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Friday, June 21, 2024

Army Football Preview: First Look at 2024 (First Quarter)

Lacrosse season is over, Army Baseball has won the Patriot League Championship for an incredible sixth straight time, and we now have about 100 days until the start of college football season. That still seems like an unbearably long time. Experience shows, however, that the time flies.

This series will start our post-spring look at the coming season, going three games at a time.

Friday, Aug. 30: Lehigh Mountain Hawks 

FCS Lehigh went 2-9 last season, 1-5 in the Patriot League. That put them 6th in their conference, owing mostly to a defense that gave up a ton of points both through the air and on the ground. 

The coming season will mark the team’s second under Head Coach Kevin Cahill. The team had at least one long touchdown pass during their Brown & White spring game last month, and they’d obviously like to take that next step in their conference in 2024. However, they have a long way to go just to be competitive in the Patriot League, much less on the road at Michie Stadium in Week 1.

“It’s hard, and that’s what Coach Cahill is preaching to us right now. You know, winning is hard. Being the level of program we want to be is hard. So, you’ve got to embrace it and come out here every day. If you want to make an excuse, there’s excuses there but the great programs really push everything aside and just get after it.”

 — Lehigh QB Dante Perri

Army’s opening game kicks off at 6:00 pm ET owing to the start of Labor Day Weekend. As always with Army home games, CBS Sports will have coverage.

Saturday, Sep. 7: at Florida Atlantic Owls

FAU finished 4-8 in 2023, 3-5 in the American Athletic Conference (AAC). That put them 10th in a then 14-team conference.

Second year Head Coach Tom Herman is looking for a “culture shift” from his team this year. That starts with a quarterback competition during summer camp alongside a team approach at the wide receiver position as the team looks to replace WR LaJohntay Wester following his transfer to Colorado. 

Of the quarterbacks, incumbent redshirt junior QB Tyriq Starks had arguably the best performance in the team’s spring game, going 9/16 passing with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. It’s still early, obviously, but at this point, Starks may well have the upper hand in the battle for the starter’s job. It helps, too, that FAU’s defense looks good so far, especially its secondary, having forced three interceptions plus turnovers on downs during the team’s scrimmage. 

“If this was our fans’ first glimpse for the 2024 season, I feel like we showed them a lot of what we were bragging about. I told the guys at the end that I was really proud of not just today, but the whole spring. When you do it as long as I have, every team feels different. This one feels really good, the buy in level is off the charts. The portal gets a bad rap, but the one good thing is that all of these guys that returned could have gone anywhere they wanted and they chose to stay here and we chose to have them stay here. There is a much deeper feel of buy-in and togetherness and hopefully you saw that today a little bit in our effort. We didn’t play perfect, but we made plays on both sides of the ball. We played with a lot of effort and physicality and that was fun to see.”

 — FAU Head Coach Tom Herman

This ought to be an interesting game. At a minimum, we ought to expect FAU to boast a decent rushing defense. Beyond that, the Black Knights caught a tough break having to go to South Florida early in the season. 

Here’s hoping for a night game.

Saturday, Sep. 14: BYE

This season has mostly well-timed byes. This one, however, comes a little early for the AFF Crew’s personal tastes.

Saturday, Sep. 21: Rice Owls 

The Rice Owls finished 6-7 last year, 4-4 in the conference. That put them 6th in the America and eligible for the First Responder Bowl following their win over FAU in their regular season finale. Alas, the Owls lost that bowl game to Texas State, 45-21.

Head Coach Mike Bloomgren somehow managed to hold nearly his entire team together through this past offseason while adding former Temple QB E.J. Warner to his offense. With nine returning defensive starters plus two-time 3000-yard passer Warner leading the offense, this team should be one of the conference’s best. Friends, this team returns 17 of 22 starters from a year ago!

Transfer portal? What Transfer Portal?!

“Everything allows you to go further faster, and that’s really true with the player-led stuff. There’s a reason it looked like football pretty early on. And when the ones were going against the ones, it usually always looked like football. There was not a whole lot of blowing assignments or self-inflicted wounds on either side of the ball.”

 — Rice Head Coach Mike Bloomgren

This will not be the Rice team that you might remember from a few years ago. This Rice team might well to contend for the conference championship. Given the talent this team returns in 2024, anything less than six wins in the conference ought to be considered a disappointment.

Final Thoughts

Army Head Coach Jeff Monken told his team during their own spring practices that he wants to get back to a bowl game and to win it. That seems like a reasonable goal. If the team is going to get there, though, they probably need to find a way to win at least two of these first three games.

Between a potentially tough late-summer road game in South Florida and a would-be sleeping giant in Rice, however, winning two of these first three will most likely not be at all easy.

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