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Air Force Non-Conference Preview: Army Black Knights

Air Force completes their non-conference slate by battling it out with Army for the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy.

Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

The Air Force Falcons play their final non-conference game of the season against the Army Black Knights at Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colo. The game kicks off on Saturday, November 2 at a yet-to-be-determined timeslot on either ABC or one of the other various ESPN networks.

Coach: Rich Ellerson (17-32; four seasons)

2012 record: (2-10) (N/A)

2012 season in review: Despite an apparent return to respectability in recent years, Army fell back down to the bottom of college football in 2012, posting a miserable 2-10 record. Though the rushing offense was tops in the nation (369.8 yards per game), that yardage did not add up to points and worse still, the team's defense struggled to stop anybody. Army allowed over 35 points per game, and five different opponents racked up 40 or more -- most notably Temple, who posted a ridiculous 63 against them. The only saving grace? They're staying competitive in the battle for the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy, beating Air Force last year and losing by just three to Navy.

Returning Offensive Starters: 9

Returning Defensive Starters: 8

Key Returning Starters: DT Robert Kough, RB Raymond Maples, WR Chevaughn Lawrence

2013 Strengths: When a team's offense is the triple-option, your strengths better be the running back and quarterback positions, respectively. We'll get to the QB spot, but halfback should be fine, as Raymond Maples returns to try and top the 1,215 yards he rushed for last season. At wideout, Army has a collection of big, tall receivers -- all of whom are superior downfield blockers who can also catch the ball when called upon. Nearly everybody's back on defense, which has the potential to be a plus. If nothing else, expect safety Geoffrey Bacon and tackle Robert Kough to progress from their top forms last season and provide a veteran presence to help the group to improve.

2013 Weaknesses: Replacing quarterback Trent Steelman is going to be extremely difficult. And even if A.J. Schurr is up to the task, it's very unlikely he'll be able to replicate Steelman's rushing numbers right off the bat. That means he'll be relying heavily on Maples at running back, which makes this offense a bit predictable. Making things worse, the offensive line lacks experience and will be hard-pressed to keep up with last season's torrid rushing pace. Defensively, yes, there are plenty of returning starters, but for one of the worst defenses in the country, that's not necessarily a good thing. The Black Knights had just 15 sacks (109th) and seven interceptions (100th) all season, and they don't even return all of those numbers -- linebacker Nate Combs alone took with him six sacks and one pick. If Army can't find a better way to rush the passer and/or force turnovers, then they'll have to try to outscore every opponent. Don't expect that strategy to work out too well.

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