Notre Dame Army Media Blitz

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Brace yourselves for the media assault. This one ain't the Univ. of Cincinnati and it ain't being played at Toledo.

This week you'll get a lot about the history of the Army/Notre Dame series. You'll hear how these teams were once great and that the two teams best games against each other came as top ranked teams.
If the stories are fresh I'll try to hit another late week media roundup but here's what we have for now.

Prime time. Yankee Stadium. 6-4 Army team. This one is a chance for Rich Ellerson's statement game.

Steve Anderson solidifies his place as my favorite Black Knight.

"I still have a little Notre Dame Irish football,'' Army linebacker Stephen Anderson said before practice on Tuesday. "It's Velcro; it's like a teddy bear. You flip it over and it's a pillow. I'm sure my dad got it for me when I was a little kid.''

Anderson is the rare Army player recruited by Notre Dame. The Irish showed interest during Anderson's sophomore year at Damascus (Md.) High. But he missed his junior season because of injury and Notre Dame bade a recruiting farewell. Anderson says he holds no ill feelings. He says such machinations are part of the recruiting process. But all these years later, Anderson's itching to get the last word.

"Come Saturday,'' he said, "they are going to wish they recruited me.''

Anderson's words probably meet the loose definition of trash talk. But he said them so matter-of-factly, so evenly, so confidently, that it sounded more like a promise than a prediction.

A full half of the story is the bowl situation. Notre Dame needs a win vs. Army or USC to travel for the holidays.

Army did enough to earn a bowl bid.

The Black Knights also do not have an automatic bowl tie-in this season, but are backup options for the Armed Forces Bowl and Military Bowl. Still, it is hard to see a 6-6 Army team getting left out. The strides it has made this season are worthy of praise.

Trent Steelman has taken command of the triple-option offense as a sophomore. Hassin, a sophomore transfer from Air Force, has four 100-yard games this season. Those two have allowed Army to have one of the best rushing offenses in the country, ranking No. 8. Last week, Army scored 45 points on Kent State, its highest offensive output against an FBS team since a 48-29 win over Cincinnati on Oct. 9, 2004.

Another key reason for success -- turnover margin, something Ellerson has stressed since the day he arrived. Army is No. 5 in the country with an average turnover margin of 1.2 per game, with 22 turnovers gained and just 10 lost.

I said before the season that an 8 win season was possible with that sort of turnover margin.
I think most people would agree that the 2010 team has improved in almost every phase from the 2009 team. Even considering the team's improvements an 8-4 year could be achieved only by playing absolutely flawless football. I'm talking zero injuries, +15 turnovers and a serious improvement in all phases of the kicking game. (emphasis added)

Well, despite all of the injuries the Cadets are on the doorstep of 7-4 and that's a credit to the offense which has stepped up in 2010.

The kicking game? Well, Carlton has perhaps taken a step back from kicking 75% of his field goal tries last year (PDF) to booting 63% this year (PDF).

The positive is that Army is standing on the verge of seven wins and Carlton has the chance to play well get his FG% up, and help his team. The punting game has retained its 39 yards/kick average, but Jon Bulls has been called on far fewer times this year (38 through 10 games) than in 2009 (with 73 over the course of 12 games). That's a night and day improvement and one that puts Army in position to achieve their 7th win.

The other bit of unfinished business from my preseason writeup are the turnover numbers. I thought Army would need +15 turnovers to achieve 8 wins.

Right now Army stands at +12 takeaways and I think 8 wins are absolutely possible if the team continues with the +1.2 turnover ratio. 

There are a bunch of stories from the Notre Dame angle some about how the Irish have in the past stolen Army's mojo - others arguing that the Fighting Irish got their mojo back.

The statistics merely confirm what we who watched the game, the Utah O-line, and God help them, whoever was playing behind the Utah offensive line already knew; Notre Dame was getting into the Utes' backfield with crippling regularity.

