Whenever possible Bull Run will reach out to opposition media to pick their brains about the upcoming game and each of the programs involved. This week I came across “The Unbalanced Line” A fan driven site that reminds me a lot of Bull Run’s pre-sbnation days.
Chris runs things over there and he was goodly enough to let me pick his brain.
BR: Last year the Bulls defense managed to lock down Army and most of that defense is back this year, what is new on Army's offense?
Honestly there's not much new for the Army offense, and I'm grateful for that.
Army brings back what looks to be a loaded offense this year. There is still a little bit of speculation about what the offense will look like for a couple of reasons:
First - Army's first opponent was an outmatched Fordham team, so along with the 58 point margin of victory came playing time for 40 different players, and that's just on the offensive side of the ball.
There have also been a few injuries across the offensive line, so Army hasn't really shown its top 5 linemen - but then, how do you notice a drop off when the Cadets averaged 10 yards per play in that first game? Guard Mike Houghton was extremely limited last week, but he's expected to see more of the field Saturday.
Prior to the season Army lost two experienced signal callers who were expected to contribute, so behind Bradshaw are a pair of relatively untested backups. In the past Army has played their backups fairly regularly, but if this one is close you probably won't see those guys.
BR: What are the Big names that UB fans should be looking out for?
Sr. QB Ahmad Bradshaw runs the show for the Army offense. This is his third year under center and he has been a remarkably consistent performer. He's an asset for his decision making, but the offense is designed to pound the ball inside to create and exploit a defensive weakness. It looks like Army is sharing the fullback spot between two experienced and very capable backs: Andy Davidson led the charge last year, and last week Darnell Woolfolk saw the majority of FB snaps against Fordham.I suspect you will hear both names being called this weekend.
Linebackers Kenneth Brinson and Alex Aukerman return as leaders on defense the duo combined for 11 sacks and 22 tackles for loss. If anyone is going to rattle Tyree Jackson my bet is on one of these two.
Despite a few hiccups last season was a big step up for Army. They ended by beating Navy and then winning a Bowl. It was your best season since 1996, has the program turned a corner (I ask because we still have a few games scheduled against you ;)
I like to think they have finally turned the corner, but that is best measured in games against the other service academies. Air Force absolutely owns Army (Army has just 4 wins in the last 30 years against Air Force) so there is improvement to be made on that front. While the Navy win streak was halted last December - Navy has now played themselves into two straight AAC championship games. So whether or not that's a level of success that Army wants for themselves - the perception is still that Air Force and Navy enjoy a level of success that still continues to elude Army football.
BR: With UMass and Liberty coming into ranks of the independent football team do you believe that Army is better off without a conference home?
I have long held the belief that Army is better off as an independent. Without even mentioning Army's failed experiment in the Conference USA, there are plenty of limitations to joining a conference. Scheduling is perhaps the biggest element of that. In terms of improving the Army football program, there is a lot of value for Army in being able to pick our opponents. Games in Texas and New Orleans make it possible for coaches to sneak in a few Southern recruiting trips when things like travel expense and academy scheduling put Army at a disadvantage logistically.
When we're talking about turning a program around, scheduling light is the easiest way to change fan perception from perennial losers to a team that is capable of winning.
You will notice that Army played two FCS teams in each of the past two years. That fact isn't mentioned when people talk of Army's resurgence. At best, Army just counts on two wins and they schedule six other teams that they can compete with. That's how West point has manufactured this current football renaissance. If they can knock off a Boston College or a Wake Forest outside of the likely wins that they have scheduled that's just gravy.
Navy has played for a conference championship in the last two years, but even those championship games pale in comparison to the Army/Navy game. Add in that Navy lost both games (Houston in 2015 and Temple in 2016) and also technically had less time to prep for Army - I just see diminishing value to a situation like that. That is to say, a playing a championship game at the end of the season just doesn't seem like a great reward to me. Navy found out the hard way that a championship game prior to Army/Navy is also a risk. Navy lost their QB and a starting fullback on the same play against Temple last year. The odds of that happening are low, but obviously increase with every additional play from scrimmage.