Army and Navy close out the regular college football season on Saturday in Philadelphia as the only weekend FBS game in action.
By Steve Wright
That means that the eyes of all college football fans will once again be on the ultimate rivalry game, even if a touch of the luster is lost by Air Force already having claimed the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy this season.
Here are the three keys to an Army victory over Navy:
1 — Defense Must Step Up
Army knows what is about to come at them on Saturday as the Mids triple-option attack features many of the same principles as the one run by the Black Knights. The Army defense has only allowed 23 points and 365.8 points per game on the season, but digging a touch deeper, there is a potential problem here. Army’s run defense has not been good – in some games, they have been completely shredded – and the Black Knights allow over 190 yards per game on the ground. In a contest where tempo – and controlling it – will be everything, the inability of Army to stop the run is a real concern. The front seven will have to be better than they have been all year to stop Navy from moving the ball.
2 — Stop Daba Fofana
In Navy’s best games this season, their fullbacks have been key. The Mid’s biggest win was in their last contest when fullback Daba Fofana rushed for 114 yards, and Navy upset No. 17 UCF with a big 17-14 victory. When Fofana is rushing well, the Navy offense becomes far more efficient and capable of creating short third-down scenarios they can convert. This has been the Navy way for years, but in their losses in 2022, a lack of production at the fullback position has got their down and distance markers off track. Army needs to plug the middle, stopping Fofana and making the Mids win only with their outside run game.
3 — Win Ugly
This is not going to be a pretty game. This is never a pretty game. Even when the teams look like they are worlds apart regarding talent and record, this one always manages to be close. Navy upset an Army team that was much stronger than them last year in a 17-13 win. This year it is Navy that has the better resume in terms of teams beaten, but neither has a gaudy record, and neither is going to a bowl. The over/under here has been set at a ludicrous 33 points. This is the score some high-tempo FBS offenses – think Tennessee – will score in a quarter. This is going to take grit to win. It will take some fourth-down wins on either side of the ball and players willing to win ugly, going the extra yard to secure a victory.