The Falcons head to Globe Life Field in Dallas to take on the Black Knights, attempting to wrest away the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy for the first time in five years. The game will be televised on CBS Saturday at 10:30 AM Central time. This will be the first time the game has been played at a neutral field since 1965. Recent matches between these two teams have shown a slight edge for the home team. The neutral field prevents either team from getting that advantage.
Army Scouting Report
Army comes into the game on a three game losing streak after winning it’s first four games of the season. The last two losses have come at the hands of very good P5 teams Wisconsin and Wake Forest.
In past years, Army has concentrated heavily on a maintaining a high degree of ball control featuring fullback carries and quarterback keepers. This year, the offense has become a little more balanced and creates more explosive plays. Early in the year QB Christian Anderson won the first string job and took the majority of the snaps. Tyhier Tyler and Jamel Jones provided relief, with Tyler being a run-first QB and Jones providing a good passing ability. In the fourth game of the year Anderson had a great game, breaking two 70 yard touchdown runs and gaining 244 yards, but was injured late in the game. Since then, Tyler and Jabari Laws have split the time under center. Laws had been a starter in 2019 but missed last year with a leg injury. For those last two games, it’s been clear that Tyler is the much better runner and Laws is a very efficient passer, but less of a threat as a runner. Laws has completed 14 of his 17 passes this year for 3 TDs and no interceptions.
It’s been reported that Anderson has been practicing this week, and may be back in the mix to take snaps, and we may see all four quarterbacks play.
The Black Knights employ two fullbacks, Jakobi Buchanan and Anthony Adkins. Buchanan is a bruising 260 pounder who gets a majority of short yardage plays. Adkins has a good ability to break away for longer runs.
Army’s biggest threat on the outside is Tyrell Robinson, a speedster who also returns kicks and is a threat as a receiver. The leading receiver is Isaiah Alston with 10 catches and three touchdowns.
On defense, the Black Knights are led by DB Marquel Broughton, LB Arik Smith, and LB/DL Andre Carter. Broughton is the tied as the team leader in tackles with 39 and is the premier coverage man in the backfield with 2 interceptions and 4 pass breakups. Smith is tied with Broughton as tackle leader and has 3.5 TFLs and 7 QB hurries. Carter is fifth in FBS football in sacks with 8.5.
The numbers suggest that the Army defense is not quite as good as it was last year. For one thing, the defense has given up almost 28 points per game this year, compared to about 15 points per game last year. Comparisons are difficult because Army plays a lot of “crappy” or questionable teams every year and a few really good teams. But other measures also confirm that Army is less effective on defense. For instance the Black Knight have given up a touchdown on 13 of 16 red zone attempts, compared to 15 of 31 attempts last year. In addition, Army is not producing turnovers at the rate it did last year. That leads me to think that the Falcons should be able to generate more offense in this year’s matchup..
Air Force Update
As reported earlier in the season, TE Kyle Patterson is lost for the season, and it now appears that WR Micah Davis and NT Kalawai’a Pescaia are also out for the season. The bye week has allowed some other players to recover from ailments; Brad Davis and Haaziq Daniels are back, and WR David Cormier appears ready for action. Backup QB Warren Bryan still has a leg issue, but may be available for duty by Saturday.
On defense this week it will be interesting to see how the Falcons line up. Last week against the Aztecs, LB Brandon Gooding started at OLB, replacing Camby Goff at the position. Goff is more of a typical “spur” linebacker who can be used as a DB in passing situations, whereas Gooding is more of the traditional linebacker who can line up as an additional down lineman to stop the run or rush the passer. With Army obviously being a run-first team, we can probably expect to see Gooding a lot. However, with the passing threat that Jabari Laws poses, I’ll be watching for Goff to line up at the position when he is in the game. S Trey Taylor has been very good against the run and is a solid tackler who should be able to help a lot on the edges. Vince Sanford has had a great year providing pressure on the quarterback from the other outside LB position, but against a running team, we might see some rotation at his position also.
The Only Factor to Watch
There is no need to go through the top three factors to watch. The Falcons are 6-2 and the main reason they have two losses is because of inopportune turnovers, dropped passes, and sloppy ball handling in the backfield. Last year’s loss to Army was an example of the same factor leading to a loss. The Falcons averaged 5.9 yards per carry against Army last year, and yet somehow they threw 3 interceptions and lost by a field goal. I think this year the Falcons have more talent and experience than last year and all they need to do is hang onto the ball when running and catching it.
The line on this game opened at Falcons -1 and has moved to Falcons -2.5. The over/under is at 37. All of the analytics groups I follow have Air Force favored, and a majority of experts agree with that assessment.
I am concerned about the lack of concentration in certain situations for the Falcons. It is a young team, and some of that is to be expected; hopefully they’re learning as they play. The problem has occurred mainly in home games, which is unusual because they normally thrive at home. This game will be played at a neutral site, maybe they’ll relax a little more and hold onto the ball better. Also, Brad Roberts is the go-to man to hang onto the ball, and he says he’s back at full strength and ready to go. Another 30 carry workload might be on the schedule.
I’ll take the Falcons by 20-13, and I’ll be heading down to Dallas to see how my prediction turns out.