That's ok by me... go ahead and pass rush.

Oh yeah, the game is at Yankee Stadium.

The Army game notes are up here (PDF) and the Notre Dame game notes can be found here. (PDF)


Looking Ahead to a Bowl

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

After looking at the bowl list for the last week I think I finally have a clearer perspective of where Army ends up and why.

Army will take the Armed Forces Bowl in lieu of a Mountain West team (MWC #3 or #4). The way it looks, the MWC has 5 bowl bids and only 5 bowl eligible teams. Due to the very likely scenario that TCU wins out and goes to the BCS Army will be slid into the Armed Forced Bowl in Dallas. So if you were looking for a reason to cheer for the Horned Frogs now's your chance.

Sal has his thoughts on Army's bowl, and eliminates the New Mexico Bowl as a destination for Army.

I’ve been told there’s no way Army plays in the New Mexico Bowl because it is owned or ran by the same people, who are involved in the Armed Forces Bowl. They will do everything in their power to have Army play in Dallas than Albuquerque.

Bleacher Report likewise has Army @ SMU. lists Army in the Armed Forces Bowl vs. UCF.

Phil Steele has Army vs. East Carolina in the Armed Forces Bowl.

USA Today is having trouble picturing Army in a Bowl, yet still has the WMC not filling their bowls.

New Mexico: Fresno State vs. Miami (Ohio)*
Teams with asterisk fill spots due to conferences not meeting allotment of teams.

That scenario just doesn't make sense, and looking at some of these scenarios the possibilities for Army to go bowling look far greater than the chances for Army to stay home for the holidays.

Of course, we've got to pull for TCU to beat New Mexico and play in a BCS game. Easy enough, since I don't really think the Frogs need any help with that task.

Army's future bowl eligibility isn't quite so murky as the Black Knights have direct bowl tie-ins for the next three years.

Starting next fall, Army has secured primary bowl tie-ins for each of the next three seasons. If bowl eligible, the Black Knights will participate in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in 2011, the Military Bowl in 2012 and the Poinsettia Bowl in 2013.

Good to know, but talking about this year's bowl is getting a little bit ahead of ourselves - bids for the next three years are nice to have in the back pocket, but are totally useless now.


Making the Case for Delaware in the Big East

Monday, November 15, 2010

Every time a conference announces their intentions to expand, the minds of college football fans become raging torrents, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives. One team rarely mentioned for Big East promotion is the Delaware Blue Hens. The Blue Hens and I go way back and they are my preferred team for Big East expansion.

I think Delaware can contend in the Big East - this year they might have won the league outright. If the thought of Delaware running the Big East worries Big East fans... don't look now but Delaware is getting votes in the AP poll (one less vote than the entire Big East at this point). Today I'll make the case for Delaware moving to the Big East - but if they don't want to go that's understandable... Delaware is taking care of business down in 1-AA for now.

The Delaware television market doesn't amount to much more than a supplemental market for Philadelphia and Baltimore and along with a team like Temple could drive the Philly market home for the Big East. Which isn't to say that the Big East would then own Pennsylvania. Pitt/Temple/Delaware and even throw in Villanova and Penn if you want to - aren't going to touch Penn State in PA. Delaware just doesn't bring enough market to be a great pick for the Big East. The way I see it, with Delaware in the Big East they will come in and start poaching Philly/Maryland/NJ/NY talent without providing a reciprocal recruiting area.

The drawbacks are many, but with teams like UCF, ECU, Houston, Memphis, Villanova and TCU you just don't know what you're getting in the long term. Sure you can have a small piece of a major market, but the enrollment or interested fan base is a huge flaw for half of those schools and the ability to become a marquee name/addition to the Big East is a flaw for all of those schools.

