Preview: Army vs. Navy
It's Rich Ellerson's turn to see if he can achieve a different result for Army. The head coach is in his first season with the Black Knights and has already led the team to more victories than the academy has enjoyed since going 10-2 in 1996, its last winning season. In fact, Army is on the brink of a non-losing campaign and a bowl bid as it enters the annual showdown with Navy with a 5-6 record. A win puts it in the EagleBank Bowl and a change to avenge its 27-13 regular season loss to Temple.
Navy's current 7-game winning streak is the longest by either team in the history of the series, and 6 of those wins have been by no fewer than 19 points. Overall, the Midshipmen have seized a slim advantage of 53-49-7.
Despite the recent lopsidedness of the scores, this remains the best and most meaningful rivalry in college football. Hundreds of thousands of active, and retired, military men and women around the world gather anywhere they can to cheer their service branch onto victory.
This Saturday's 110th meeting marks a new chapter in the rivalry. It's the first year of a schedule change that will make it the final game of each college football season.
Regardless of the outcome of this game, Navy is guaranteed to retain the Commander-In-Chief's trophy, awarded for winning the annual round-robin competition among the three military academies - Air Force, Army and Navy. The Midshipmen beat Air Force 16-13 in overtime on October 3, and the Black Knights lost to the Falcons 35-7 on November 7.
Army last possessed the trophy in 1996 when it went 10-2. Since then, the Black Knights had not won more than four games in any season until this year. Since 2006, three of Army's fourteen victories have come against Football Championship Subdivision schools. The Black Knights lost to FCS member New Hampshire last year, and barely got past VMI this year.
While Army has floundered, Navy has been on a roll. The resurgence began with the hiring of Paul Johnson in 2002. Navy only won two games that year, but is now enjoying its' seventh consecutive winning season and has already secured a seventh straight bowl bid.
The success has continued, even after Johnson's departure to Georgia Tech before the start of last season. When Johnson announced he was leaving, he recommended that assistant Ken Niumatalolo be given the job. Under Niumatalolo, Navy led the country in rushing in 2008 for a fourth straight season. This year, Navy ranks 3rd nationally behind Nevada and Johnson's Georgia Tech squad.
Stopping the run will be the assignment of an Army defense than ranks 67th nationally in that department and is giving up nearly 5 yards more per game than last year.
The 181 points that Army has scored this season represents a total of just 4 more points than last season. The 246 points it has allowed, however, is 38 fewer than last year and 118 less than in 2007.
This week's game will be televised on CBS beginning at 14:30 hours (that's 2:30 eastern). CBS has committed to televising the game through 2018.