For the first time since 2005––the last time both schools beat Air Force in the same season––Army and Navy will both enter their annual showdown eligible to claim the Commander-in-Chief trophy.
That fact gives added importance to a game that needs none. Even if Army is a paltry 2-9 this season, their annual game with Navy is always one of the most important of the year.
The rivalry is always a treat to watch (even if it's not the most...pretty football on the planet), in large part because of the respect all players and fans have for one another, as well as our country.
And while the score of the game is never of primary importance, it's still worth paying attention to. Let's take a look at three guys who will determine the outcome of the game.
QB Keenan Reynolds—Army
In Navy's unique triple-option system, it's easy to overlook the quarterback position. Especially when he's thrown less than 10 passes in 60 percent of his games.
But in truth, the quarterback position is by far the most important position in this scheme and freshman Keenan Reynolds will need to be markedly better in this game than he was last week.
The shifty, 5'9'' signal caller has enjoyed success during his debut season.
Although he's only completed 46 passes, he has 754 yards and eight touchdowns (to only one interception) through the air. Add that to his 585 yards and 9 touchdowns on the ground and you've got yourself a pretty good year.
Last week against Texas State, however, he struggled mightily. He was 3-of-8 passing, producing only 35 yards through the air. Army isn't exactly the toughest opponent in the nation, but that won't even get it done against a mediocre team
The game was particularly distressing since Reynolds was coming off his two best game of the year––by a wide margin.
He went 8-of-15 for 147 yards and two touchdowns, and rushed for 159 yards and another touchdown against Florida Atlantic. Then, he followed that up with 289 total yards and three total touchdowns against Troy.
Reynolds is the keystone player for Navy, so pay close attention to him.
QB Trent Steelman – Army
While Keenan Reynolds is burgeoning into a future star, Trent Steelman is saying goodbye to his record-breaking collegiate career. This dichotomy was broken down beautifully by Don Markus of the Baltimore Sun, and could be one of the game's deciding factors.
Steelman holds the Army records for rushing touchdowns (44) and consecutive starts (32), and although he led the Knights to only one winning season (easier said than done), he's one of the most successful quarterbacks the school has had in recent years.
For what seems like forever, this team has performed just as well as their steady senior quarterback.
This season has been no different; Army's only two victories (against Boston College and Air Force) not-so-coincidentally came in the same game as Steelman's two highest passing totals.
Like Reynolds, Steelman––like the Army offense in general (Get it? General)––does most of his damage on the ground. But if he isn't able to throw for over 75 yards, Army is hardly ever able to win.
Look for that stat at the game's conclusion.
DT Richard Glover – Army
Neither team plays much defense, but if someone on that side of the ball is going to make a difference, it's going to have to be an interior lineman.
Glover, a scrappy young sophomore for Army, has been one of the Knights' few defensive revelations in 2012.
Although Navy boasts a better defense on the whole, Army's defense has actually logged more tackles for losses and passes defended. A lot of that has to do with their line, which has been anchored by the sophomore.
Navy is going to attack Army in the A-gap, as they do with most every team, and if Glover is up for the task, they might be able to spring the upset.