If the reason Villanova was granted football membership was out of convenience it can be argued that Villanova football isn't serious competition for Big East football and in time the Big East will be exposed as football pretenders. If the reason Villanova was invited to the league is because the Wildcats won a national title last year that's relevant too, but Delaware claims six. As you can imagine there is a lot of pro-Delaware information on the Delaware Football Wikipedia page so if you're interested in finding even more advocacy of the #1 Blue Hens - check there.

The Big East would be well served to keep its top coaches. Over the last 4 seasons we've seen coaches find great success in the Big East only to be hired away by other football teams in other leagues. Cincinnati's Brian Kelly,  Louisille's Bobby Petrino and West Virginia's Rich Rodriguez all come to mind. That isn't to say that these coaches would have continued their success at the extremely high level that they achieved when they were in the Big East, but it speaks to the lack of loyalty that has eroded the stability of the Big East's top teams.

When you look at Delaware you see a program that is obviously doing something right. K.C. Keeler is a Delaware guy and while he is a frequent mention for elite jobs in Div. 1-A he doesn't feel the need to chase a paycheck - Keeler is home, and he'll be welcome at Delaware as long as he wants to stay. If Delaware jumps they would join the Big East with bona fide credentials, championship pedigree and stability at the top spot - no other prospective Big East candidate boasts that. It wouldn't be easy for any team to move up to Div. 1-A, but even with DE's small recruiting footprint their coaching stability and football pedigree would let them compete for recruits in any of the Big East states. It would take some time to build those inroads into new territory, but Delaware can do it. They will not have the rich Div. 1-A transfer market that they have relied upon lately, but Delaware certainly have a lot more in terms of football infrastructure (not athletic $$$) than Connecticut did when they made the jump.

Lastly is probably the least significant of all of the reasons why Delaware fits in a 9 or 10 team Big East: culture. I say it's the least important only because of the variety of institutions that reside in the Big East right now. There are the BE football members, public and private schools with varying academic reputations juxtaposed with the basketball-only BE members, typically small catholic schools whose athletic budgets focus mainly on Big East basketball. Academically, Delaware competes with the best of the BE football schools. Delaware is a land, sea, air and urban grant school with fantastic programs in a number of disciplines and an endowment of well over $1 billion. Clearly Delaware would be a welcome academic fit for the football Big East.

For all of these reasons Delaware is my top selection for inclusion into the Big East. The bad news for this plan is that Delaware just doesn't have the TV market that the Big East needs to make a big money ESPN deal. While it is questionable as to whether Houston or TCU can actually deliver their potentially lucrative markets - at least they are each attached to top 10 TV markets. The other main drawback of Delaware is that their basketball would probably not be invited to the conference and would have to continue play in the CAA or jump to the Atlantic-10. Personally, I don't care for basketball but that would rule out a bunch of potential revenue for the Delaware athletic program if they couldn't get Blue Hens basketball into the rich basketball Big East.

Delaware to me is the clear choice to join the Big East but I admit that I'm biased. The television dollars are stacked against them but no other prospective Big East member has the mix of football tradition, academic excellence, institutional financial backing and program stability - all of which makes Delaware not just "an" eastern football power, but the eastern football power. Ruling out the Big East membership of Boston College, Penn State and Maryland, the only other eastern team worth a damn is Delaware.

You heard it here, Big East - now make it happen.


Week, um... 12 Blogpoll Rough Draft

I feel pretty strong about this one... At about #17 or so it gets pretty cloudy. I can't really rationalize dropping Virginia Tech those couple of spots while elevating the other 2 loss teams around them, but that James Madison loss continues to stand out - in my mind at least.

I toyed with placing Southern Miss in there as well as Texas A&M , but at this point I don't think it matters too much. If you disagree with placements #11 on down drop a comment and I can switch a few things up.

