Preview: Army vs. Navy at Philadelphia
December 3, 2008
This hasn't been a very competitive series for a while as Navy has won 6 in-a-row and 8-of-9, but it is the best rivalry in college football, and the most meaningful.
Hundreds of thousands of active, and retired, military men and women around the world gather anywhere they can to cheer their service branch onto victory.
Next season, the game will be moved to the second Saturday in December so that it will be the final game of each college football season.
This Saturday marks the 109th renewal of the Army-Navy game. The Midshipmen lead the series by a slim margin of 52-49-7. Navy's current 6-game winning streak is the longest by either team in the history of the series.
Navy has claimed five straight Commander-In-Chief's trophies, awarded for winning the annual round-robin competition among the three military academies - Air Force, Army and Navy. The Midshipmen are guaranteed to retain it for another year after beating Air Force on October 4, and the Black Knights lost to the Falcons on November 1.
Army last possessed the trophy in 1996 when it turned in a 10-1 performance in the regular season and later lost to Auburn in the Independence Bowl. Since then, the Black Knights have not won more than four games in any year. Over the last five seasons, three of Army's fourteen victories are over Football Championship Subdivision (formerly known as 1-AA) schools. The Black Knights lost to FCS member New Hampshire this year, and needed overtime to defeat Rhode Island last year.
While Army has had difficulty getting off the mat, Navy has flourished.
The Midshipmen's resurgence began with the hiring of Paul Johnson in 2002. Navy only won two games that year, but is now enjoying its' sixth consecutive winning season and has already secured a sixth straight bowl bid.
The success has continued, even with the loss of Johnson to Georgia Tech. When Johnson announced he was leaving, he recommended that assistant Ken Niumatalolo be given the job. Under Niumatalolo, Navy is leading the country in rushing for the fourth straight season.
The Midshipmen have won each of the last six games by no fewer than 12 points, and four of those contests by at least 28 points.
Army has scored just 177 points on offense this year, 29 fewer than last season through 11 games. But the Black Knight defense has yielded 76 fewer points than last season. Its' three wins this year over FBS teams is the most success Army has enjoyed since 2005.
Army came close to picking up wins in three other games, falling 21-17 at Texas A&M; 27-24 in overtime at Buffalo; and 38-31 at Rice.
It is difficult to fathom a way in which Army will win this weekend, barring a miracle. But as our senior editor, Mike Mitchell, said in this week's pre-game column, "..take some time to savor how special this game truly is, and how much it means to those who have, and those who will, defend America. " It truly is a whole different ball game.
This week's game will be televised on CBS beginning at Noon (eastern). The network recently committed to televising the game through 2018.