Part of what makes college football unique and memorable from its professional counterpart is the pageantry and tradition that surrounds it, and that will be on full display when Army takes on Navy in the 115th matchup of their rivalry.
College Football Playoff debates and NFL draft projections take a backseat to the one game on the schedule in Week 16, which makes this matchup all the more special.
No two teams deserve the spotlight more than the Midshipmen and Black Knights.
2014 Army-Navy Game
Date: Saturday, Dec. 13
Time: 3 p.m. ET
Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore
Navy has controlled the rivalry lately with 12 consecutive wins—the longest streak in the game’s history—which has given it a 58-49-7 lead in the series.
Anytime these two teams take the field, it is appointment viewing, and Tim Murray of ESPN 980 believes this is the best rivalry in all of sports:
Navy may be going to a bowl game later this year, but its top goal every season is to beat the Black Knights. Safety George Jamison suggested as much to Michael Page of PressBoxOnline.com:
It's a huge game. Every year, it's our goal to win. It's something we strive for. They're a great team this year, and we're going to do our best to accomplish our goal with a win. We've got to prepare, because we know they are preparing for us, and we'll find out [Dec. 13] who prepared the best.
This won’t be the first time Navy will be in the national spotlight this season. It led Notre Dame 31-28 late in the second half before ultimately falling and put a major scare into Ohio State as well in the season opener.
Baylor and TCU probably wish the Midshipmen had pulled that game out.
The Midshipmen have won four of their last five, with the only loss in that stretch coming to the Fighting Irish.
Army also impressed earlier this season against a notable team when it upset Connecticut, 35-21.
The player to watch Saturday will be Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds, who has 15 touchdowns in his team’s last five contests. Reynolds ran for three touchdowns in Navy’s 34-7 win over Army a season ago and has 1,082 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns on the ground this year.
Navy Athletics pointed out that he has scored more rushing touchdowns than any other quarterback, while Sal Interdonato of the Times Herald-Record passed along a quote from Army coach Jeff Monken recognizing Reynolds’ greatness:
Reynolds is the main reason the Midshipmen are second in the nation in rushing yards per game and 33rd in scoring offense, but don’t overlook running back Noah Copeland. He has made defenses pay for focusing too much on Reynolds with 859 rushing yards.
The combination of Reynolds and Copeland will be a problem for Army’s defense, which is the weak point of its team.
The Black Knights are 109th in the country in scoring defense, have allowed more than 20 points in every single game and more than 30 points seven times.
However, Army is sixth in the nation in rushing yards per game on the other side of the ball and will rely largely on quarterback Angel Santiago, although Monken has used A.J. Schurr for stretches this year as well.
Santiago has 793 rushing yards, 488 passing yards and 11 total touchdowns, but it is senior running back Larry Dixon whom the Midshipmen need to be most concerned about.
Dixon has 1,012 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on the ground this year and is coming off a game-changing performance against Fordham during which he ran for 158 yards and three touchdowns.
Still, Navy’s defense is better than Army's in the scoring department and ranks 89th in the country in points allowed per game. That statistic is also slightly skewed because games against Ohio State, Notre Dame and Rutgers made up 25 percent of the schedule.
Ultimately, Navy and Army run similar offenses and try to win games in a similar style by controlling the ball and playing ahead of the chains.
While Santiago and Dixon have been impressive this season, Navy does everything a bit more crisply than the Black Knights, which is part of the reason it has controlled this rivalry lately.
The Midshipmen have the best player in this game in Reynolds and the better overall defense. Look for them to get an early lead and force Army out of its comfort zone, which will result in yet another Navy victory.
Prediction: Navy 31, Army 14
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