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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

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

This post marks the third in our series previewing Army’s 2024 opponents as they head into summer training camp. Head Coach Jeff Monken told his team during their own spring camp that he wanted to get back to a bowl game and win it. The schedule looks largely favorable, especially through the early going, but as the leaves begin to change, things might well get tougher for the Black Knights of the Hudson.

If you missed the first two parts of this series, you can find part one here and part two here.

Saturday, Oct. 19: East Carolina Pirates

The Pirates underachieved in some frustrating ways in 2023 despite having a seemingly talented team, at least on defense. They finished 2-10 overall and just 1-7 in the American, putting them dead last in the conference.

This was not the plan.

Head Coach Mike Houston enters his sixth season at East Carolina this year. He led the team to back-to-back bowl games in 2021 and 2022, but then his offense all but collapsed in 2023. The team now has a new Offensive Coordinator in John Davis Baker, and QBs Katin Houser and Jake Garcia both reportedly looked good during the team’s spring game. The Pirates’ new offense runs at a faster pace now as well. We’ll see how that looks once the actual season starts. 

“I love the offense, I love it. It’s awesome. Just being able to move fast, it honestly feels like a fast break in basketball. Like you’re a point guard back there and you have options. Either you hand the ball off or you could just spin it out there.”

 — Missouri junior transfer QB Jake Garcia

The Pirates’ Purple team defense shut out the Gold team during the spring game’s second half, so ECU’s overall defensive efficiency probably won’t regress too far from where they were last season. This from a team that gave up just 22 points/game in 2023. If this Pirates team can also make their offense work, they might become the most improved squad in the American overall.

Saturday, Oct. 26: BYE

This bye comes immediately before Army’s home game against the Zoomies.

Saturday, Nov. 2: Air Force Falcons 

Air Force might struggle this year. Though the Falcons looked like world-beaters through much of last season, the wheels came off when they hosted Army at Mile High Stadium in Denver last November, and they never quite recovered. Despite starting 8-0, the Falcons finished just 9-4, 5-3 in the Mountain-West. They capped the regular season by missing their conference championship despite that truly amazing undefeated start. 

Honestly, these guys suffered through one spectacular collapse.

2024 will be a new year, and this Falcons team will be an entirely new crew. In fact, the Zoomies will return just *5* players who started more than six games in 2023. Fully 40 players off of last year’s squad graduated. This Falcons team will be the least experienced team in all of FBS football this season.

Ouch!

“We have a challenge in front of us, but it’s neat to see. You do have some eager, driven students.”

 — Head Coach Troy Calhoun

Air Force hasn’t seen anything like this kind of turnover since 2017, and even then, they returned their starting quarterback. It is therefore impossible to know what to make of this team heading into the season. We will note, however, that Air Force often succeeds or fails based on the strength of their defensive line. If the Zoomies can find some guys to play up front, especially on defense, they might be okay despite everything.

Looking back at that 2017 Zoomies team, we’ll note that they won 5 games that year. If they can repeat that feat in 2024, we’ll be really impressed.

Saturday, Nov. 9: at North Texas Mean Green

Like a lot of Army’s opponents this season, North Texas Head Coach Eric Morris enters his second season in 2024. Last year, Morris led his team to a 5-7 record overall, 3-5 in the AAC. That put them 8th in the conference, just behind Navy. However, the Mean Green lost *5* games last year by just one possession. 

QB Chandler Rodgers, formerly of ULM, returns for the Mean Green this year for seemingly his 57th season of college football. Officially, ESPN somehow lists Morris as a junior. However, they have stats for him going all the way back to 2019. That makes him the AAC Quarterback Emeritus heir apparent following UTSA’s Frank Harris’s retirement. All that aside, Rodgers had an outstanding 2023 season, throwing for 3300+ yards and completing fully 62.2% of his passes. With that, this team scored nearly 35 points/game on offense (18th in the FBS), keeping them close against the very best teams in the conference. Unfortunately, they also allowed a whopping 37.1 points/game on defense (131st!). 

It’s tough to win that way!

“We know what this conference is about now and have an idea what it’s going to take. I know what could have been with just a couple of bounces here and there.”

 — North Texas Head Coach Eric Morris

Can this team find a defense? That’s seemingly all they need to make a run at the conference championship game.

Expect this to be a tough three-game stretch. The Black Knights get ECU and Air Force at home, but defense travels, and the Air Force game is always a fistfight. Army then has to face the Mean Green on the road. That game already looks like a wild shootout, and… well, that’s kind of what we expect when these two teams meet. Moreover, ECU and UNT both need just a few pieces to improve dramatically. Both of them probably won’t put it together, but at least one of them more than likely will. Add in the natural fatigue of the season setting in, and yeah, this might be a tough stretch.

Can the Black Knights win all three of these games?

Obviously, they *can*. 

But I don’t know if that’s the way I would bet. We’ll see how consistent and focused this year’s Army team can truly be once we get into the second half of the season.

Cover image via Flickr: West Point – The U.S. Military Academy. The U.S. Military Academy Army Football team, representing the 25 Infantry Division, takes on Coastal Carolina Chanticleers at Michie Stadium, West Point, N.Y., November 18, 2023. (U.S. Army Photo by John Pellino/USMA).

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HomeSportsArmy Football Preview: First Look at 2024 (Third Quarter)

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