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Army vs. Navy

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Army Black Knights (3-8 SU, 4-7 ATS) vs. Navy Midshipmen (7-4 SU, 8-3 ATS)

Venue: Lincoln Financial Field
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Time/TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS Opening Line:: Navy 12 ½, Total: 54 ½

One of the most historic rivalries in college football will take place on Saturday in Philadelphia when Army tries to snap a long losing skid to Navy.

Last season, the Midshipmen won a hard-fought football game, defeating the Black Knights by a score of 17-13. While the two teams have been close in the all-time series (Navy holds 57-49-7 SU advantage), Navy has dominated recently, winning the past 11 matchups (7-4 ATS).

Army has struggled this season at 3-8 SU and 4-7 ATS, but showed its potential in a Week 3 loss to Stanford. In that game, Army was able to rush the ball for 284 yards, the most rushing yards given up by the Pac-12 champions all season by a wide margin (181 yards was 2nd-most).

However, the biggest problem that Army has had against Navy during the 11-game series losing skid has been the inability to put points on the board. In only two of those games did Army score at least 20 points, averaging a mere 11.4 PPG in the 11 defeats. Turnovers have also been a big story for the Black Knights who have at least two giveaways in each of their past seven losses to Army.

That must change Saturday, as they are facing a Midshipmen offense capable of scoring a lot of points (34.4 PPG), due in large part to their ability to rush the ball. Navy is 7-4 SU and 8-3 ATS, and in its last game, QB Keenan Reynolds set an NCAA rushing record with seven touchdowns in a 58-52, triple-overtime victory over San Jose State. He also rushed for 240 yards. Although the Black Knights are 10-31 ATS (24%) after a bye week since 1992, history shows that during the same timeframe, excellent rushing teams (4.8+ YPC) facing a poor rushing defense (4.3 to 4.8 YPC allowed) after allowing 275+ rushing yards in its last game are 44-15 ATS (75%). Both of these teams are very similar in the fact that they are looking to run the ball. However, Army must do more than put up good rushing numbers, it must also score touchdowns.

Army’s rushing attack ranks second in the nation with 323.6 YPG, but it ranks 86th among FBS teams in scoring at 26.0 PPG. The main ball carriers in this offense are junior RBs Terry Baggett (1,072 rush yards, 8.2 YPC, 8 TD) and Larry Dixon (672 rush yards, 6.6 YPC, 6 TD). Dixon has been bothered by a wrist injury, but he is expected to play on Saturday. Junior QB Angel Santiago (41-of-83, 542 yards, 2 TD and 1 INT) does not look to throw the ball very often, allowing teams to load the box and try and stop the run. The offense is able to move the ball up-and-down the field, but without any ability to make some plays in the passing game, it has been unable to punch it in for a touchdown on a consistent basis.

The Black Knights have also struggled on defense, ranking 93rd in the nation in scoring defense (31.4 PPG allowed). In the last game against Hawaii, Army gave up 285 yards on the ground on 5.5 yards per carry. That will have to change against the Midshipmen, who unlike the Black Knights, have shown an ability to finish out drives with touchdowns.

The Midshipmen rank right behind Army in rushing, placing third in the country with 320.1 YPG on the ground. Their leading rusher is sophomore QB Keenan Reynolds (1,124 rush yards, 4.5 YPC, 26 TD), but he was held to a mere 43 yards on 15 carries (2.9 YPC) in last year's Army-Navy game. However, it was Reynolds' 8-yard TD scamper with 4:41 left that won the game. But unlike Army, the Midshipmen do have the ability to throw the ball. Reynolds has thrown for 1,028 yards (9.0 YPA) and eight touchdowns, while tossing only two interceptions. WR DeBrandon Sanders leads the team with just 211 receiving yards this year, and is one of 14 Navy offensive players to have scored a touchdown this season.

FB Chris Swain ranks second on the team with four rushing touchdowns, but has missed the past two games with a hamstring injury and is questionable for Saturday. Six other Midshipmen have at least 225 rushing yards this season, highlighted by senior RB Darius Staten who has galloped for 364 yards on just 32 carries (11.4 YPC).

Junior CB Parrish Gaines (57 tackles, 3 INT) leads a defense that has been less than stellar, ranking 72nd in the country in points allowed (27.6 PPG) and giving up 4.7 yards per carry and a robust 70.5% completion rate to opposing quarterbacks. Both of these schools are going to play similar in the way they want to control the game on the ground.

While Navy still has a bowl game to play in, this is Army’s bowl. This is a game where emotions and pride are on the line, so look for an entertaining game with both teams giving maximum effort in what is usually a low-scoring affair with the Under occurring in each of the past seven matchups.

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