Last week we previewed Army’s first three opponents. This week, we’ll take a look at their second three.
2023 Season Preview Series
The United States Army celebrates its 248th birthday today. Proudly on display are artifacts representing @ArmyWP_Football and its rich college football history. Learn more in our latest blog! 🇺🇸 #GoArmy #USArmy #CFBHall #Historyhttps://t.co/mZmjRFD15n pic.twitter.com/0ACw8eofhN— College Football Hall of Fame (@cfbhall) June 14, 2023
2023 Season Preview: Second Quarter
Week 4: at Syracuse Orange
2022 Record: 7-6 (4-4 in the ACC Atlantic; Lost to Minnesota in the Pinstripe Bowl)
SP+: +4.7 (52nd)
FPI: +7.6 (34th)
Starting QB Garrett Schrader is back, but he’s lost both of his starting tackles plus star RB Sean Tucker along with his offensive coordinator. Schrader finished 205/317 passing for 2,640 yards (64.7%) with 17 touchdowns against just 7 interceptions in 2022, but he also took a whopping 33 sacks. Former QB Coach Jason Beck is now the Orange OC, so the scheme shouldn’t change much, but the team may still need to look for a few solutions in the running game. The ‘Cuse got off to a hot start in 2022 and looked good overall when they could pound the rock, but they couldn’t maintain success down the stretch. They won their first six games but then lost their next five. They’ve got some good-looking receivers and a few more offensive weapons, but they’ll need to find consistency to make it all work.
On defense, the Orange return 10 of 14 players who’ve played at least 300 snaps. They’ve also brought in 73-year-old Rocky Long as their new defensive coordinator. Long is supposed to be a blitz specialist, and he’s coming in to take over a defense that allowed less than 150 rushing yards/game on 3.7 yards/carry. All things considered, it’s no surprise then that the defense seemed to outplay the offense in their spring game, especially given that Schrader was out with an injury.
Syracuse probably has all the right pieces, but they play in a competitive conference against a lot of tough competition. We’ll have to wait and see how that all shakes out.
Projected Line: Army (+17.9)
Interestingly, SP+ and FPI disagree on Syracuse by almost three full points. That is a lot! More than anything, it shows the degree to which the Power 5 Bias is alive and well in the College Football Playoff Selection Committee.
FPI likes the ‘Cuse because they play in the ACC. SP+ is less convinced.
Week 5: Bye Week
Week 6: Boston College Eagles
2022 Record: 3-9 (2-6 in the ACC Atlantic)
SP+: -4.3 (74th)
FPI: -2.9 (74th)
It doesn’t seem like that long ago that Boston College was a perennial college football powerhouse, but looking at the stats, it’s now been 16 years since the Eagles won double-digit games. That happened back in 2007, which was the same year that the Eagles last earned a winning record in the ACC. Head Coach Jeff Hafley came to the program back in 2020 and has since gone 6-5, 6-6, and 3-9.
It might not be Halfey’s fault. His team had a Hell of time keeping quarterbacks healthy last year, and when the wheels finally fell off against UConn, that was no small part of the reason why. Granted, it doesn’t help that his defense struggled to stop the run, giving up almost 170 yards/game on the ground plus 25 rushing touchdowns on nearly 4.4 yards/carry.
It looks like QB Emmett Morehead is going to get the start this season, running a short passing game. He seems to have looked okay in the spring game, especially given that his running game struggled against BC’s defense. If I was a Boston College fan, though, that wouldn’t excite me.
It looks like the Eagles still have some work to do. Granted, they’ve got time right now to figure things out before the season starts.
Projected Line: Army (+2.1)
If the line on this game stays less than a field goal, then it’s hard not to like the Black Knights’ chances. This is, after all, the same BC team that dropped a road game at Stores, Connecticut, last year in which they were physically manhandled at times on both sides of the ball.
We’ll see how things play out in-season, but if I were playing for Army, I’d have this one circled on my calendar in advance.
Only a matter of time 🦅 pic.twitter.com/MaNmDyYtBj— Boston College Football (@BCFootball) June 8, 2023
Week 7: Troy Trojans
2022 Record: 12-2 (7-1 in the Sun Belt-West; Beat UTSA in the Cure Bowl)
SP+: -0.6 (64th)
FPI: -2.2 (69th)
I didn’t love Troy’s offense last year, but man, their defense was just so good. Nobody ran on them. The Trojans lost to Ole Miss and App. State, but after that, they were perfect. In Head Coach Jon Sumrall’s first season, they won the Sun Belt, beat an excellent UTSA team in their bowl game, and wound up finishing 19th overall in the AP Poll.
That marked the school’s best ever finish.
The Trojans have a lot of pieces coming back, including QB Gunnar Watson, RB Kimani Vidal, and WR Jabre Barber. Honestly, they ought to improve on offense. Troy’s defense loses All-American LB Carlton Martial but returns NT Buddha Jones and CB Reddy Steward along with a slew of other good players along the D-Line.
Troy has the talent and the experience in place to win the Sun Belt again and to perhaps make a push for a New Year’s Six Bowl. However, they are for sure not going to sneak up on anyone in 2023. We’ll see if that makes a difference at some point next season.
Projected Line: Army (+4.3)
Even with all of that, the Black Knights were still within a missed 40-yard field goal of winning the game at Troy last year. But because they missed the kick, the perception is that Troy had the much better team. On the field, though, I don’t think this was true.
It’s interesting, too, because again the difference between SP+ and FPI is almost three full points. This tells us that, bottom line, Troy is gonna need a lot of help if they want to get into a nationally prominent bowl game. The Selection Committee is unlikely to do them any favors.
We haven’t started breaking the Army Team down just yet, but based solely on this list of Phil Steele’s All-Independent selections, it’s hard not to be optimistic.
With that in mind, we said last week that we’d know what kind of Army Team we’ll have right out of the gate. This remains true. This part of the season then gives the Black Knights a chance to shine. They’ve got two potentially winnable games against Power 5 opponents plus one winnable game at home against one of the best teams in the Group of 5.
Is this a guarantee of success?
Obviously it is not.
It is, however, an opportunity to show what this team can really do on a series of prominent national stages. At this point, that’s all we can ask.
Go Army! Beat ULM!!!
Cover image via USMA Flickr.