This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features Army Black Knights taking on Southern Methodist University Mustangs in the 8th annual Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl at Gerald J. Ford Stadium, Dallas, Texas.
Army, 6-6, is playing in its first bowl game since 1996 and only the second since 1988. The Black Knights did fade a bit down the stretch, dropping three of their final four contests to close out the regular season which included their ninth consecutive loss to Navy. Head coach Rich Ellerson has made his triple option attack a staple at West Point. Army averages a robust 256 rushing yards per game, which ranks 10th in the nation. Like most option teams, the passing game has taken a backseat as the Black Knights rank 120th.
Army quarterback Trent Steelman has been as integral to the team’s success as anybody as he has rushed for 694 yards and a team best 11 touchdowns in addition to his 7 passing touchdowns. Fullback Jared Hassin tops the team with 931 rushing yards to go along with his 9 touchdowns.
Defensively Army’s defense has been susceptible to the run at times this season, but the Knights are solid against the pass, ranking 23rd nationally with 190.5 passing yards allowed per game and rank 27th in total defense.
SMU, 7-6, 6-2 C-USA, will have the luxury of playing in its home stadium for this matchup, where the team went 4-2 this year. SMU has reached the postseason for the second straight year after topping Nevada in the 2009 Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, 45-10. The Mustangs won the Conference USA West Division with a 6-2 league mark this year, though they went just 1-4 outside of conference play. SMU’s spread passing attack under head coach June Jones will present quite a contrast in styles.
The Mustangs are littered with playmakers on that side of the ball, including three first-team All-Conference picks. One of those players is left tackle Kelvin Beachum, who has started all 13 games this season to anchor a line that has paved the way for a school-record 5,391 yards of total offense. Another is running back Zach Line, 1,391 rushing yards on the season only trails that of Eric Dickerson in school history. Line is the C-USA leader with 107 yards per game on the ground. At wideout, senior Aldrick Robinson has amassed 1,225 receiving yards this season, making him the only receiver in school history with two 1,000-yard seasons. His 13 touchdown catches are also a new SMU record, as are his seven straight games with a touchdown grab.
Quarterback Kyle Padron has had a fine season for SMU, is averaging 271.2 passing yards per game and has thrown 29 touchdowns against 12 interceptions. While Robinson has accounted for nearly half of those TD passes, Padron does have some other solid options in the passing game. Cole Beasley has also gone over the 1,000-yard mark (1,036) and actually leads the team with 84 catches.
SMU’s defense has seen the triple-option already this season, so there shouldn’t be many surprises there. SMU has played a fairly tough schedule, with seven of its opponents this season earning bowl bids.
Army has won both prior meetings in the all-time series between these two schools, although these teams have not met since 1967.
PICK : Southern Methodist University Mustangs
This game goes down on the NBC network and it features Army Black Knights taking on the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish in Yankee Stadium.
This season has already been a success for Army, as it is bowl eligible for the first time since 1996. Much of the praise for the turnaround of the program goes to head coach Rich Ellerson, who has done wonders in just two seasons at West Point. Last weekend, the club defeated Kent State on the road by a 45-28 final.
Army’s opponents are well aware that the Black Knights rely heavily on the ground attack, but that hasn’t stopped Ellerson’s team from racking up 31 ppg thus far. The club averages 272.8 rushing ypg at a clip of 4.7 yards per carry, and of the 38 touchdowns scored by Army’s offense to date, 33 have been of the rushing variety. Jared Hassin leads the attack with 858 yards, and he has nine rushing scorers to his credit. Trent Steelman, the team’s quarterback, has 11 rushing scores and 596 yards to his credit. As a passer, Steelman has completed 56.6 percent of his throws for 798 yards and five touchdowns with only one interception.
Against Kent State last week, Army finished with 62 rushing attempts against just 10 passes. To Steelman’s credit, however, he completed nine of those throws for 149 yards, a major factor in the win. Hassin rushed for 75 yards and a touchdown, while Steelman and Brian Cobb has two rushing scores apiece.
Opponents are posting 24 ppg and 329 total ypg against Army, which has been a mediocre defensive team for much of this season.
