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Key matchups: Army vs. Stanford
The third game of the year matches the Army Black Knights (Sagarin 139, 1-1) and the Pac-12 North Stanford Cardinal (Sagarin 3, 1-0.) The all-time series is tied 5-5, but the last time the teams met was in 1979, when the Black Knights prevailed in Palo Alto, 17-13. Stanford looks to impress the East Coast Media in their quest for a National Championship. The Black Knights attempt to pull off one of the greatest upsets in the history of Army football.
In Muncie Ind., Keith Wenning completed 23 of 32 passes for 325 yards and two touchdowns as the Ball State Cardinals cruised to an easy 41-10 victory.
After a well-played opening game against Morgan State, Army went on the road and returned to playing mistake prone football. The game started well as Larry Dixon ran 71 yards on the third play from scrimmage, where he displayed a good burst and break-away speed. The Army nation was excited – we were ahead. However, the next 57 minutes of football were a display of utter ineptitude. Army fumbled twice on offense, fumbled a kickoff return, was intercepted once, botched a field goal, shanked a punt and was called for 90 yards in penalties.
As we suspected, Ball State took away QB Angel Santiago's running lanes and he was completely out of sorts. Santiago completed 3 passes on 11 attempts for 49 yards and had one interception. When Army was not busy committing turnovers or chop blocking, the RBs ran the ball well. Larry Dixon had 113 yards on 13 carries, Raymond Maples had 84 yards on 12 carries and Terry Baggett had 32 yards on 5 carries. Hayden Tippett and Trenton Turrentine also looked good against Ball State's mop-up squad. AJ Schur looked good, but as usual, he played in the fourth quarter, long after the outcome had been determined, against the third string defense. He was 4 of 8 passes for 27 yards and ran 5 times for 42.
While the defense was not stellar, they looked much better than at any time last year. They gave up passes at will in the first quarter, but in the second quarter they adjusted and began to apply pressure with different LBs blitzing and dropping in coverage. This really changed Wenning's effectiveness. Wenning is likely to be one of the better passers they face this year and maybe the Army Defense will take a little confidence away from this game. Ball State scored on 7 of 13 possessions and 5 of their first 6 possessions. In all, the Cardinals gained 440 yards in total offense.
In Palo Alto, QB Kevin Hogan threw for 207 yards and two touchdowns, Tyler Gaffney ran for 104 yards and two touchdowns as the Cardinal cruised to an easy victory over San Jose 34-17. The Spartans were limited to 35 rushing yards.
Who is favored?
Stanford is favored by 30 points.
What to look for?
A top five ranked team has not come to Michie Stadium since Penn State in 1962. The stadium will be packed and there is certain to be a lot of energy throughout West Point. When this game was scheduled, Stanford was a mid-tier Pac-12 team, and then-AD Richard Greenspan did not see this coming.
The Cardinal, are big, fast and aggressive; they are everything that Army aspires to be but is not. They will run through the tackles until the defense commits to the run and then they will pass through the seams and over the Safeties once there is single coverage. Army had difficulty stopping Morgan State and was less successful stopping Ball State. It is hard to imagine Army stopping Stanford on any possession.
The Stanford Defense is big, fast and disciplined – exactly what is needed to stop the Option. Even if Army executes perfectly on offense, it seems unlikely that they will score. Put in Army's tendency to fumble and this game could get very ugly, very fast.
More troubling is that Stanford will only travel 60 players, so there will be no third string to introduce to the game early in the second half.
In the past 25 years, Army has had many similar match-ups. In a few of these instances, such as in the Sun Bowl in 1988, vs. Notre Dame in 1995, and vs. Louisville in 2006, the Cadets stepped up against insurmountable odds and played tremendous games. Of course, on those occasions Army had better talent and was better coached than this current edition. Is there reason for hope that a miracle can take place? Well, maybe if you aspire to the theory that West Coast teams struggle to find their legs when traveling to the East Coast for early games. That the line is set with Stanford favored by just 30 points, when perhaps they should be favored by 40 points or more, suggests that Vegas does not expect Stanford to bring their "A" game to Michie Stadium for this particular contest. We would not be at all surprised if Army bounces back after their putrid, pathetic effort last week, and puts on a decent show for at least the first half before Stanford's overwhelming array of talent beats them down in the second half. Maybe a miracle can happen on Saturday. We're just not betting on it.
Final Score – Stanford 49 – Army 7 (predictions in 2013, 2-0)
Game will be shown on CBSCS @ 12:00 PM EST.
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