Sunday, May 19, 2024

Army Football Preview: 2023 Season Preview (Second Quarter)

Last week we saw Army’s first three opponents. This week, we’ll take a look at their second three.

2023 Season Preview Series

— Army Football Preview: 2023 Season Preview (First Quarter)

2023 Season Preview: Second Quarter

Week 4: at Syracuse Orange

2022 Record: 7-6 (4-4 in ACC Atlantic; Lost to Minnesota in Pinstripe Bowl)
SP+: +4.7 (52)
FPI: +7.6 (34)

Starting QB Garrett Schrader is back, but he’s lost both of his starting games, as well as star RB Sean Tucker along with his offensive coordinator. Schrader finished 205/317 passing for 2,640 yards (64.7%) with 17 touchdowns against just 7 interceptions in 2022, but he also picked up 33 sacks. Former QB coach Jason Beck is now the Orange OC, so the scheme shouldn’t change much, but the team may still need to look for some solutions in the run game. ‘Cuse got off to a hot start in 2022 and generally looked good when they were able to hit the rock, but they couldn’t sustain large-scale success. They won their first six games, but then lost the next five. They have some nice receivers and some more offensive weapons, but they’ll need to find consistency to make it all work.

Defensively, the Orange return 10 of 14 players who have played at least 300 snaps. They have also brought in 73-year-old Rocky Long as their new defensive coordinator. Long is supposed to be a blitz specialist, and he’s coming in to take over a defense that allowed less than 150 yards/game at 3.7 yards per game. All things considered, it’s no surprise then that the defense seemed to outscore the offense in their spring game, especially considering Schrader was out with an injury.

Syracuse probably has all the right pieces, but they play in a competitive conference against strong competition. We’ll have to wait and see how this all plays out.

Projected Line: Army (+17.9)

Interestingly, SP+ and FPI disagree on Syracuse by almost three full points. That’s a lot! More than anything, it shows the extent to which Power 5 Bias is alive and well in the College Football Playoff Selection Committee.

FPI likes the ‘Cuse because they play in the ACC. PS+ is less convinced.

Week 5: Bye week

Week 6: Boston College Eagles

2022 record: 3-9 (2-6 in ACC Atlantic)
SP+: -4.3 (74)
FPI: -2.9 (74)

It doesn’t seem that long ago that Boston College was a perennial college football power, but looking at the stats, it’s now been 16 years since the Eagles won games by double digits. That was in 2007, which was the same year the Eagles last posted a winning record in the ACC. Coach Jeff Hafley came to the program in 2020 and has since gone 6-5, 6-6 and 3-9.

It may not be Halfey’s fault. His team had a hell of a time keeping quarterbacks healthy last year, and when the wheels finally fell off against UConn, that was no small part of the reason why. Granted, it doesn’t help that his defense struggled to stop the run, giving up almost 170 yards/game on the ground plus 25 rushing touchdowns on nearly 4.4 yards/carry.

It looks like QB Emmett Morehead will start this season, developing a short passing game. He seems to have seen Good in the spring game, especially considering his running game struggled against BC’s defense. However, if I were a Boston College fan, this would not excite me.

It looks like the Eagles still have work to do. Granted, they have time now to figure things out before the season starts.

Projected Line: Army (+2.1)

If the line in this game stays less than a field goal, then it’s hard not to like the Black Knights’ chances. After all, this is the same BC team that dropped a road game in Stores, Connecticut, last year in which they were physically attacked at times on both sides of the ball.

We’ll see how things go during the season, but if I was going to play for Army, I’d have it already circled on my calendar.

Week 7: Trojans of Troy

2022 Record: 12-2 (7-1 in Sun Belt-West; Beat UTSA in Cure Box)
SP+: -0.6 (64)
FPI: -2.2 (69)

I didn’t like Troy’s offense last year, but boy, was their defense okay so good. no one ran over them. The Trojans lost to Ole Miss and App. State, but after that, they were perfect. In head coach Jon Sumrall’s first season, they won the Sun Belt, beat a great UTSA team in their bowl game and ended up finishing 19th overall in the AP Poll.

This marked the school’s best finish.

The Trojans have plenty of returning pieces, including QB Gunnar Watson, RB Kimani Vidal and WR Jabre Barber. Honestly, they need to improve offensively. Troy’s defense loses All-American LB Carlton Martial, but returns NT Buddha Jones and CB Reddy Steward along with a host of other good players along the D-Line.

Troy has the talent and experience in place to win the Sun Belt again and possibly make a push for a New Year’s Six Bowl. However, they certainly won’t come close to anyone in 2023. We’ll see if that makes a difference at some point next season.

Projected Line: Army (+4.3)

Even with all that, the Black Knights were still within a 40-yard missed field goal of winning the game in Troy last year. But because they missed the kick, the perception is that Troy had it LOT best team. On the pitch, however, I don’t think that was true.

It’s also interesting, because again the difference between SP+ and FPI is almost three full points. This tells us that, ultimately, Troy will need a lot of help if they want to get into a nationally prominent bowl game. The Selection Committee is unlikely to do them any favours.

Final Thoughts

We haven’t even begun breaking down Army’s team yet, but based on this list of Phil Steele’s all-independent picks alone, it’s hard not to be optimistic.

With that in mind, we said last week that we’d know what Army team we’d have right out of the gate. This remains true. This part of the season then gives the Black Knight a chance excel. They have two potentially winnable games against Power 5 opponents plus a winnable home game against one of the best teams in the Group of 5.

Is this a guarantee of success?

It is clearly not.

Still, it’s an opportunity to show what this team can really do on a series of prominent national stages. At this point, that’s all we can ask for.

Cover image via USMA Flickr.

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