PHILADELPHIA - It doesn't matter much that the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy will not change hands, or that Army is ranked 25th in the country and riding a seven-game winning streak, or that Navy is enduring its first losing season since 2011 - the Army-Navy game always stays in the moment. Saturday's 119th renewal, at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, should be no different with the usual pomp and circumstance, and the expected presence of President Donald Trump.
TV: 3 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Army -7
The Black Knights are ranked in the Top 25 for the first time since 1996 thanks mostly to a ground attack that produces 303 yards per game - second in the nation only to Georgia Tech's 334.9 - and an average time of possession of 39 minutes, 15 seconds that leads the country by a wide margin. The Midshipmen, who have lost 12 straight away from home, boast the No. 3 rushing game nationally at 288.5 yards but defensive struggles have sunk their season to lows not seen since a two-win campaign in 2002. Saturday's game will likely come down to who can stop the run and Army appears to have the edge, boasting the No. 12 rush defense at 106.5 yards compared to Navy's 89th-best unit (189.0). A victory by the Black Knights would give them back-to-back outright Commander-in-Chief's trophies for the first time in Academy history.
ABOUT NAVY (3-9)
Part of the issue this season has been the revolving door at the quarterback position with senior Zach Abey, junior Malcolm Perry and senior Garret Lewis all seeing time under center, combining for 866 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions while competing 44.1 percent of their passes. Abey, who began the season at wide receiver after playing QB most of last season, is the goal-line specialist with 14 rushing touchdowns while Perry (1,035 yards, seven TDs) possesses breakaway speed as evidenced by his 68-yard TD run against Army last season. The Midshipmen are second nationally in fewest penalties (3.58) and penalty yardage (30 per game), marking the 10th time in 11 seasons they have finished first or second in the country in those categories.
ABOUT ARMY (9-2)
Senior running back Darnell Woolfork (823 yards, 14 touchdowns) and junior quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr. (783 yards, 10 TDs) lead the dominant rushing attack behind an outstanding line. “We believe that our success on offense starts with us,” senior center Bryce Holland told reporters. “It’s extremely important for us to do our job and impose our will because if we don’t do that, we’re not setting our teammates up for success.” Hopkins has also thrown for 895 yards with six TDs and three interceptions, adding another dimension to a team that passed for only 361 yards with two TDs and six interceptions last season.
1. The Midshipmen lead the series 60-51-7 but the Black Knights have won the last two meetings since dropping 14 straight.
2. Army paces the nation in third-down percentage (57.1) and is also an eye-popping 30-for-33 on fourth down - also No. 1 nationally - while Navy converts 39.2 percent on third down.
3. The teams had two common opponents this season: The Black Knights defeated Hawaii 28-21 and Air Force 17-14 while the Midshipmen lost 59-41 and 35-7, respectively.
PREDICTION: Army 24, Navy 14
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