As for the Fighting Irish, they carried the weight of back-to-back losses and a wealth of scrutiny into last Saturday’s clash with nationally-ranked Utah. Few gave Notre Dame a chance to win that game, so its 28-3 romp over the Utes certainly opened some eyes. The Irish are now 5-5 overall and need just one more victory to become bowl eligible, something first-year head coach Brian Kelly has identified as a goal.
Head coach Brain Kelly’s offense has been hit as hard, if not hard, by injury than any unit in the nation this season. Quarterback Dayne Crist and tight end Kyle Rudolph have been lost for the season, while tailback Armando Allen and wideout Theo Riddick are both out indefinitely. So not only did Tommy Rees, a freshman quarterback, have the pressure of making his first collegiate start against Utah, the Notre Dame signal caller had limited weapons at his disposal. Rees played with a tremendous amount of poise, and while Utah was determined to limit big plays, the rookie finished 13-of-20 for 129 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Notre Dame finished with a mere 256 total yards in the clash, but the most important number, aside from the final score, was zero, the number of turnovers committed by the Fighting Irish.
Notre Dame is generating 26 ppg and 387.4 total ypg, decent numbers for a team that has been ravaged by injury as mentioned. One player that is healthy and continues to dominate defensive backs in Michael Floyd, one of the nation’s truly elite receivers. Floyd has recorded 59 catches for 767 yards and nine touchdowns. Rees, in limited action, has seven touchdown passes against four interceptions and has completed 62.7 percent of his throws.
Foes are scoring 22 ppg against Notre Dame, which is allowing 380.3 total ypg. Notre Dame has 26 sacks and 18 takeaways to its credit, and Manti Te’o continues to lead the defense with 109 total tackles. Harrison Smith has three interceptions thus far.
Notre Dame owns a 37-8-4 series advantage over Army, which includes 13 straight wins over the Black Knights.
PICK: University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Technically the Primetime College Football segment here on the Sports Grind Entertainment website is slated for any national televised football game that starts at or after the 6 p.m. CST spot. However there are two exceptions, the first being the Texas-Oklahoma Red River Rivalry Game because nothing quite compares to Texas pride like that game. The second game being today’s between Army-Navy because nothing quite compares to national pride like this game in terms of football. It’s the last regular season game of the college football season and this game represents the love for the game, the love for our great country, the love for the armed services.
These men are not going to be found on an NFL Draft board next year but a majority will find themselves in Afghanistan or Iraq in yet they still they still play. That’s what will happen at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia as one of the greatest rivalries in sports enjoys its 110th addition, when Army takes on Navy.
Head coach Rich Ellerson is in his first season at the helm in West Point and has his Black Knights on the verge of their first postseason berth since the 1996 Independence Bowl. If Army, which has won two straight games entering this season-finale, wins, the Black Knights will move on to the EagleBank Bowl to take on the Temple Owls. A loss would leave Army at 5-7 overall and obviously out of this year’s bowl picture.
Earning that sixth victory won’t come easy as Navy is sporting an impressive 8-4 record in Ken Niumatalolo’s second season in Annapolis. The Midshipmen are coming off a 24-17 loss at Hawaii last time out however, and would like to get back on track before a New Year’s Eve showdown with Missouri in the Texas Bowl.
The Midshipmen have won the last six Commander-In-Chief’s Trophies and will look to add to their streak of 13 straight victories over both Army and Air Force combined. Navy holds a 53-49-7 advantage in the all-time series with Army, thanks to seven straight wins over the Black Knights. Navy blanked Army last year, 34-0.
Freshman quarterback Trent Steelman is poised to be only the second plebe to start an Army/Navy game. Its hard to argue with the decision, as the youngster is the team’s top rusher with 690 yards and five TDs. Steelman has not had that much success throwing the football, but then again, Ellerson doesn’t require that very often of his quarterbacks. Joining Steelman in the backfield are slotback Patrick Mealy 625 yards, three TDs and fullback Kingsley Ehie 445 yards, two TDs. In all, the Black Knights are a dangerous rushing team, averaging 212.1 yards per game.
Still, senior Ali Villanueva does have the ability to make plays downfield. At 6-10, 283 pounds, he poses serious matchup problems, and that has led to him leading the team in receptions 29, receiving yards 460 and 5 TDs.
The Army defense has done a nice job for the most part this season, limiting the opposition to a mere 22 ppg. The rush defense has been lax at times 149.3 ypg, but the pass defense has been tremendous 161.2 ypg. In addition, the Black Knights have recorded 23 sacks and 22 takeaways in the first 11 games.
