Series Record: Tied, 5-5
Harbaugh/Shaw Era: Have not played
Last Season: Did not play
This Season: September 14th at West Point
Believe it or not, Alabama and the SEC have not always ruled college football. There was a time when the two most dominant football programs in the land were Notre Dame and Army. Even casual fans know all about the Fighting Irish, but I'm guessing there aren't too many people under the age of sixty who know that the Black Knights were once relevant beyond just the novelty of the annual Army-Navy game.
With three consecutive national championships from 1944 to 1946, three Heisman Trophy winners (Doc Blanchard, '45; Glenn Davis, '46; and Pete Dawkins, '58), and 24 members of the College Football Hall of Fame (only Notre Dame, Michigan, USC, and Ohio State have more), Army football boasts a history that few football programs can match.
The key word there, however, is "history." The Black Knights have fallen on hard times, having played in just five bowl games in the past thirty years, and nine of the past ten coaches have losing records, stretching back through Homer Smith's 21-33-1 record from 1974-1978. This prolonged lack of success has led some to suggest that Army should no longer play football at the Division I level, but there are no indications that the Black Knights will be stepping down any time soon.
When Stanford travels to West Point on September 14th, they'll face a team that will run, run, and run some more. Last season the Black Knights led the nation in rushing with an amazing 369.8 yards per game, but that yardage did not translate to success. They finished a disappointing 2-10, their only wins coming against Boston College and the Air Force Academy.
To take a closer look at Army, I reached out to Sal Interdonato, who covers the Black Knights for Army Football Insider. So pull up a chair and take a listen as Sal tells you all you need to know.
Last season was a difficult one for the Black Knights, as they finished 2-10, but they almost beat BCS-busting Northern Illinois, losing 41-40 early in the season. On the other hand, they suffered a decisive loss to Stony Brook from the FCS. What went wrong for Army football in 2012?
Only three FBS teams lost more fumbles than Army (20) last season. The Black Knights started off slow in seven of their 12 games being outscored in the first quarter. The defense consistently missed assignments and was a poor-tackling team last season.
Stanford rushed for a respectable 2,440 yards last season, but Army rushed for almost exactly two thousand more than that. Is it all option, all the time for Army on offense?
Last season, Army averaged 67 rushes and threw less than 10 passes per game. This season, Army has the ability the throw more often and try to keep nine defenders out of the box. Junior quarterback Angel Santiago has improved on his passing, especially down the field. Junior wide receiver Chevaughn Lawrence developed into a steady target last season. Freshman Xavier Moss is a talent, who can stretch the field, a weapon Army hasn't had in the past four seasons under Rich Ellerson.
What are the realistic expectations for Army this season?
Realistic expectations are Army will be a better team than last season. The Black Knights have plenty of returning talent of both sides of the ball. Raymond Maples is a two-time 1,000-yard rusher. Safety Geoff Bacon was eighth in the nation in tackles last season.
Is Army a bowl team?
If the Black Knights fix their ball security issues and are fundamentally sound on defense, they are on the cusp of a bowl season. They will have to improve their play on the road. Army hasn't won away from Michie Stadium since Dec. 30, 2010 (Armed Forces Bowl, 16-14 over SMU in Dallas), a 12-game stretch. A telling game will be at Ball State on September 7, a week before the Stanford game. Ball State has averaged 39 points per game in wins over Army the last two seasons.
Finally, we've heard that there are few experiences in college football that compare to a home game at West Point. What is gameday like at West Point?
A full-dressed cadet parade takes place about three hours before kickoff on the Plain. Black Knights Alley, located between Michie Stadium and Lusk Reservior, has live music, Army's pregame radio show, and activities for kids such as face-painting. Occasionally, Army tactical vehicles will be on display in the Alley. Cadets march onto the field with their companies before kickoff. If the weather is right, a parachute team will land with the game ball at midfield.