Key Matchups: Army vs. Oklahoma

Army Players Celebrate

The fourth game of the year matches Army West Point Black Knights (2-1, Sagarin 69) and the Big 12 Oklahoma Sooners (3-0, Sagarin 3).  This is the fourth meeting between these teams, with the Sooners leading the series two games to one. 

 

The last time that these teams played was 1961 and Oklahoma beat Army 14-8 in New York City. Army is coming off a good victory against a good Hawaii team.  Oklahoma is ranked third in the country and was able to maintain a feisty Iowa State team.  This will obviously be Army’s toughest game of the year, while this will be Oklahoma’s final non-conference game.

Last week

At Michie

Kelvin Hopkins passed for 162 yards and ran for 110 and two touchdowns as Army was just good enough to hold off the Warriors and win their ninth consecutive home game 28-21.  The Army defense broke a couple of times but exceeded all expectations and contained one of the better offenses in college football.

The Army Offense had shades of brilliance that were marred by penalties.  Army had 465 yards in total offense and held the ball for 41:38. Hopkins lead the team with 110 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries.  Darnell Woolfolk gained 70 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. Connor Slomka rushed for 62 yards on nine carries, highlighted by an 18 yard touchdown run in the second quarter.

We expected the Warrior middle to be soft, but they proved to be much tougher.  Army continually pounded the ball in the A gaps and found little success.  The fullback dive to the B gap confused Hawaii and led to most of the large gains.  Hopkins athletic ability helped tremendously as there were several plays where he either slipped or turned out of a tackle to make a positive yard play and keep the offense moving forward.  What makes Hopkins exceptional is his throwing ability; he was 6/10 and converted four third downs via the pass.  The after-game press conference showed him as a tremendous representative of West Point – he is very hard not to like.

Army had four illegal block or holding penalties.  Bryce Holland seems to be having great difficulty not throwing cut blocks beyond the line of scrimmage.  If the cut blocks, chop blocks and holding calls had not happened, Army would have won this game easily.  However, these penalties called back scores, first downs and ended drives.  The offense was sensational for the exception of these.

The Army defense was truly spectacular.  They limited Hawaii to 362 total yards.  Cole McDonald was 20/32 for two touchdowns.  He made a beautiful 80 yard throw to John Ursua in the fourth quarter, but he was relatively contained throughout the game.  The most interesting statistic was that Hawaii was only 1/7 on third downs and 0/2 on fourth.  Coach Jay Bateman called a wonderful game and he was a step ahead of the Hawaii offensive staff the entire game.  I think having Navy play them earlier in the year was of great benefit.

Landon Salyers had another kick blocked.  This was a short 27 yard field goal at the end of the first half.  Rolovich called two time outs before the snaps and it seemed as though the line was not ready for the third snap, anticipating another time out call.  There was good penetration and the kick was low.  The defense may be figuring out the Army snap count on kicks.  Coach Mike Krysi needs to ensure that this team has the confidence to execute.  Army will need a field goal at some point this season.

This should have been a comfortable Army win, once they get the chop and illegal blocks under control, the cadets will be hard to stop.

In Ames, IA

Kyler Murray threw for 348 yards and three touchdowns and the Sooners held off the Cyclones 37-27.  Iowa State (0-2, 0-1) kept it close, rallying from a 14-point deficit to make it 34-27 late in the third quarter. But the Sooners killed nearly eight minutes on a drive that ended with a 42-yard field goal from Austin Seibert with 2:51 left, and Parnell Motley’s interception with 1:11 to go sealed it.

Oklahoma gained 519 yards in total offense and gained 171 yards rushing.  Iowa State gained 447 yards in total offense.  Backup Zeb Noland threw for a career-high 360 yards and a pair of long touchdown passes to Hakeem Butler.

The Sooners ran 68 plays, held the ball for 34:11 and only had one turn-over.  They limited Iowa State to 3.0 yards per rushing attempt.

Who is favored?

Oklahoma is favored by 31 points

What to look for?

Last week I mentioned that Cole McDonald will be a Heisman candidate.  Kyler Murray, on the other hand, may very well be this year’s Heisman Trophy recipient.  He can run and throw against the best of defenses and will certainly play at the next level.  Obviously, this will present problems for the cadets.  Jay Bateman is very a good coach, however I don’t know if scheme is going to be enough.

The #5 Sooner Offense is averaging 551.3 yards per game.  The opponents have been Florida Atlantic, UCLA and Iowa State.  While Army may have the athletes comparable to Florida Atlantic, UCLA and Iowa State are a little different.  They average 5.9 yards per rush and 16.7 yards per catch.  If there is a kink in the armor, it would be that they are only converting 58% of their third down attempts.

The Sooner Defense is averaging 384.7 yards per game, but only 116 yards rushing yards for an average of 2.9 per carry.  Army is averaging 446.7 yards per game, but 306.7 on the ground.  Army has run 44% (69) more plays than their opponents.

Army is a 31 point underdog and no one expects them to stay in this game.  They look to be outclassed on both sides of the ball.  I doubt if the Sooners will spend much time getting ready for the triple option as this is the only time that they will see it this year.  Coming off a tough game against Iowa State, I could see a letdown against Army.  I also doubt if they have an interest in running up the score to embarrass the cadets.

It will be interesting to see if Army will be able to move the ball on this defense.   They are not much bigger than the Duke Defensive Line, but they appear to be faster and more athletic.  I think that Army will have success on the ground, run for 250 yards and win the time of possession.  Oklahoma will beat Army long and with the quarterback run, however they will stop Oklahoma a handful of times.  If Army can make this an eight-possession game, this could be interesting at the half.  If the Black Knights go three and out in their first two possessions, this game will get out of hand early.

I can’t see Oklahoma taking Army seriously.  I can see Army playing a very good game and keeping it close for a while.

Final Score – Oklahoma 35 – Army 14 (predictions in 2018, 2-1)

The telecast is owned by Fox Sports and right now it is only available via Pay Per View.  However, my sources tell me that the game will be televised on some regional Fox channels for those with DirecTV.  The game will kick off at 7:00 PM EDT.

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