Was Saturday’s game against Wisconsin the biggest one for Army this season?
Actually, not even close. While Wisconsin is the biggest name on this year’s schedule, the Black Knights’ tussle with Wake Forest this Saturday at noon at Michie Stadium is probably the most important game of the year, followed by its annual battles with Air Force and Navy. Wake comes into the game undefeated at 6-0 and ranked in the top 20 in every major poll.
By all accounts the Demon Deacons are the real deal this year and, possibly, could be the best team in the Atlantic Coast Conference now that Clemson has been brought down to earth.
So, while some Army fans focus on the Air Force and Navy games, there is little doubt that the coaching staff has long pinpointed Wake Forest as the game of the year in terms of getting Army a win against a Power 5 opponent.
And that may be why Army fans did not see Christian Anderson at quarterback against Wisconsin, even late in the game when the Black Knights had a shot to perhaps upset the Badgers late in the game. There is reason to believe that the coaching staff “sacrificed” the Wisconsin game in the hopes that they can start Anderson, out for the last three weeks with a shoulder injury, in the Wake game.
But, we may not know that until the first offensive snap on Saturday.
As for the Wisconsin game, it appears that the conservative play-calling by Army prevented the Black Knights from mounting much of an offense, even as the defense kept the Badgers in check for most of the game. The bottom line is that nearly every offensive play in the first half was designed to go between the tackles, with few true options plays and, surprisingly, no interest in spreading out the offense to take advantage of the team’s speed in the backfield.
That obviously did not work and some, albeit few, changes were made at halftime that kept the game close. Wisconsin did not do much better. Its passing game was clicking, but the Badgers surprisingly did not utilize it very much. The end result was an uninspiring 20-14 victory for Wisconsin.
It is also crystal clear that Army needs some type of a passing attack in order to prevent opponents from filling the “box” with eight or nine defenders. A good passing attack, which Anderson has provided before his injury, will spread the defense and allow for a more successful running game. But the question must be asked, How does a team like Army not have a backup QB who can effectively throw the ball downfield?
Some other tidbits:
• The Air Force win over Boise State was one of the biggest for the Falcons in a bunch of years. It puts them at the top of the division in the Mountain West, though it is tied with Utah State. San Diego State is a good team but the Falcons are home and should be a slight favorite.
• As for Navy, the Middies continue to struggle in the American Athletic Conference, with problems at quarterback and a loose defense. This week could be a tough one for Navy as Cincinnati is poised for an NCAA championship run and will not be taking any prisoners on Saturday.
• Finally, with the decision by Boise State, Air Force and Colorado State not to leave the Mountain West Conference at this time, there will definitely be an upheaval among the Group of Five conferences as everyone looks to be aligned with the best of the remaining teams. From this angle, Air Force and Navy, and yes, Army, could be in the driver’s seat as all three bring in good TV ratings and could be included in a Super Group of Five conference in the near future.