Army and Navy each failed in 2011 to get back to bowl games as the Black Knights finished 3-9 and the Midshipmen went 5-7. The computer had picked Army to go 4-8 and Navy 6-6. The forecast isn't any better this year as both are projected to go 4-8.
The biggest surprise falls to Army which is picked to capture the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy for the first time since 1996. The Black Knights are a 6.96-point computer favorite over Navy on December 8 in Philly, and a 6.85-point choice at home against Air Force on November 3rd.
Air Force has held on to the C-I-C hardware since 2010 when it ended Navy's 7-year stranglehold on the coveted prize that goes to the team with the best record in the annual round-robin competition between the three military academies.
BYU and Notre Dame each underperformed the computer's preseason projections of a pair of 11-1 regular seasons. The Cougars were 9-3 before capping their year with a 24-21 Armed Forces Bowl win over Tulsa. The Fighting Irish crashed to 8-5 with an 0-2 start and an 0-2 finish, concluding with an 18-14 Champs Sports Bowl loss to Florida State.
As for BYU, its' win over Utah State was its only victory over a team that would go on to finish above .500 until it managed to eke out the bowl win against Tulsa. The only forecasted losses this year are on visits to rival Utah and Notre Dame where the Cougars are 1.52 and 2.64-point underdogs, respectively. The computer has BYU narrowly defeating such top-calibre teams as Boise State (0.22) and Georgia Tech (2.61).
Notre Dame faithful are hoping to see marked improvement over last year's 8-5 squad that only managed three wins over winning teams - Michigan State (11-3), Purdue (7-6) and Air Force (7-6). The 2011 Irish schedule was ranked 10th by the computer while this year's slate is ranked as the 3rd-toughest. As such, the computer gives the Irish just 7 wins over Navy, Purdue, Miami, BYU, Pittsburgh, Boston College and Wake Forest. The losses come against Michigan State, Michigan, Stanford, Oklahoma and USC.
A year ago, the best of Army's three wins came against a Northwestern team that would go on to face Texas A&M in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. The other two victories were over Tulane and Fordham, and all three victories came at home. The Black Knights were winless on the road in 2011 after going 4-0 away from Michie Stadium in 2010.
With games at Yankee Stadium in New York (Rutgers) and FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland (Navy), Army had just four home games, only three of which were against FBS schools. The Black Knights had no home games after October 29 (Fordham) and no home games against FBS opponents after October 1 (Tulane).
Last year, CollegeFootballPoll.com had noted that Army's resurgence in the first two seasons under Rich Ellerson had come at the expense of a lot of bad football programs.
Army's 5 wins in 2009 came against teams that were a combined 8-51 - Eastern Michigan (0-12), Ball State (2-10), Vanderbilt (2-10), VMI (2-9, FCS) and North Texas (2-10). The 7-win campaign in 2010 culminated with a 16-14 upset of SMU in the Armed Forces Bowl, but the other 6 victories came against teams that were a combined 20-51 - Eastern Michigan (2-10), North Texas (3-9), Duke (3-9), Tulane (4-8), FCS member VMI (3-8) and Kent State (5-7).
Last year's Army schedule was ranked 83rd and this year's schedule checks in at No. 86.
Navy faced the nation's 74th-toughest slate in 2011 and downgrades significantly to the No. 120 schedule in 2012. After opening in Dublin, Ireland against Notre Dame, the Middies visit a weakened Penn State. Not much else stands out on the schedule other than the annual battles with Air Force and Navy. You would think a rosier forecast would be in order given that slate, but Navy's opening week power rating is the 17th-weakest among the 124 teams rated.
Navy is coming off its first losing season since 2002. A 28-point home loss to Southern Miss cut deeply, but it was the 32-point road loss to Notre Dame that was particularly painful. Especially since the Middies had beaten the Irish in three of the previous four years after dropping 43 in-a-row to the rival.
The computer makes Navy a 24.66-point underdog against Notre Dame this time around, and also calls for the Midshipmen to take double-digit hits on visits to Penn State (10.62), Central Michigan (11.94) and East Carolina (13.70).