Key Matchups: Army vs. Michigan

Michigan Stadium

The second game of the year matches the Army West Point Black Knights (1-0, Sagarin 73) and the Big Ten East Michigan Wolverines (1-0, Sagarin 6).

Background

This is the tenth meeting between these teams, with the Black Knights leading the series 5-4.  However, the Wolverines have won the last four, with the last one coming in 1962.  Both teams won their first game of the season, but neither met the expectations of their fan base. This game may be the most important for Army in the past 50 years, as a win legitimizes the program in the top 25.  A loss relegates them to an RPI in the 50s and a pre-Christmas bowl game.

Last week

At Michie

The Army Defense was awesome, limiting the Rice Owl Offense to 243 total yards and one touchdown.  The Army Defense did give up two plays that accounted for more than one third of the Owls total yards.  Army allowed one 54-yard run by Running Back Nashone Ellerbe, but for the rest of the game were very stout.  In total, the Owls ran 44 offensive plays.  Senior Linebacker Cole Christiansen had seven tackles, Senior Safety Cam Jones and Sophomore Linebacker Arik Smith had six each.  Senior Safety Jaylon Mclinton, Senior Safety Elijah Riley and Junior Corner Javhari Bourdeau each had a pass break-up.

Kelvin HopkinsThe Army offense was less than spectacular gaining only 231 yards rushing and 284 total yards.  What was surprising were the new players that Rice had on the defensive line.  Defensive Linemen Myles Adams (6-2,285) and Elijah Garcia (6-5, 290) thwarted the fullback dive and Sophomore Linebacker Antonio Montero (6-0, 222), who had 11 tackles, seemed to know where every play was going before the snap.  Overall, Rice was very well prepared for this game.  They were not surprised by the triple option and were very stout.  If their offense had been able to help them in the least, they may have delivered a stunning upset.

I read in the AP game summary that Senior Quarterback Kelvin Hopkins had a less than stellar game.  I would argue that Army won the game because Kelvin Hopkins’ ability to manage the game.  Hopkins gained 80 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.  Many of those yards were gained after initial hits and his ability to cut back against the grain on keepers.  Hopkins was 3/8 passing for 53 yards and a touchdown, however four of those incomplete passes were intentionally thrown incomplete as he chose not to force passes when his receivers were covered.  His 17-yard touchdown throw to Senior Running Back Kell Walker was the difference in the game. A lesser quarterback at the helm may have led to a different outcome.

Army was consistently in the hole with starting positions on the 6, 20, 5, 18, 26, 25, 27, 2, 4 and 26 yard line.  Senior Punter Zach Potter averaged 43.8 yards per punt and really helped to battle the poor field positions.  Freshman Kicker, Cole Talley, successfully converted both extra points and seems to have a really big leg; I can’t wait to see him kick a field goal.

In Ann Arbor

Michigan gained 453 total yards (220 passing/233 rushing) and cruised to an easy first week win against the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders.  The Michigan Defense only allowed 301 total yards and 67 rushing yards on 28 carries for an average of 2.4 yards per carry.

Michigan unveiled its no-huddle, spread offense and even though, plagued by mental and physical mistakes, it was still fairly effective.  “We shot ourselves in the foot at times with pre-snap penalties and mishandling the ball,” coach Jim Harbaugh said.

The Blue Raiders took advantage of two turnovers, scoring TDs after recovering both fumbles.

Freshman Quarterback, Asher O’Hara ran for an 18-yard touchdown after Michigan Senior Quarterback Shae Patterson lost a fumble on a run to give the Blue Raiders a 7-0 lead. O’Hara threw a 2-yard pass for a score to Junior Jarrin Pierce after Senior Lavert Hill fumbled on a punt return to pull them within 10 points late in the first half.  “We didn’t back down,” coach Rick Stockstill said. “We didn’t flinch, but we didn’t play good enough to beat the number seven team in the country.”

Michigan pulled away in the second half, leading 40-14 after Junior running Quarterback Dylan McCaffrey’s 6-yard run late in the third quarter and Sophomore Ben Van Sumeren’s 1-yard run with 6:37 remaining in the game.

Throwing Quarterback Shae Patterson was 17/29 for 203 yards and two touchdowns.  McCaffrey was 2/2 for 17 yards passing and ran for 42 yards and a touchdown.

Michigan’s Zach Charbonnet ran for 90 yards on eight carries in his college debut.  “I thought he played really well in protecting, seeing the holes, making the cuts, protecting the ball,” Harbaugh said. “Looked like a very experienced back to me. The stage wasn’t too big for him.”

Who is favored?

Michigan is favored by 23 points.

What to look for?

 

Army ran for 231 yards on 56 carries for an average of 4.1 yards.  This was buoyed by a 35-yard reverse by Senior Receiver Christian Hayes.  Army held the ball for 34:51 and scored on drives of 95 and 96 yards.  Junior Fullback Sandon McCoy gained 70 yards on 20 carries.  The Black Knights wore down the Owl defense in the second half, but McCoy committed a fumble that cut short a promising drive.  Rice was big, athletic and ready for the triple option.

Michigan, while having a much more dynamic and faster defense, is not nearly as big up front as Rice.  Their three linemen Sophomore Aiden Hutchinson (6-6, 258 ), Junior Donovan Jeeter (6-5, 250)and Senior Carlo Kemp (6-3, 230) are significantly smaller than the Rice defensive front.  We don’t know if the new Army offensive line needs to gel, if Senior Fullback Connor Slomka (6-0, 240) was missed or if Rice was simply prepared, big and good or if they will be shut down by the smaller, faster Wolverine defense.  We will know a couple snaps into the game.  It is clear, that if the Army offense cannot create holes for the fullback dive, it will be hard for Army to compete in this game.

The Army Team’s defense looked fantastic.  Will they be as effective against a team that scored 40 points on 453 total yards against Middle Tennessee State?  It will be interesting to see how the 404 Tite defense matches up against the no-huddle spread of Michigan.  Will Patterson throw to Riley’s side of the field?  Historically, Army has had really issues with quick, athletic Quarterbacks and McCaffrey should have a good day.

Army will have to control the ball and keep it away from the Michigan Offense.  If they give Michigan more than seven possessions in the game, they will most likely lose.

I think Army will be much more effective on Offense and will hold the ball for 35 minutes or greater.  I believe that the defense will contain Michigan on half of their drives.  Army will need a couple of turn-overs to have a chance to win.  Either way, they will keep it close.

Final Score – Michigan 28 – Army 14(predictions in 2019, 0-1)

This game will be shown on Fox at 12:00 PM EDT.

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