The 2016 Heart of Dallas Bowl is one of bowl season's most interesting events because the Army Black Knights and North Texas Mean Green know each other so well.
Tuesday's contest is a rematch of a thrilling October affair. Not only that, both programs continue along notable rises.
The Knights (7-5) just posted their best record in six years and shattered a 14-game skid in their biggest rivalry by taking care of business against Navy to close the season.
Though 5-7, the Mean Green qualified for the bowl game thanks to their strong Academic Progress Rate, a great turn of events for a program making its second bowl appearance since 2005 after a 1-11 campaign in 2015.
Here is everything to know about the showdown between two programs headed in the right direction.
Heart of Dallas Bowl 2016
Date: Tuesday, Dec. 27
Time (ET): 12 p.m.
Location: Fair Park, Dallas
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Spread: Army (-10)
Team Injury Reports
|Marcus Hyatt||DB||Out for season|
|Steven Johnson||DB||Out for season|
|Willy Ivery||RB||Out Tues|
|Jeffrey Wilson||RB||Prob Tues|
|Elex Woodworth||OL||Ques Tues|
|Terian Goree||WR||Out for season|
|Willie Robinson||WR||Out for season|
|Mason Fine||QB||Out Tues|
|Rico Bussey Jr.||WR||Ques Tues|
|Garrett Gunter||OL||Ques Tues|
Injury reports courtesy of USA Today.
A Shot at Redemption
Despite all the good vibes and the bright future of the program, Army has redemption in mind in this rematch.
To say the initial meeting with North Texas didn't go as planned would be a gross understatement. The Knights took a 35-18 loss, turning the ball over a ridiculous seven times and coughing up 202 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.
"We got whipped in every phase," Army head coach Jeff Monken said after the loss, according to the Associated Press (via ESPN.com). "I don't know if there's much more to say."
It was an uncanny performance for a team that prides itself on rushing the ball and—more importantly—taking care of it. Quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw ranks second on the team in rushing, with 697 yards and seven touchdowns behind lead back Andy Davidson, who has 905 yards and 11 scores.
With the exception of Bradshaw, anyone on the Army offense with 20 or more carries averages at least 5.1 per carry. The offense has scored 40 touchdowns on the ground with seven players boasting multiple rushing scores.
In theory, Army can clean up the turnover woes, play its usual game and get a win. But it's asking a lot in a bowl game that might seem like a road contest, given the proximity to North Texas.
Finishing on a High Note
Getting a sixth win on the season would top off North Texas' superb resurgence.
First-year coach Sean Littrell has the Mean Green looking like a different team entirely. The defense, normally a major weakness of the program, only permits 32.2 points per game.
On offense, the team boasts a potent rushing attack of its own:
|Jeffrey Wilson||149||855||5.7||75 (TD)||13|
|Andrew Tucker||18||140||7.8||71 (TD)||2|
|Mason Fine||94||118||1.3||80 (TD)||2|
North Texas started the season strong before fizzling out, winning just one of its final five encounters. The time-of-possession approach backfired in that span, as the defense wound up allowing 31 or more points in each of the losses.
Still, the Mean Green should come into this matchup with confidence, as they previously toppled the Knights in dominant fashion and this amounts to a home game. Keep in mind the first encounter between these two came at West Point.
Tuesday, North Texas will look to beat Army at its own game again.
It's impossible to ignore momentum here, which would likely explain the huge odds favoring Army.
The Knights won two games in a row to close the season, blowing away Morgan State, 60-3, and upsetting then-No. 25 Navy, 21-17. Compare that to North Texas' major slump to close the season and one gets a sense of how this should go.
Should the Knights hold on to the football this time around, thumping the Mean Green won't be too difficult.
Look for the Knights to pounce early and put an emphasis on taking care of the football while grinding out a win.
Prediction: Army 35, North Texas 28
Follow Chris Roling (@Chris_Roling) on Twitter.