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Playing Nice: Army

Previewing Army with our new friend from Sidelines West Point

NCAA Football: Troy at Army Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday in Tiger Stadium ought to be a game atmosphere unlike any other. Army’s coming to town and to celebrate LSU’s honoring dishing out a special end zone for the occasion.

But there’s still a game to be played and I have a feeling the Black Knights would love to come into Baton Rouge and upset the Tigers. And hey let’s not forget, Army leads the all-time series 1-0! Anyway, to get us ready for LSU-Army, our new Cuthbert Hutton from Sidelines West Point.

1. It’s a new look Army football! With the new NCAA rule changes eliminating the cutblock, Army’s having to do away with the triple option. How has the change to the shotgun gone for the Black Knights?

The transition, like any schematic overhauls, has had fits and spurts. New playbook, new QB, returning RB’s who excelled under the previous flexbone, but now needing to find new roles, and returned the strongest WR corps we’ve had in years, but they’re are now dinged up. We’ve some great flashes of what the new system is capable of, but it’s not yet rote. Offense has produced great things in halves of games, but had trouble executing across 60 minutes since the UTSA win. Gotta learn to crawl before you learn to walk - right now I’d say we can stand ourselves up (if we have a chair to hold onto).

2. How much is this program looking forward to traveling an SEC venue?

Couldn’t be more excited. We want big games and big opponents. Last year when Tennessee ran scared, we lost out on a great opportunity to showcase our players, the Academy, and the men and women of our Armed Forces. West Point is first and foremost not a football school, but we love our football. Anytime we get to take on the highest level of competition, we relish it. When’s LSU gonna return the favor and come to Michie? I’d love to see the Tigers come up to to West Point on a cold gray November day and spend an afternoon in the trenches!

3. Army gave Oklahoma and Kyler Murray hell a couple of years ago and damn near beat them. How does Army recreate that same type of success they found in Norman and maybe even pull off the upset?

Army’s MO in big time games like this is ball-control, mistake free football. Nate’s Woody’s done great thing with our defense, but the only way to hang with overpowered offenses is to limit their snaps. Against OU we did have 6 penalties and threw 2 picks, but we also had 44:41 TOP and held Murray to only 40 total plays. The last time we played an SEC team we got the W with only 31:00 TOP (and a dramatic last second FG), but we will need to keep Daniels and Co. off the field if we want to have a good showing.

4. LSU’s got maybe the best offense in the country led by a legit Heisman contender in Jayden Daniels. What will Army do to try and slow the Tigers down?

Continuation of #3, we have to be able to control the pace of the game. At Army we talk about our offense being “on schedule” - small incremental gains that maintain possession, keep the opposing D on the field, and wearing down our opponents. We’re not afraid to eat the clock, get 3 yards on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd down to set up for a 1-2 yard gain and a 4th down conversion. Our new offensive scheme has opened that up a little bit as we are passing more out of the gun, but no matter the package Army football is always going to be Army football. In the meantime, Nate Woody’s gonna have to call a great game and our defensive leaders are going to have to step up and set the tone. Look for a big game from Lowin, Hammond, Ciarlo, DiDomenico, and Moore.

5. Army is possibly joining the AAC. How would that impact the program in this brave new world we’re in?

Fan base seems to be generally disappointed at the idea of joining a conference, but pragmatic enough to know that it’s an inevitability, and we just gotta go with it. Coach Monken always talks about how we are a national school and should play a national schedule, and the fans agree - it’s good for recruiting, it’s good for notoriety, and (frankly) it’s good to be a new team the opposition’s never seen before as our ability to recruit is so greatly hampered relative to other programs. The AAC looks to be the best landing spot for football only membership, and makes the most sense financially. The Army-Navy game will stay out of conference and still be played after the championship game, but there is a hypothetical doomsday scenario wherein Army and Navy meet in the AAC Championship one week and the play each other again the following week in the official Army-Navy game. I don’t know what that would mean for the rivalry scoreboard of the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy (three-way annual trophy between Army-Navy-Air Force), would be an epic span of football for the Army fan base. I think we’ve all just sort of come to terms with it.