2011 Record: (3-9)
Head Coach: Rich Ellerson (75-63 All-Time, 15-22 at Army)
Last Bowl Game: 2010 Armed Forces Bowl: beat SMU 16-14
BCS Conference Foes: 9/22 at Wake Forest, 10/6 vs Boston College, 11/17 vs Temple
Must Win: 9/29 vs Stony Brook
Stat to Cheer: 12th in Nation with 36.3 penalty yards per game
Stat to Fear: Opponents scored on 88.1% of red zone possessions (104th in Nation); opponents had a 73.81% TD rate which was 114th in Nation
Key Defensive Returnees: S Thomas Holloway (76 tackles), LB Geoffrey Bacon (60 tackles), CB Tyler Dickson (60 tackles)
Key Offensive Returnees: QB Trent Steelman (645 yds rushing, 12 TD), RB Raymond Maples (1066 yds, 4 TD), OG Frank Allen
Inside Scoop with The Unbalanced Line:
CFBZ: Army took a step back in 2011 and finished at 3-9. What were the primary reasons Army lost four wins from 2010 to 2011?
The Unbalanced Line: First of all thanks for the forum, this is a great website. Army went 5-0 on the road in 2010 and more than reversed that going 0 for 6 on their road trips last year. In those 6 road games the Black Knight lost 8 net turnovers. If they took care of the ball, I’m certain some of those games would have gone Army’s way. There were a couple of games that got out of reach early, but Army could have been competitive in most of those away games if they had hung on to the football. Army also had a lot of injuries last year.
CFBZ: What do you see as the strengths of this team?
The Unbalanced Line: Led by Trent Steelman the offense should be potent. It’s Steelman’s fourth year as a starter and the Black Knights starting backfield returns intact, considering injuries to QB Trent Steelman and RB Jared Hassin this season is a shot at redemption for last year’s nation leading runners.
CFBZ: Outside of Air Force and Navy, what games on the schedule this season does the fanbase want to win the most?
The Unbalanced Line: The Air Force and Navy games speak for themselves – Army hasn’t beaten either Air Force or Navy in Rich Ellerson’s tenure. Realistically any six non-service academy wins would equal just one win against either of the other two academies. I can’t speak for the fanbase, but one game I would like to see Army win – Rutgers. The Black Knights have lost 8 straight to Rutgers, which to me – a recovering fan of the Big East – just seems crazy.
CFBZ: What is your gut feeling on the final record for 2012 and what makes the season successful in your eyes?
The Unbalanced Line: Looking at the results of last season Army has a lot of ground to make up. The Black Knights desperately need a win against a service academy team, but one win alone won’t define success. A successful season is a winning season, even though a 6-6 record does get Army into the Military bowl. In previous years Army has needed to gain six wins before the late-season Navy game. I’m not sure whether a win against Navy this season would end up counting toward Army’s bowl eligibility but I think Army is capable of winning 6 before the Army/Navy game. I think that just placing the team in a bowl game wouldn’t be enough to define this year’s Army team. The service academy games will ultimately be what Army is judged on. Can the Black Knights capture CIC bragging rights? To most Army fans, that is what would qualify as a good season.
The last Army head coach to post a winning career record was Jim Young (1983-1990) as he went 51-39-1 in his tenure. Rich Ellerson is the sixth coach since then and he got off to a really good start in his first two years as he posted a 12-13 mark which was a substantial upgrade over Stan Brock’s 6-18. Last year, Army took a step back in the win-loss record as they won just three games.
As mentioned in our Q&A, Army had a ton of injuries last year. According to Phil Steele, Army had 51 starts lost to injury. Typically this means that Army should have a pretty good turnaround this year provided that they can stay healthy. Another thing that’s looking up for Army is the experience that they return. Due to the injuries last year, a lot of players gained experience that will be vital for Army this season. The last trifecta of feel-good for Army is their schedule. When you look up and down their schedule there isn’t one game where they play a team that totally out-classes them. Sure they’ve had their challenges against some of their foes but when you toughest game could be against Wake Forest, Temple, San Diego State or Rutgers then you have a pretty easy schedule when you compare it across the board. While the schedule is easy, they do play eleven straight games before getting two weeks off to prepare for Navy so fatigue could be something to watch as they come up on the last few week before the open dates.
Service academies are tough to judge because they simply don’t get the same types of recruits that traditional college football teams do. What we can do is look at some of the returning talent on offense and we can project that Army should be improved this season on that side of the football. One thing to watch is the defense. Last year they gave up more points than in any year since 2007. Army’s run defense was among the worst in the Nation last year (100th in yards allowed) and I’m not sure it gets better this season. Army will struggle to stop teams that can run the ball well (Air Force, Navy, NIU, Temple). The hope for Army is that Trent Steelman can stay healthy and he can lead a re-vitalized offense to a higher point than they’ve been in recent years.
2012 Prediction: 6-6
Previous 2012 Previews:
Big 12: Kansas