It is time to take a look at the last four games on Army’s 2010 regular season schedule. Two big rivalry matchups (Navy, Air Force), a game in Yankee Stadium against Notre Dame and a trip to Kent State await the Black Knights. I see a 2-2 finish for Army here, but which two I see them winning may be a surprise to most.
Saturday November 6th vs. Air Force
Troy Calhoun enters his fourth season as Air Force’s Head Coach after appearing in a bowl game each of his first three years. The Falcons are built like Army: their success hinges on a good rushing attack and dominant defense. Air Force ranked third in the country in rushing in 2009 and their defense was ranked tenth overall. Air Force lost their entire offensive line from last year, but returns all their starters at the skill positions. The Air Force defense also suffered some major losses and will be without linebackers John Falgout and Justin Moore.
Air Force blew out Army last season, 35-7. Air Force’s offense will need to find some quality offensive linemen to open holes for their option attack, but the returning skill players have all shown the ability to produce. Quarterback Tim Jefferson must be respected through the air and on the ground. This looks like a loss for Army.
Saturday November 13th at Kent State
After the rivalry game against Air Force the Black Knights head out to Kent State. I think Army is the better team, but this looks like a potential trap game sandwiched between a rivalry game and a matchup against Notre Dame at Yankee Stadium. Kent State returns seven starters from a very good defense and was also very good on special team in 2009. The offense returns nine starters, but failed to produce much last season. With a bit more production on offense, Kent State could have the makings of a solid season.
I am giving the edge to Kent State in this game, even though I think Army is the better team. Football is not played on paper. It is an emotional game that requires passion. I am not questioning the passion of the Black Knights, but it can be difficult for any team to get excited for a game against Kent State in the middle of a four-game stretch with your two biggest rivals and Notre Dame.
Saturday November 20th vs. Notre Dame
Many people are predicting an improvement for Notre Dame after last season’s 6-6 record. I think Brian Kelly was a great choice for Notre Dame’s future, but I do not see him having much success this season. Some have pointed out that Kelly has done well with less talent before, but it does make a difference where that talent lies. Not only will Kelly be implementing a new offense for the Irish as he switches them to a spread style after a few years running Charlie Weis’s pro offense, he will also be breaking in a new quarterback in junior Dayne Crist. Crist saw action in four games last fall before an ACL injury ended his season. There is very little at the quarterback position behind him, so the Irish will have to keep Crist healthy. This may be present a problem. Notre Dame will have to replace both offensive tackles and their center from a year ago. The offensive line is in such bad shape that prior to his tragic death, incoming freshman tackle Matt James was being projected to start at left tackle. Now, the Fighting Irish will need to find someone else to protect Crist’s blindside. The Irish are also implementing a new defense, switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4, and have lost their leading tackler in safety Kyle McCarthy. McCarthy had 30 more tackles than any Irish defender with 101 last year. He also led the team with five interceptions. The switch to a 3-4 seems aimed at being a true success next year. The 3-4 defense will allow Notre Dame to get an extra linebacker on the field, which is where Notre Dame’s defense is most talented. However, what really makes a 3-4 defense work is a big, physical defensive line. This is especially true at the nose tackle position – look at the New England Patriots’ Vince Wilfork and the New York Jets’ Kris Jenkins. A big nose tackle that can take on two blockers while still creating penetration is what makes those defenses special. The Fighting Irish have been lacking across the offensive and defensive lines for years now, as evidenced by Kelly’s efforts in next year’s incoming class – the Irish have received commitments from five linemen already. However, those players will not be on the field in 2010 and Notre Dame will have to make do without them.
Notre Dame is backed by the largest fan base in college football. Their fan base is often unwilling to accept what the team has done lately and the University has not given recent coaches much time to build a program. If given time, Kelly will be successful in South Bend. Still, installing a new offense with a quarterback coming off knee surgery who has completed ten collegiate passes behind an inexperienced offensive line is a recipe for disaster. Throw in a defense learning a new system without all the necessary pieces in place, and it could be a long inaugural season for Brian Kelly. Given all this, it amuses me when I see this game marked down as an automatic win for the Irish. This should be a good matchup for Army as their defensive front will look to confuse the young Notre Dame offensive line and put pressure on Crist. The Army offense should be able to exploit Notre Dame’s weak defensive line for big yards on the ground. Due to the connotations attached to their respective names, Notre Dame will be favored over Army in this game. The better team on the field at Yankee Stadium will be wearing gold helmets, but with a black stripe down the middle.
Saturday December 11th vs. Navy
Yes, I am calling an end to Army’s eight-game losing streak against the Midshipmen. Last season Army led 3-0 at half before allowing 17 unanswered points in the second half against Navy. The key to an Army win here is containing Ricky Dobbs. Dobbs does an excellent job running the Navy offense, but will be leaned upon heavily this year without running back Marcus Curry, who was dismissed from the team. Curry ran for 585 yards and five touchdowns last season. He caught a 25 yard touchdown pass from Dobbs against Army. The Navy defense also suffered some major hits, with its two leading tacklers from 2009 now gone. Ross Pospisil (107 tackles) and Tony Haberer (78 tackles) occupied the two inside linebacker spots in Navy’s defense.
Dobbs beat the Black Knights almost single-handedly last December. He accounted for 177 yards total and both Navy touchdowns. Containing him will be priority number one for Army on defense. Trent Steelman was bottled up by the Navy defense, and struggled when he was forced to go to the air. His work in the offseason on his passing should present an added threat for the Army offense in 2010, which will open up some rushing lanes.
This is the last installment in my three-part look at Army’s upcoming season. In the end, I am predicting an 8-4 regular season for the Black Knights. With the recent futility against Navy, many Army fans would sign up for any record that includes a Navy win this year. Throw in bowl eligibility and a win over Notre Dame, and Army fans would be ecstatic. It is all attainable in 2010. Next week I will look at the players to watch for 2010, and then the first single-game preview of the year prior to the opener at Eastern Michigan.
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.