In 2018 Army completed an eleven win season that included a near upset in week four on the road at Oklahoma losing in OT 28-21. The Black Knights controlled the football averaging 11.8 plays 6:23 per drive compared to Oklahoma who had the ball for six total drives and only 15 mins. Army has a favorable 2019 schedule with their most difficult test in Ann Arbor in week two against a Michigan defense that lost a lot of star power including their anchor end (Rashan Gary), weakside end (Chase Winovich) and MLB Devin Bush.
If Army can pull off an upset in the Big House in week two, they will be in the driver seat towards an undefeated 2019 season. If Army does beat Michigan, it will come down to the same formula used a season ago against Oklahoma where Army controlled the Football and line of scrimmage converting 13/21 on 3rd down, and 4/5 on 4th downplays limiting Oklahoma's offensive possessions.
Army uses as many as five different fullbacks to attack the middle of a defense with a body blow mentality. Against the Sooners, Army did just that utilizing five different Full Backs between the tackles 39 times out of 78 total team carries (50%) opening up their triple-option attack to the outside with the speed of Kelvin Hopkins and Kell Walker who both combined for 182 of the teams 339 total rush yards.
Army played as well as they could against a Sooner offense that ranked number one nationally in scoring offense per game (48 pts) by the end of 2018. The sooners also averaged 323 passing yards per game, Army held them to 165 yards passing. The army offense protected the undersized Army defense with ball control, allowing them to remain fresh and keeping the Oklahoma offense off the field. Oklahoma had six total possessions in regulation. Army also held explosive WR Hollywood Brown without a single catch.
Army 2018 Season Long Situational Analysis:
2019 Returning Starters: 7 offense, 4 defense (11 Total)
Army returns seven starters on offense including QB Kelvin Hopkins Jr. and RB Kell Walker. Hopkins is the first Army QB in their history to have 1000 yds both rushing and passing. Army loses a 900-yard rushing FB (Darnell Woolfolk) and Center Bryce Holland who anchored the offensive line the last three seasons.
The Black Knights return four starters from a defense that ranked 10th nationally in scoring (17.7) with three of those starters returning in the secondary. The bad news is that they have to replace two dominant LB's (Alex Aukerman, James Nachtigal). The Black Knights will have to lean heavily on Senior LB Cole Christiansen who led the team with 12.5 TFL in 2018.
I became very obsessed with the 2018 Army @ Oklahoma game this past weekend after watching the game a few times. Army has had two back to back 10+ win seasons and appears headed towards their 3rd in a row. What inspired me to want to take a closer look is that they are a team that could potentially creep into the top 10 of the College Football Playoff rankings if they can upset Michigan and win out the rest of their games (no easy task).
Vegas odds makers favor Michigan as of May 31st by 17.5 pts. If I were a betting man I would take Army and the under in this match-up against a Michigan team that is talented, but replacing a lot of star power in their front seven, and will be installing a new offensive under Josh Gattis. I expect Michigan to win the Big Ten East in 2019 but not in week two where I think they will still be try to figure things out on both sides of the football. Get past Michigan and Army could be on their way to a historic 2019 season.