Friends, as of this writing, we have 77 and a butt days until college football season kicks off. With that, we’re starting to see a decent number of preseason preview articles hit the Internet.
So. Let’s take a spin through the inter-Google and see what’s what.
Army football turns to four team captains for first time in Jeff Monken era (Times Herald-Record)
For the first time in Monken’s tenure, the Black Knights will be led by four captains, all of whom play on the defense. Seniors Nolan Cockrill, Arik Smith and Cedrick Cunningham will be joined by junior Marquel Broughton as the team leaders.
“‘I want them to maintain the standards of excellence that it takes for us to be a championship program’’’ Monken said of his Commander-in-Chief series champs, “‘and to lead with honor and distinction.’’’
Introducing our 2021 Team Captains ?
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— Army Football (@ArmyWP_Football) June 9, 2021
Army Black Knights: CFN College Football Preview 2021 (College Football News)
“Jeff Monken has built up Army to create a terrific system that keeps on working…
“The formula is set. Quick guys in the backfield to go along with sledgehammer fullbacks behind big linemen who can move. That’s the offense, run, repeat. The other side’s job isn’t to get behind the line and be disruptive; it’s to simply get off the field and not give up a whole ton of big plays.
“Toughness is obviously never a problem with this program, and it certainly doesn’t get intimidated against the big guys on the slate. But even with everything in place to be one of Monken’s best teams yet, this year won’t be a breeze.”
CFN sets the season’s over-under win total at 8. That’s a fair number, though as we’ll see below, there ought to be plenty of variability to the way the season itself plays out.
Notre Dame and independents college football offseason preview (ESPN+ [subscription required])
“Jeff Monken’s program is built to last. From 2000 to 2015, Army averaged 2.8 wins per year and an average SP+ ranking of 112th. Beginning in 2016, Monken’s third season in charge, the Black Knights improved to 102nd, then 91st, 84th, 72nd and 69th. They’ve averaged 8.6 wins over five years. They were a little lucky to win 11 in 2018 and unlucky to win five the next year, but the trajectory is undeniable.
Monken was heavily considered for the recently filled Kansas job, but as long as power-conference teams continue to resist the pull of the triple option, he will continue to reinforce the infrastructure in West Point.”
ESPN’s proprietary SP+ system ranks programs on three factors during the preseason — returning production, recent recruiting, and recent history. This system historically hates Army, especially on offense, but time and returning production seem to have made it something of a believer. SP+ currently has Army favored in 7 games with 3 toss-ups — Wake Forest, at Georgia State, and at Ball State. Interestingly, their model thinks Wake is the most winnable of these, though looking at the numbers, that’s only because they’ve factored in home field advantage.
The most interesting thing about this to me is that SP+ has Army 72nd overall, with a total score of -0.6. These scores are used to set betting lines, such that setting Army at -0.6 makes the Black Knights a half-point underdog against a theoretically “average” college football team in a would-be game played on a neutral field. We have 130 teams in college football. The 65th team — SMU in this case — represents college football’s median. At -0.4, #71 Ball State sits the closest to the mean. As you can see, Army is pretty much right there as well.
By way of comparison, Alabama sits at #1 with a score of +30.7. New Mexico State comes in at 130th with a score of -31.5. Granted, these numbers are not exactly predictions. They’re more like indicators of expectation. They don’t tell us what’s going to happen on any given Saturday. Still, this ranking is the best we’ve seen the Black Knights place on this particular scale in a long, long time, at least in the preseason.
College football staff picks: Potential upsets in 2021 season include rough start for Steve Sarkisian at Texas (CBS Sports)
“Army over Wisconsin (Oct. 16)
“Army lost 24-21 at No. 7 Michigan in 2019 and 28-21 at No. 5 Oklahoma in 2018, so the Black Knights are due to pull a stunner. With Army coming off an open date prior to playing at Wisconsin on Oct. 16, the Badgers look like the perfect victim…”
And so it begins. For better or worse, the Black Knights have become *the* trendy upset pick for the coming season.
Seahawks’ Jon Rhattigan glad Army is letting him try to make it in the NFL (Pro Football Talk)
“‘I’m just blessed that I was able to graduate from West Point and there’s a policy in place that allows us to represent and play in the NFL, as well,’ Rhattigan said, via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times…
“‘That wasn’t my main goal,’ Rhattigan said.”
Cool story. Especially when compared to this week’s other service academy related NFL news…
Cameron Kinley was supposed to be in Tampa for the #Buccaneers mandatory minicamp this week.
Instead, he’s in Memphis getting ready for his commission. https://t.co/taId3MkpsV
— Cassie Carlson (@CassieCarlsonTV) June 8, 2021
The Maggie Dixon Inspiration Award Went to Amadeo West
The award is given for fearless competitiveness and love of sport.
This year's Maggie Dixon Inspiration Award goes to @ArmyWP_Football's Amadeo West ?
The honor is presented to a cadet-athlete who embodies all that late head WBB coach Maggie Dixon stood for – fearlessness, competitiveness, and a true passion for sport.#BKAwards | #GoArmy pic.twitter.com/4jqd7R1QWL
— ArmyWestPoint Sports (@GoArmyWestPoint) June 2, 2021
Recruiting is back on-post.
College recruiting had to be done remotely during the pandemic, so this is excellent news. It’ll be interesting to see what, if any, effects the pandemic had on Army’s recruiting, though I suppose in-person recruiting can only help when you’ve got America’s most beautiful college atmosphere.
Big time players play in big time games! ?
— Army FB Recruiting (@ArmyFB_Recruit) June 4, 2021
— Army FB Recruiting (@ArmyFB_Recruit) June 6, 2021
Direct or Army Prep: 2021 class (Black Knight Nation)
Sal Interdonato runs down the incoming class and their expected destination, be it the Corps of Cadets or the Prep School. R-Day is currently scheduled for June 28th, so cadet-candidates have just a little over two weeks to go!
Alas, we won’t get a full sense of the size of the incoming recruiting class until R-Day is complete. Because recruits are also joining the Army — and because they’re not technically on scholarship — Academy sports teams are not allowed to announce their recruiting classes until the classes themselves actually report.
That’s All, Folks!
One final note: we released a new College Football Roundtable podcast earlier this week, covering the SEC. The new show averages just 25 minutes! Among other things, we ran through the Top 25 according to SP+, talked a lot about Tennessee, went deep on Auburn’s chances this fall, and ran through a little news.
I asked Rob to host this week maybe 30 seconds before we started recording. He did great, but catching him off guard got us off to a bit of a rocky start. However, we landed on our feet, such that the last 15 to 20 minutes of this show was really good in my humble opinion.
Give us a listen, and tell your friends.
Go Army! Beat Georgia State!!!
* Cover image via USMA Flickr.