This week we again continue our pre-summer look at Army Football’s 2016 season. In this post, we’ll preview the second part of the schedule and continue setting expectations.
As we noted before, one would ordinarily divide a twelve-game season into quarters or thirds, separating the season into manageable three- or four-game chunks. Given the way that Army’s season opens, however, I decided to take the first five games as a block. This leaves us with just three games for Act 2, which is bad storytelling structure but much more logical in terms of breaking down expectations for this particular schedule.
|Army's 2016 Schedule|
Having established that Army is likely to come out of the first part of the season 2-3, this week we look for the team to turn the corner and get to the plus-side of the win column.
Week 7: Lafayette
Last Season: The Lafayette Leopards went 1-10, finishing last in the Patriot League.
Current Goal: With a game at FCS powerhouse Fordham immediately preceding their game at Michie Stadium, one suspects that the Leopards will want to survive this two-game road trip first and foremost.
Let’s predict a win and move on.
Week 8: North Texas
Last Season: The North Texas Mean Green went 1-11, finishing last in Conference USA. Quarterback DaMarcus Smith went 99/212 for 1010 yards, 8 TDs and 5 INTs.
Current Goal: Win an FBS football game.
The Mean Green currently sit last in the FPI at -20.4. I doubt they get their FBS win at Michie Stadium.
Week 9: at Wake Forest
Last Season: The Demon Deacons went 3-9, 1-7 in conference play. This put them one game out of last place in the ACC Atlantic.
Current Goal: Get tougher on both lines.
ESPN has Wake sitting at 60th overall with an FPI of +2.9. Technically, that makes this Army's third-hardest game, behind Notre Dame and Duke. Frankly, I find this hard to believe. Quarterback John Wolford has a decent arm and has played well against Army, but he’s got at best a 60% completion rate, and he’s prone to throwing interceptions.
Army should have won this game the last two seasons in a row, but 2014’s matchup featured a fateful late-game fumble that cost the Black Knights dearly, and 2015 had quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw playing on a newly injured turf toe alongside a struggling secondary that had yet to find its way. Army’s offense couldn’t hold the ball, and in the clutch, the defense gave up too many big plays late. As 2016 approaches, this is not the same Black Knights squad on either side of the ball.
This is without doubt a game that Army can win, but the Black Knights will need to get more consistent play from their offense to get it done.
I said after the first five-game series that I thought that Army would be 2-3. Let’s assume then that the team goes 2-1 over the next stretch to stand at 4-4 after eight games. I think that’s not-unreasonable given moderate optimism. Sure, the wheels could come off as they have so many times in the past, but it’s just as reasonable to project 5-3 after eight games, with the team either starting 3-2 or, more likely, hitting its stride in the middle of the season after a respectable 2-3 start.
Either way, this represents a positive change for Army football. In either case, the program is reasonably likely to hit at least six wins on the season, though only 5-3 sets them up for a truly realistic run at a bowl game.