Army took care of UTEP in a game that was closer than Jeff Monken would have liked before kickoff. The Black Knights needed the win after dropping two in a row and now the team travels to Texas to take on Rice in Houston. The Owls are 1-4 on the season and have been blown out in three of those games (Stanford, Houston, and Pitt).
Here are the three keys to this one:
Win the turnover battle
There are two areas of this team that Monken will be disappointed with as we approach the sixth game of the year. One of those is turnovers. Army has been bad at taking the ball away from the opposition and the Black Knights have compounded that by turning the ball over way too often for a ball control based offense. That Army is somehow 3-2 despite this problem is a testament to how good the Black Knights have been when they have been clicking on offense and taken care of the ball.
The interesting part of this matchup is that the Black Knights are playing against a Rice team that has also been pretty miserable in this regard. Rice and Army are tied with just three takeaways apiece heading into the showdown between the two. The only way Rice can stay in this contest is if Army continues its turnover woes. Winning the turnover battle would make it very difficult for the Owls to stay in range here.
Keep playing solid defense
The ironic part about the Black Knights lack of takeaways is that the defense has actually been pretty good in 2017. Army ranks 36th in scoring defense as they allow just 20.6 points per game. This has been through a combination of denying the big play and employing the bend but don’t break principles that see the defense tighten up within the red zone. This is shown as Army has allowed just right touchdowns to its opponents on their 15 trips inside the Black Knights’ 20-yard line.
If we are going on a purely statistical analysis then that red zone efficiency and scoring defense ability should hold in this game. Rice only moves the ball 4.6 yards per play – Army is at 6.0 – and they have the second-worst scoring offense in the country. Rice has played some decent Power 5 opponents, but they aren’t exactly playing Alabama every week. Even so, their 11.6 points per game so far this season is going to make it very difficult to win.
Run the ball
There is no need to get cute in this one. Rice does not have the personnel on defense to stop the option attack, so Army needs to run the ball early and keep blasting away with the triple-option until the Rice defense disappears. Army goes into this one ranking third nationally with 363.6 rushing yards per game. This is an outstanding number, but it is a number that could be much higher if Ahmad Bradshaw and the rest of the Army offense was just a little better at holding onto the ball.
Rice allowed nearly 300 yards rushing to Stanford in its opener, but they have allowed less than 100 yards in every game since. Much of this is because those teams had their way with the Owls through the air, but the Army attack brings a different challenge that Rice will not be able to stop.
Saturday’s game kicks off at 6:30 pm CT and can be seen on