The Unbalanced Line Ballot - Week 12

Rank Team Delta
1 Oregon Ducks --
2 Auburn Tigers Arrow_up 1
3 TCU Horned Frogs Arrow_down -1
4 Boise St. Broncos --
5 Stanford Cardinal --
6 Ohio St. Buckeyes --
7 LSU Tigers Arrow_up 1
8 Michigan St. Spartans Arrow_up 1
9 Wisconsin Badgers Arrow_down -2
10 Nebraska Cornhuskers --
11 Oklahoma St. Cowboys --
12 Arkansas Razorbacks Arrow_up 1
13 Missouri Tigers Arrow_up 9
14 Alabama Crimson Tide Arrow_up 5
15 Oklahoma Sooners Arrow_up 5
16 Virginia Tech Hokies Arrow_down -1
17 Nevada Wolf Pack Arrow_up 1
18 South Carolina Gamecocks Arrow_up 5
19 Temple Owls Arrow_up 2
20 Iowa Hawkeyes Arrow_down -6
21 Miami Hurricanes --
22 Florida St. Seminoles --
23 Hawaii Warriors --
24 Mississippi St. Bulldogs Arrow_down -7
25 Utah Utes Arrow_down -13
Dropouts: Arizona Wildcats, Central Florida Knights, North Carolina Tar Heels
SB Nation BlogPoll College Football Top 25 Rankings »

What It Means to Beat Kent State

Sunday, November 14, 2010

So Army secured their sixth win of the season which will very likely include the reward of a trip to some bowl somewhere - all of which is a significant achievement for the Black Knights and fulfillment of one of the season's biggest goals.

The thing is - nothing is in hand yet. No bowl bid, no winning season, and only the most basic of the season's goals and as of right now - only by the slimmest of margins.

3. Banner year for the service academies. Army (6-4) became bowl eligible for the first time since 1996 after beating Kent State 45-28, joining Navy and Air Force in going to a bowl game this year. Army, Navy and Air Force have never played in a bowl game in the same season. Army does not have a bowl tie-in but is a backup for the Armed Forces Bowl and Military Bowl, while Navy (7-3) is headed to the Poinsettia Bowl and Air Force will go to a Mountain West tie-in.

Which is not to diminish what the 2010 Army team has done so far, 6 wins is more than the team was able to do in Rich Ellerson's first year, but at this point not a whole lot to gloat about.

On a November Saturday that was just perfect for football, the Army Black Knights played their best game of the season, rushing for 223 yards and six touchdowns while defeating Kent State 45-28 before 17,222 fans at Dix Stadium.

If that was truly Army's best effort things aren't looking so good for next week's game against a Notre Dame. Consistent, frustrating defensive lapses kept the Golden Flashes in a game that Kent State could realistically have been shut out of. 

The bowl forecast? Murky, but mostly optimistic.

I'm not going to go too far into guessing what teams will finish where, but you have to like Army's chances to land their first bowl bid in 14 years.

I now count 54 teams that are already bowl eligible with another 14 at either 5-4 or 5-5 (including teams like Pitt, Cal, SMU, Notre Dame, BYU and Houston that all have pretty good chances of getting there). That's 68 teams for the 70 available bowl slots.

Looking ahead and looking at things like W/L record, probable wins, and likely bowl games despite all of the current confusion is a lot easier than finding an immediate answer to Army's problems on the defensive side of the ball in pass coverage. With 5-5 Notre Dame ahead at Yankee Stadium, defending the passing attack is clearly the biggest concern at this point. Win or lose, the bowl thing will work itself out, but beating Notre Dame at new Yankee Stadium will earn the Black Knights a lot more than a bowl berth. Now two years in, Rich Ellerson is still looking for that signature win. If Army wants to start stacking up against the likes of Navy - or even Air Force for that matter, following Navy's example and making a habit of embarrasing the Irish becomes the next coveted step for Ellerson's body of work at Army.

Six wins for Army, ok great they got 'em. Does Army lay down at Yankee Stadium and wait for a bowl bid?.. or do they line up against Notre Dame and take a bowl bid?

We know the response, but now we wait to see the result.

Here's your Army/Kent State story and stats.



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