The Black Knights and Falcons square off in Colorado Springs while the Midshipmen look to play spoiler on the national college football stage — here are six things you should know before Saturday’s service academy gridiron action kicks off:
1. Rivalry rout? Air Force (5-3, 4-1 Mountain West Conference) enters Saturday’s showdown with Army West Point (2-6) as a 17.5-point favorite and can become bowl-eligible with a victory. The Black Knights would need to win every game left on their regular-season slate to finish .500 and reach the postseason, and they’d have to start on the Falcons’ home turf (3:30 p.m. Eastern, ESPNU). That home-field edge is a big deal, according to Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun — big enough to break out Vietnam War analogies.
Army sophomore quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw is expected to start after missing the Oct. 24 loss to Rice because of a shoulder injury. Keeping him healthy could be a problem: Head coach Jeff Monken had hoped last week’s off week would help his banged-up offensive line heal, but as Army football guru Sal Interdonato reports, injuries during practice have made things worse.
It won’t help that Air Force ranks second in the nation in rushing yards per game while Army’s defense ranks 51st against the run, or that the Falcons are coming off a 58-7 Halloween demolition of Hawaii in which they held the Rainbow Warriors to minus-2 yards rushing.
2. West Point bonfire update. Before:
— West Point AOG (@WPAOG) November 4, 2015
During and after:
— U.S Military Academy (@WestPoint_USMA) November 5, 2015
This has been your West Point bonfire update.
3. Milestone against Memphis. Navy senior quarterback Keenan Reynolds will break the NCAA record for career rushing touchdowns with his next score, which will be his 78th as a Midshipman. That’s likely to come Saturday when the Mids (6-1, 4-0 American Athletic Conference) visit Memphis (8-0, 4-0 AAC) in an attempt to ruin the Tigers’ homecoming (7 p.m. Eastern, ESPN2).
A monster performance could also net Reynolds the all-time Navy rushing-yard record — the senior is 241 yards behind Napoleon McCallum. Reynolds went for 250-plus yards on the ground twice in 2014 and topped out at 183 this year in a win over Air Force.
4. Playoff fever? Navy, Memphis and Houston sit atop the AAC West conference with identical 4-0 league records. The winner of Saturday’s game gets the inside track for the division title and the corresponding spot in the AAC championship game, but the stakes for Memphis could be even higher — ranked 13th in the College Football Playoff standings, an unbeaten season could land the Tigers in contention for a national championship.
The New York Times breaks it down here. For Navy to ruin things for the Tigers, it’ll need to stop a Memphis offense that’s put up more than 40 points in six of its eight games and cracked the 60-point barrier twice.
5. Rivalry social media update.
— Air Force Football (@AFFootball) November 3, 2015
6. Notes and links. Army hasn’t won at Air Force since 2005, and has only two other victories in Colorado Springs (1967 and 1977). … Memphis ranks 15th in the Associated Press poll; Navy hasn’t beaten a top-15 team in that poll since upsetting No. 2 South Carolina 38-21 in 1984. … Keenan Reynolds gets the Sports Illustrated treatment here. … Despite a winning record, it’s not all sunshine for Air Force fans. … Did you catch Saturday’s Duke-Miami officiating disaster? Sports on Earth tells the story of the last time a college game result was reversed after referee error, with Army coaching legend Earl “Red” Blaik in a starring role.