Having been played every year since 1972, the Air Force vs. Navy game has become a college football institution. While nothing will ever measure up to Army vs. Navy in terms of pride and pageantry, Air Force vs. Navy comes awfully close.
It's always a special event when two service academies go at it, and Saturday's matchup will be no different. There is a lot of history between these two teams, and while they undoubtedly have a ton of respect for each other, there is likely plenty of bad blood that will manifest itself on the field as well.
Here is some further analysis of the top storylines to follow when Air Force and Navy lock horns in what is sure to be a heated battle.
Government Shutdown Looming Large
Until Wednesday night, the Air Force vs. Navy game was very much in question due to the current government shutdown.
According to Alex Jackson and Bill Wagner of the Capital Gazette, there was some concern that the game would have to be postponed as the potential use of government funds wouldn't have been possible. That is no longer an issue, however, as the game will go on as scheduled, according to Navy athletics' official Twitter account.
Jackson and Wagner are reporting that Navy and Air Force received special permission from the Department of Defense to follow through with Saturday's 11:30 a.m. ET matchup.
The United States Naval Academy and United States Air Force Academy have received approval from the Department of Defense to play on Saturday at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. There has been no indication if the other 24 athletic events scheduled from Thursday-Sunday will take place.
Since the game will be nationally televised on CBS, this is a huge win for the two schools involved. The service academies don't always receive as much exposure as they should, but they'll be front and center on Saturday. Unfortunately for them, though, the government shutdown could affect future games if a resolution isn't reached.
Navy Starts Commander-in-Chief's Trophy Defense
From a football perspective, this game is a huge deal for the Midshipmen especially. They are the defending Commander-in-Chief's Trophy winners, and they have won it eight out of the past 10 years. Navy has earned the honor on 13 occasions, but Air Force holds the record with 18, so there is no question that the Midshipmen would like to close the gap a bit more.
With that said, Navy's defense is contingent upon the Air Force vs. Army game in November and the Army vs. Navy game in December going off without a hitch. It's quite unclear how much longer the government shutdown will persist, so those games could very well be affected. Air Force vs. Navy is being allowed to continue as advertised due to such short notice, but that may not be the case for future games.
Regardless of that, Air Force and Navy are going to leave it all out on the field. Neither team appears to be particularly dominant this season as Navy is 2-1 and Air Force is 1-4, but records will be thrown out the window on Saturday as both teams vie for one of the most prestigious honors in college football.
Navy Looks to Continue Recent Dominance
Air Force may hold a 27-18 all-time edge over Navy in this series, but the script has been flipped in recent years. In fact, Navy has won eight of the past 10 meetings, including a thrilling 28-21 overtime win last season. Also, with three of the past four Air Force vs. Navy games being decided in OT, there is a high probability that Saturday's contest will feature a great deal of drama.
As is often the case, the running game will be key for both teams as they each rank in the top 10 in rushing nationwide. Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds leads the team 259 rushing yards and four scores, while Air Force is anchored by the running back duo of Broam Hart and Jon Lee, who are nearing the 600-yard mark as a tandem.
Although Navy is certainly favored, Air Force's record is somewhat deceiving. The Falcons' losses have come in high-scoring affairs against Utah State, Boise State, Wyoming and Nevada. None of those teams are pushovers, so Air Force will be well prepared for this game. Based on recent history, however, Navy has to like its chances.
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