Well friends, it’s almost time. Strange as that may seem here in the doldrums of mid-summer, college football is coming. Even now, Training Camps are opening all over the country. Army Football’s newest recruits are sweating it out in Beast Barracks right this moment while the rest of the team prepares to open camp in earnest.
With Tennessee off the schedule, Army won’t face a perennial top Power 5 program during the regular season. Instead, this season will present a mix of challenging contests against some of the best competition from the Group of 5 alongside a few ostensibly winnable FBS games and at least one real challenge at Michie Stadium from the FCS.
This week, we’ll look at the first three games on Army’s 2022 schedule.
Week 1: at Coastal Carolina
2021 Record: 11–2 (6–2 Sun Belt); beat N. Illinois in the Cure Bowl
2022 SP+: +1.9, #65
2022 FPI: -2.2, #77
The good news for Chanticleer fans is that star redshirt junior QB Grayson McCall is back, having just signed a massive NIL deal with a local NASCAR racetrack. McCall was Pro Football Focus’s #6 quarterback last year; this man already led his team to Top 5 national rankings in both points/game and total offense. The Chanticleers averaged a whopping 496 yards/game in 2021 while McCall himself completed fully 72% of his passes for nearly 12 yards/completion!
That is actually amazing.
So yeah, we ought to expect the Chaunticleers’ offense to be plenty potent. Oh by the way, this is a team that also rushed for 228 yards/game on nearly 6 yards/carry. Friends, the Chanticleers run an updated, fully modern version of the triple-option, and they have an experienced quarterback who knows how to both make good decisions within the system and how to exploit the dowfield weaknesses that a triple-option system naturally creates.
The bad news for Chanticleer fans is that this comes on a team that has lost *17* multi-game starters — 8 from the offense and 9 from the defense — so it’s unclear how much we actually know about this team will perform outside of their established star quarterback. Coastal needs to find three new offensive linemen plus replacements for their top 5 tacklers from 2021, including all of their former starting linebackers. Losses like that would crush most FBS teams, though they might be a little easier to manage in the age of NIL-powered transfer portal free agency. The fact that the Chaunticleers have become a nationally prominent program can only help in this regard.
Coastal should finish strong in 2022. The question is, can their new players come together fast enough to beat an experienced Army team in the first game of the season. Coastal will have the quarterback on offense but not necessarily the chemistry along the O-Line, and they’ll have plenty of talent on defense but not necessarily a lot of experience in the linebacking corps versus an Academy triple-option offense. With that, this ought to be one Hell of an interesting match-up.
Projected Line (SP+): Army +7
Projected Line (FPI): Army -0.5
Actual Betting Line: Army (+3.5); Under/Over: 54.5
That’s arguably a very generous betting line for the Black Knights. Anything can happen in college football, but with Coastal playing at home, I might’ve set the line closer to Army (+10).
Group of Five QBs to watch @McCall_Grayson— Mike Farrell (@mfarrellsports) July 28, 2022
Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina — He’s so efficient and accurate it’s sometimes a shame to see him run with the ball, and he does that very well. pic.twitter.com/jqMgre9hws
Week 2: UTSA
2021 Record: 12–2 (7–1 C-USA); Won Conference USA
SP+: +1.5, #67
FPI: -2.0, #75
UTSA finds itself in a broadly similar situation to the Chanticleers. The incumbent Conference USA Champs have QB Frank Harris coming back, and he’s terrific, but they’ve lost all-world RB Sincere McCormick, though they still ought to be pretty damned good under Head Coach Jeff Traylor.
But. UTSA lost both of its previous coordinators coming off their 12-2 championship season, and that could potentially make it tough — especially since the Roadrunners open the season against Houston at home before traveling to Army and then on to Texas in Weeks 2 and 3. That is not an easy schedule, and of those three, Army is probably the easiest opponent to overlook. This is especially true since those other games are against in-state recruiting rivals. West Point, by comparison, is an awful long way from West Texas.
Unlike Coastal Carolina, the UTSA Roadrunners have significant returning production alongside Harris. They’ll get four of their offensive linemen back and eight of their incumbent offensive starters overall along with five returning starters off a pretty good defense.
Projected Line (SP+): Army +0.5
Projected Line (FPI): Army -6
This is a game where it really matters that it’s not the first game of the season. UTSA would very much like to beat Houston in their opener and to then show up well against Texas the week after they play Army. It probably also makes a difference that the game itself is at Michie Stadium. Based on preseason projections, the line on this game probably ought to be about even. However, the Black Knights play well at home, and UTSA has to travel a long way east for an early start. That’s not easy to do, though this game ought to be competitive as all Hell regardless.
Week 3: Villanova
2021 Record: 10–3 (7–1 CAA); Won the Colonial Athletic Conference
Villanova is a terrific FCS team coming off a CAA Championship season. It’s an open question as to whether or not they can repeat in the Colonial Athletic Conference, but they ought to be at least pretty good in 2022, and they’re coming to Michie Stadium in a spot where Army could potentially be 0-2.
Moreover, Villanova’s schedule isn’t doing Army any favors. They open at home against Patriot League doormat Lehigh, travel to Long Island, and then hit Michie. After that, they’re on to Monmouth College before arguably their first actually tough FCS game of the season vs. U. Maine.
Bottom line, Army is going to get this team’s very best shot.
Projected Line (SP+): N/A
Projected Line (FPI): N/A
This is an FCS game, and the Black Knights will be at home. Army should win. However, if the Black Knights haven’t hit their stride heading into this one, this game probably won’t be a get-right game for a team that’s struggling to gel.
This is not an easy way to open the season, friends. If the Black Knights can get out of this stretch 2-1, they’ll be in good shape, and even if they’re somehow 1-2, the sky won’t necessarily be falling just yet. On the other hand, if Army can somehow win all three of these opening contests, we might just be in for a special season.
We ought to learn a lot about this Army team in the early going, and even if things go sideways — a very real possibility — we still may learn a lot about how this team bounces back from adversity.