Preview: Army vs. Navy
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Army and Navy get together this week to mark the 120th anniversary of their first football meeting.
Navy has dominated the series, winning 8 consecutive games to post the best streak by either team in the history of the series. All 8 victories have been by at least 12 points and as many as 46 with an average score of 36-9. As a result of the Midshipmen's current run, they have taken a 54-49-7 advantage in the series which was first played in 1890.
Despite the recent lopsidedness of the series, 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 111th edition of the rivalry continues a tradition which was just begun last year - playing this game as the final game of each college football season. In effect, it takes on the feel of a bowl game.
Navy is 8-3 and riding a 3-game winning streak that began with a 76-point outburst in a win at East Carolina (76-35). Victories over Central Michigan and Arkansas State followed.
Navy also handed Notre Dame a 35-17 defeat in midseason, giving the Middies a 3-1 record vs. the Irish in the last four meetings. Not bad for a team that was 8-70-1 in the 79 previous matchups.
Army head coach Rich Ellerson gets his second chance to stop the bleeding, and though his Black Knights are a 10.20-point computer underdog, don't be too quick to bet against him. Ellerson's first season at West Point produced a 5-7 season, Army's best record since 1996. This year's squad enters with a 6-5 record and its first bowl bid since 1996 is already secured.
Navy enters this contest with the single goal of keeping its streak over Army intact. For the first time since 2002, Navy can not win the Commander-In-Chief's trophy, awarded for winning the annual round-robin competition among the three military academies - Air Force, Army and Navy. Air Force secured the trophy earlier this season with victories over Army and Navy.
Army last possessed the trophy in 1996 when it went 10-2.
While Army is working toward resuscitating its football program, 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' eighth consecutive winning season and has already secured an eighth straight bowl bid.
The success has continued, even after Johnson's departure to Georgia Tech after the 2007 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. Last year, Navy ranked 3rd nationally behind Nevada and Johnson's Georgia Tech squad. This season, Navy ranks 5th.
Army can also run the ball. The Black Knights are currently No. 9 in that department while averaging 260 yards per game, just 42 yards per game less than the Naval Academy.
Army's biggest improvement, aside from finding a winning attitude, has come on defense. Ellerson's stoppers are No. 26 in total defense while Navy is 69th. And the Black Knights rank 49th against the run while the Midshipmen rank 62nd.
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.