Sophomore linebacker Andrew Rodriguez 70 tackles, two INTs and junior safety Donovan Travis, from Judson High School, 68 tackles, team-high four INTs will need to continue to excel in the back seven, while junior end Josh McNary 59 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks continues to blow things up in the backfield.
If Army is good running the football, than Navy is great at it. The Midshipmen rank among the nation’s top rushing teams, averaging a hefty 279.7 yards per game, which is third nationally, on 4.8 yards per carry. It is a pick-your-poison with this lethal option attack, as both quarterback Ricky Dobbs and running back Vince Murray are closing in on 1,000-yard campaigns. Dobbs has rushed for a team-high 924 yards on the year, with an eye-popping 23 touchdowns. Murray has amassed 884 yards on the season, with six scores. In all, Navy has rushed for 39 touchdowns, compared to just four through the air.
Much like the Army defensive unit, Navy’s defense has flown a little under the radar, considering the big numbers the offense is capable of generating. The Midshipmen are yielding just 21 ppg on the year, holding foes to a respectable 345.8 yards of total offense.
The play of linebacker is what fuels the Navy attack. Senior linebacker Ross Pospisil leads the way with his 91 total tackles. Fellow senior linebacker Tony Haberer is a distant second with 69 tackles, followed closely by junior linebacker Tyler Simmons 63 stops. Junior safety Wyatt Middleton 61 tackles, three INTs, two fumble recoveries highlights the play in the secondary, while sophomore Jabaree Tuani 45 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks can get the job done up front.
San Antonio is represented with a total of eight men in this game with Navy leading the way with five.
Navy’s senior linebacker Ram Vela from Taft has 53 tackles and 2 INTs, one was to help secure the victory over Notre Dame. Senior fullback Jordan Eddington from Taft has played in 11 games this season. Junior wide receiver Greg Jones from Reagan has six catches for 149 yards, including a 52 yard TD reception in the win against Notre Dame. Sophomore wide receiver Gary Myers from Taft has also played in 11 games. Freshamn offensive guard Josh Corby represents Madison and San Antonio.
Army’s has Donovan Travis the junior safety from Judson and junior wide out Alfred McDaniel from Judson and sophomore offensive tackle David Ford from Antonian.
Keep our soldiers states side and abroad in your hearts and minds and best of luck to all that represent in the 110th meeting between the two academies.
PICK: Navy Midshipmen
The Rutgers Scarlet Knights get to travel outside the realm of the Big East to take on the Army Black Knights. Rutgers owns a 4-2 mark on the year which may not seem very impressive, but those 2 losses were to Cincinnati and Pittsburgh who are most likely the two best teams in the Big East. Rutgers has played well outside of those games, but it has been to inferior competition.
The Scarlet Knights get the chance to display their talent in front of the nation this week. Their challenger will be the rushing threat of Army. The Black Knights have struggled to get into the end zone this season which is a big reason they are slightly under the .500 mark, but Army did knock off a pretty impressive win against Vanderbilt a few weeks back.
Army is a rushing team that will come at you a number of ways similar to the Georgia Tech offense, the Black Knights run tons of options and mis-direction type plays. Freshman QB Trent Steelman leads the team in rushing with 117 keepers for 405 yards this season. Steelman is averaging 3.5 yards per carry, but running back Patrick Mealy is carrying the ball for nearly 7 yards a pop and has a couple of big plays on the season resulting in 386 total yards.
Fullback Kingsley Ehie is a big back that lacks speed, but can move the pile. Ehie has touched the ball 73 times this season equaling 313 yards. These 3 impact players help make up the nation’s number 11 rushing offense.
The Scarlet Knights rush defense ranks right outside the top 10 nationally allowing just 91 yards per game. The defense did have trouble stopping the talented Pitt freshman Dion Lewis last week. Rutgers QB Tom Savage hasn’t put up great numbers, but limits his mistakes and only has 1 interception in his first season in college football.
Senior wide out Tim Brown is a seasoned veteran that knows how to make plays and has earned a solid 548 receiving yards on the season with 3 scores. Rutgers keeps the ball on the ground behind tailback Joe Martinek who has 5 scores and averages 5 yards per carry.
PICK: Rutgers University Scarlet Knights