There is a noticeable lightness of being, a sense of joy and a freedom from nervous tension in West Point, New York, this summer. That’s because the Army Black Knights finally beat Navy. It hadn’t been done since the start of the century. With a fresh wave of confidence, can the Army program build on all that it accomplished last season? The last time Army made and won a bowl before 2016 was 2010. The program suffered. Can this team be different and make back-to-back bowls?
How Did They End 2016
The ending to 2016 could not have been any better for the Black Knights. They finally snapped the longest losing streak to Navy in the history of the Army-Navy Game. While it is true that Navy lost starting quarterback Will Worth and a few other important offensive skill players to injury, the essential truth about option football is that it still starts with the offensive line, and Army had to be strong enough on its own line and disciplined enough on its defensive line to contain Navy’s triple option attack. Army managed to do both of those things, and what made the victory extra special is that after Navy scored a late touchdown to take the lead, Army was able to drive right back down the field and score the game-winning touchdown. On a few previous occasions during the 14-game losing streak, Army had a chance to win late in the game but committed a turnover or got stopped on downs. This time, finally, the team came through. It was such a relief to break that streak – now no one in West Point will have to talk about it or worry about it again.
A bowl win over North Texas made the season extra special for Army, which produced its best season in the 21st century. The other critical game from 2016 was a road win over Wake Forest in Game 8. That win put Army at 5-3 and virtually assured the team a bowl game. Had Army lost, the Navy game would have been for bowl eligibility, and the team could have felt more pressure. By being sure of a bowl trip, Army played with more relaxation and confidence against Navy.
Edgar and Christian Poe, two important receivers (especially Edgar), are gone. Army has to find ways to pass the ball just enough to move the chains at times, thereby keeping its triple option offense on the field. Jeremy Timpf and Andrew King, widely regarded as the two best tacklers on the 2016 defense, are gone at linebacker. Those players will all need to be effectively replaced.
The linebackers stand out for many reasons. Replacing Timpf and King matters not just for its own sake, but because linebackers are vital to stopping Navy and Air Force, the teams Army wants to beat the most each year. Army’s offense is very experienced, so the new elements of this roster – hence, the variables – flow to the defensive side of the ball. That is the big pressure point with this team.
What To Expect From The Black Knights This Year
Army needed injuries from Navy to win that game last year. The Black Knights will want more than anything to win two straight over the Midshipmen, but don’t expect that to happen. All in all, merely reaching last year’s output would be a remarkable accomplishment. Coming close to last year’s achievements would be both a reasonable year and a successful one.
Record Last 5 Seasons
Schedule and Outlook
This is a smart schedule. Army plays teams it can beat, such as Tulane, UTEP, Rice, Fordham, Buffalo, and North Texas. There are several tough games against the service academies and then also Duke, Temple, and Ohio State, so a huge year is probably asking too much. Another bowl, though, with six wins? That’s reasonable. The challenge is that their regular season win total sits at 7.5 and it doesn’t seem like there are eight wins here. With 12 games on the schedule, losing to Duke, Temple and Ohio State means they could only afford to lose one additional contest. Go under here.
Regular Season Win Prediction: Under 7.5
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