offensive line. The Hawai’i front seven should be a good matchup for Army’s offense. Hawai’i will almost certainly be coming into the game off a loss to USC and there is the potential for a letdown game playing Army the week after playing a national power. As of right now I give the edge to the Black Knights.
September 18th vs. North Texas
Mean Green Head Coach Todd Dodge enters his fourth season with a 5-31 record. North Texas was 2-10 last season under Dodge. North Texas returns ten starters on offense and eight on defense. North Texas had a solid rushing attack in 2009, ranking 28th in the nation. Junior running back Lane Dunbar returns after being honored as a member of the All-Sun Belt first team. The Mean Green defense was the soft spot last season, ranking 97th overall in total defense as they surrendered over 412 yards per game and 54 touchdowns during the course of the season. The North Texas rushing defense was especially bad, ranking 104th in the country.
North Texas was a bad team last year and has struggled throughout Todd Dodge’s tenure as Head Coach. Without much in the way of added talent, expect more of the same for the Mean Green. This should be another Army win.
September 25th at Duke
This will be another tough matchup for the Black Knights. The Blue Devils dealt Army their first loss in 2009 and the same may happen in 2010. The biggest loss for Duke is quarterback Thaddeus Lewis, but Duke returns a good offensive line and nine starters overall from an offense that scored 35 points against the Army defense last year. Head Coach David Cutcliffe enters his third season for Duke and has started turning the program around. Duke will have an advantage in overall talent when they take on the Black Knights. The defense will likely take a step back with the loss of defensive tackle Vince Oghobaase.
It is always difficult to replace a good quarterback, but a good offensive line can help lessen the blow. Duke found a way to exploit the Army defense last year and Army will need to make some adjustments to prevent that from happening again. Expect the Black Knights to return home from Durham with a loss.
What to expect after four games?
A 4-0 start for Army is possible, but 3-1 is more realistic. At worst Army will go 2-2 in these first four games. In my next post I will look at the middle of Army’s schedule, which includes a matchup with Rutgers at New Meadowlands Stadium.
About the Author
Written by Donald Lappe
Senior at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Double Major in Media & Society and United States History. Also writing for TapouT Magazine and MMA Worldwide Magazine.