Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Army Football Preview: vs. Air Force

It’s Air Force Week, and I’m trying to be fired up, but I’m struggling with it.  As of this writing, Air Force is favored by 3.5 points on the road, and after Army’s debacle against Kent State, I’d personally take Air Force to cover.  On top of that, it’s supposed to rain all day on Saturday with high temperatures in the low- to mid-40s.  We’ve got tickets, but if I’m being honest, this is shaping up to be a miserable game-day experience.  
Go Army!  Beat Air Force!
Army comes into this game in rough shape.  The team is 2-5.  They started strong at home against Buffalo, dropped three straight on the road including an ignominious defeat to FCS Yale in overtime at the Yale Bowl, won another home game against Ball State, and then got smashed twice, once at home by Rice and then again on the road against previously winless Kent State.  That loss to Kent State was especially bad because Kent got smoked only the week prior by UMass, a team that had previously been on an 0-12 losing streak.  Before the game against Army, Kent State had been ranked dead last in the Bleacher Report’s 128-team NCAA college football power rankings.  That didn’t stop them from beating Army decisively in an empty stadium two weeks ago.
Army’s current P-Wins percentage is hovering just above 30%.  Bad luck aside, this is a team that ought to be able to win 3.8 games in a twelve game season, all things being equal.  Army already has two wins, but whether or not they can win again is very much an open question.  This year’s Army team has moved the ball well at times, but their defense has been totally unable to hold up for four quarters, and several teams have adjusted well to Army’s triple-option attack, shutting it down late in games by getting penetration on defense and attacking QB Angel Santiago before he has a chance to pitch the ball.  Kent State in particular showed how teams can attack Army’s offense, and Army was not able to counter-adjust to meet the challenge.  The result was lopsided and embarrassing.
By contrast, Air Force is 5-2, sitting just above 63% in P-Wins percentage, and looking for a chance to both clinch the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy and ensure their bowl eligibility.  They kicked the crap out of Navy with the combination of a punishing defense and an aggressive aerial version of the triple-option offense, littering the field with the bodies of Navy players who went down to injury during the game.  If you didn’t see it, Navy left Colorado Springs limping because Air Force players physically crushed them.  Granted, I haven’t watched a lot of Air Force football this season, but every time I have, I’ve been impressed by the speed and aggression with which the Air Force team plays.  They are excellent, they refuse excuses based on how difficult it is to be a service academy that fields a football team, and they win.  I have no idea why they can do that and we can’t, but I’ve been watching Army football for a while now, and it’s been that way for pretty much as long as I can remember.  This year’s Air Force team in particular is liable to punch Army in the mouth and leave them wondering what the Hell just happened.
The 4th Infantry Division patch
Army is wearing the 4th Infantry Division patch this weekend.  My very good friend Joe was stationed with the 4th ID at Ft. Riley as a company commander, and I went out to visit him there one time.  I’ve always liked Kansas and had a good time on that particular trip, but that’s about as close as I come to having a personal connection to the 4th ID.
I’m personally going to the game, but I don’t think I’m going to take my wife or my kids.  At this point I’m hoping to dig up a few hardy souls to accompany me on what’s liable to be a wet and disappointing trip.  If I can get the right mix of folks, though, maybe we’ll grab some drinks at the Thayer after the game.  That, at least, ought to be fun.
Truth is, life as an Army football fan is often about everything but football.  That’s okay, but it’s not what I’d prefer.

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