Army is bowl eligible for the fifth time in six years – a feat that many Army fans thought impossible just six years ago. UMass, however, enters this matchup 1-9 on the year. In fact, they’ve yet to total more than 4 wins since their move to FBS. Their lone win this season came against UConn at home. This week, they travel to Michie Stadium as significant road underdogs.
Instead of repeating everything from last week’s preview, let’s keep this short. The goals largely remain the same.
First, keep the starters healthy. Learn from keeping starting QB Christian Anderson in on one too many drives last week.
Christian Anderson goes to sideline after taking hit on first pass attempt of game #ArmyFootball— Sal Interdonato (@salinterdonato) November 13, 2021
Second, continue to gauge the team’s depth. Yearling QB Cade Ballard looked really good in his two drives on Saturday. Where should he fall in the depth chart now? Has he moved past Jemel Jones? Past Jabari Laws? Army’s coaching staff can continue to monitor Ballard’s progress again this week.
Lastly, the Black Knights are now bowl eligible, so a win this weekend won’t mark some kind of team milestone. However, it’s Senior Day, and a keeps alive the team’s hopes of a 10-win season. Considering the difficulty of Army’s overall schedule this year — it looks as though *8* of Army’s 12 opponents might get bowl eligible — that would be a significant achievement.
At the end of the day, this game offers the opportunity to compete and improve, to celebrate the success of the current firstie class, and to get out of the season’s home series on a positive note.
The squad from Amherst puts up just 15 points/game. They total just 292 yards/game, among the worst in the FBS. 163 of those yards come through the air, and 129 come on the ground. UMass averages less than 6 yards/passing attempt — a truly dismal number — and less than 4 yards/rush. They are a much better rushing team than they are a passing team, leading them to convert about a third of their third downs.
QB Brady Olsen hits just just under half of his passes. He does have some big play potential, but when a quarterback averages less than 6 yards/throw, even big plays aren’t likely to make a difference in the long run. Worse, Olsen is more of a pocket passer, so he’s not particularly good at escaping from a collapsing pocket.
Olsen’s main target is WR Rico Arnold, who did not record a reception against FCS Maine last week. However, RB Ellis Merriweather is UMass’s best offensive player. Merriweather has put up 860 yards rushing and 138 yards receiving. These are truly outstanding numbers considering the talent around him. In fact, Merriweather has averaged almost 5 yards/carry this season as essentially his team’s only high-quality weapon. Army’s inside linebackers are going to have to spy him all day.
The Minutemen give up over 220 rushing yards/game and nearly 6 yards/carry. Worse, they are one of only three FBS teams that have allowed opponents to convert over half of their third downs. Alas for the Minutemen, those stats match up badly against the triple-option. Army should put on another offensive clinic this weekend.
LB Da’Shon Ross has 62 tackles despite not playing against Maine. LB Gerrell Johnson leads the team with 63 tackles. This tends to be a box-heavy defense, so it will be interesting to see how well the Black Knights do with their fullbacks.
K Cameron Carson is 7/10 on the year with a long of 45. Oddly, he’s been better percentage-wise on long kicks than he has been on chipshots. Meanwhile, P George Georgopoulos averages 44 yards/punt, which is pretty good.
But hey, he’s had a lot of practice.
Heads up play by Max DiDomenico!! pic.twitter.com/ivrVOJa7Uf— Army Football (@ArmyWP_Football) November 13, 2021
This should be a repeat of last week. Army opened as a 36-point favorite. That number has increased to 37 or 37.5, depending on the book. The Over/Under sits at 56.5. For what it’s worth, UMass is just 1-6 against the spread in their last 7 games while Army is 8-4 against the spread in their last 12. Vegas is probably still overestimating UMass a little, though they’ve gotten better at gauging the Black Knights in recent weeks.
Hopefully the weather is better this week. It’s supposed to be partly cloudy but chilly, with temps starting in the upper-30s during the tailgate and rising just into the mid-40s. If you’re going to the game, you’ll definitely want to dress warmly.
The game kicks at noon. CBS Sports has the call. It’s games like this that I’m glad we have Ross Tucker as an analyst. Very few commentators can make blowouts as interesting as Tucker can when he talks about his pre-game eating habits. Plus, he’s so good at highlighting the little things that Army’s O-Line does well.
Go Army! Beat UMass!!!
*Cover photo courtesy of @ArmyWP_Football