GAME PREVIEW: Army at Cincinnati

Army at Cincinnati
When: Saturday, Sept. 26th, 3:30 PM EDT
Where: Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati, OH
TV/Streaming: ESPN/WatchESPN (subscription req’d)

Army and Cincinnati used to be Conference USA rivals but the two schools have not met on the grid iron since 2004. And this year’s game is even more enticing as the two schools come to this match both ranked in the AP Top 25 poll–Army at #22 and Cincinnati at #14.

Army has played two games so far (and were scheduled for a third but was postponed due to COVID 19 concerns from their opponent BYU). The Knights destroyed their two previous opponents (Middle Tennessee and Louisiana-Monroe) by a combined score of 67-7. Army will now face its stiffest test early on this season, and potentially their biggest game of the season possibly outside of the rivalry game with Navy.

Cincinnati looked good in its season opener last week in a rout of FCS Austin Peay 55-20. Along with UCF and Memphis, the Bearcats are predicted near the top of the American Athletic Conference this year after two straight 11-win campaigns coming into this season. But Army will pose a much different problem for the Bearcats with their option running game looking to control the clock.

Army West Point Black Knights (2-0 overall, FBS Independent)

QB Christian Anderson leads the Black Knights in rushing with 149 yards and three touchdowns, while RB Jakobi Buchanan has rushed for 139 yards and two touchdowns through two games.

With 388.0 yards rushing per game, the Black Knights currently rank first in all college football.  They have 776 yards total and a whopping 10 touchdowns on just 127 carries, good for a 6.1 yards per carry.  That ties them for 3rd overall in rushing efficiency, just behind West Virginia and Texas in the young 2020 season.

As mentioned, the Black Knights like to wear a defense down with its triple option game. This limits its opponent’s time of possession and makes for a shorter game.

The defense thus far this season has been dominate. he Black Knights have allowed just one touchdown and 496 total yards through two games. The rush defense has been especially strong — fifth in the nation at 56.0 yards allowed per game.

Key Player: QB Christian Anderson

As mentioned, Anderson is the leading rusher for Army and is the key for the triple option game to work. Cincinnati will be a much tougher defense so his decision making will be the key for the Black Knights success. Most likely, the Bearcats will be keying on him to begin so he will need to make the right decisions to pitch the ball in the option game and let his teammates get the yardage if he is keyed on.

Cincinnati Bearcats (1-0 Overall, 0-0 AAC)

Like Army, Cincinnati likes to run the ball first too but does it in the more conventional sense. And the Bearcats also like to mix in the pass game to be a more balanced offensive squad.

In 2019, QB Desmond Ridder went 165/301 passing (54.8%) for 2,069 yards and 17 touchdowns against just 9 interceptions, but was also sacked 25 times.  Ridder also put up 545 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns on 123 carries (4.4 yards/carry) last year. 

Against Austin Peay, he went 13-of-19 passing for 196 yards and two touchdowns and put up 57 yards rushing on just 4 carries.  Notably, Ridder threw to 8 different receivers last Saturday as well.

The Bearcat defense is headed in the secondary with two All-AAC performers leading the charge in S Darrick Forrest and CB Ahmad Gardner lead the unit.  Overall, this is a team that plays sound, aggressive defense, especially against the pass but with a mostly running attack facing them, the secondary group will need to step up to stop the Army run game.

Key Player: QB Desmond Ridder

Ridder was injured late last year and even did not play in one of two games against AAC champion Memphis. In the first game, though, he looked very healthy and made good decisions to turn up the field and run when there was nothing open in the pass game. Army’s defense is a couple steps up in level this week so he will need to continue to make the right calls and avoid getting sacked or turning the ball over as a key for the Bearcats winning this one.

Fearless Prediction:

This is a fun Group of Five match-up to end September that will tell us a lot about both teams. Army looks much better this year than the five-win squad from a season ago and Cincinnati looks right now as good as they were the last two 11-win seasons.

Something has to give and home field will not be much of an advantage as Cincinnati officials have indicated only family members and a few cheer squad members will be in attendance in this game.

Look for Cincinnati to strike early to take a lead that will be hard for Army to overcome with its style of offense but the Black Knights will get enough going to make this a competitive game throughout. But I like the Bearcats by ten in the end. Cincinnati 31 Army 21

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