Saturday marks the first skirmish in the campaign to win the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy for the 2011 season. Air Force, currently in possession of the trophy, travels to Annapolis to play Navy. The gamblers have the Falcons (2-1, 0-1 MWC) as 3.5 point underdogs against the Mids (2-1).
After Action bloggers Mike Hoffman and Phil Creed rarely agree on anything (aside from despising Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder). This game is no different. Hoffman sees Air Force pulling off a last-second road upset, while Creed expects Navy to win going away.
Here’s a rundown of their bickering over email this afternoon.
Creed: Instead of telling you why Navy will win, I’ll tell you why Air Force will lose. Because there’s really no reason to believe they can come into Annapolis and leave with a W.
The Falcons are largely untested, having played one Division I opponent — 20th-ranked TCU — and getting thoroughly beaten. On top of that, this will be Air Force’s first road game of the year. So despite a winning record, some gaudy offensive stats and the No.1-ranked rushing offense in the nation, Air Force really has done little to impress. Also unimpressive: the 390.7 yards per game that the Air Force defense is allowing.
As for the Mids, they’re coming off a bye week to recover from their three-point loss at 8th-ranked South Carolina. The Mids rolled up 335 yards on USC, and led going into the fourth quarter. Navy showed more in this loss than Air Force has all year.
Hoffman: Wait, are you suggesting the current owners of the Commander-In-Chiefs trophy don’t have a shot against a Ricky Dobbs-less Navy team? Just because they lost to a strong TCU team doesn’t mean the Falcons offense can’t march into Annapolis and run right over the Mids.
I’ll give it up to the Mids for that impressive showing in Columbia last week, but you can’t ignore the fact the Gamecocks have an erratic party boy at quarterback. Stephen Garcia threw four more picks last week against the fighting James Franklins at Vanderbilt. So yes, it was impressive they held their own against the Gamecocks, but it’s not like Navy almost beat ‘Bama or LSU.
Creed: Dobbs may be gone, but The Proctor Is In. Credit coach Ken Niumatalolo and his recruiting gurus — they know how to find talented players to stick into the Navy offense whenever a QB graduates, and Navy manages to barely miss a beat. Kris Proctor is averaging almost five yards per carry and has ran for four TDs in Navy’s first three games. On top of that, he’s also passed for three TDs.
Under Proctor, Navy’s offense is already in full stride, unlike last season’s AF game. The Mids have already racked up 101 points. Last year, they’d only put 64 points on the board against a slightly weaker schedule. Fullback Alexander Teich and slotbacks John Howell and Gee Gee Greene are experienced and all have the ability to break away for a long run. The loss of Aaron Santiago hurts the Mids, no doubt. But there’s no way in Hades that Air Force will be able to hold Navy to single digits this season.
Hoffman: Although “The Proctor” may have played well thus far this season, the Falcons have the clear advantage at quarterback. Senior Tim Jefferson has played significant time in each of his four years at the Academy. Last week he set the school record, tabulating his 23rd career win — which included one last year against Navy. That ended Sail Boat U’s seven-game win streak over the Zoomies, and Jefferson scored the only two touchdowns in last year’s game.
Navy’s defensive backfield proved formidable against the Gamecocks, but the defense couldn’t bottle up Marcus Lattimore who rolled for 246 yards on the ground. Granted, Air Force doesn’t have anyone of Lattimore’s caliber in their backfield, but Asher Clark, who ran for more than 1,000 yards in his junior year, returns. He’s already racked up almost 300 yards in the first three games with an impressive 8.8 yards per carry.
Air Force lost a good chunk of their defensive line starters from last year as well as their all-conference cornerback Reggie Rembert. This won’t be the defensive battle it was last year but Air Force can score easier in what I expect to be shootout. Jefferson has the much better arm. He’s already through for more than 3,000 yards in his career. I don’t think the Mids as a team has thrown for 3,000 yards in the past decade combined.
Creed: I still think you’re undervaluing Proctor, but I will give you that Tim Jefferson will be the key if Air Force does win. He’s beaten Navy before and has had a stellar career. I also agree that Asher Clark could have a big game. Navy’s linebackers have been banged up lately.
But Air Force has been hit even harder with injuries on the defensive side of the ball. Two starting defensive lineman will miss the Navy game, and starting linebacker Patrick Hennessey is also hurting.
Fans watching at home should anticipate a lot of scoring in this one. The combination of good offenses and roughed-up defenses make this an offensive coordinator’s dream. But Air Force is in a lot worse way than Navy right now.
Hoffman: You make a great point about the defensive injuries. Although I expect this to be a shootout, or should I say run out, it’s going to come down to which defense can make that stop in the fourth quarter. Having depth in the fourth quarter will be key, especially on the defensive line. Coach Troy Calhoun even said one of his 230-pound defensive lineman is going to see some serious time. 230 pounds? That’s only 40 pounds heavier than me. Not good for the Falcons. Geez, I might have to reconsider my pick.
Creed: OK, prediction time. We will not see a repeat of last year’s low-scoring (14-6) win by Air Force. If the Falcons were a little healthier on defense, I’d pick Navy to pick a close game. But with a D-line weakened by injuries, I see Navy’s Gee Gee Greene and John Howell getting loose for long touchdowns in the second half to blow this one open. Final score: Navy 38, Air Force 24.
Hoffman: Tim Jefferson’s experience and arm prove the difference in this one. I expect the senior QB to lead the Falcons on a late fourth-quarter drive that ends with a game-winning field goal. This will give the Falcons their second win in a row after that miserable 7-game losing streak to the Mids. The win will also put Air Force in the driver’s seat for the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy, as Army looks to face another trying season.
Either way the game will prove to doubters why the Big East is interested in the two service academies. CBS is broadcasting the game nationally. And it’s about time. Army-Navy gets most of the attention, but the past ten years the Air Force-Navy games have proven to be the best. This rivalry is also a lot nastier than Army-Navy. Air Force forever dominated its sister services before Navy’s revival. The Zoomies also suffer from little brother syndrome for not having the same level of tradition as Army-Navy.
Final Score: 31-28 Air Force