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Air Force vs. Army West Point Football Prediction and Preview

Air Force (AFA) vs. Army West Point Football Prediction and Preview

Air Force (AFA) vs. Army West Point Football Prediction and Preview

The Commander-in-Chief's Trophy is once again on the line in the final week of the regular season, but this year is different. One week after beating Navy 15-0 in West Point, and improving to 8-2 in the process, the Army West Point Black Knights will host the Air Force Falcons. The programs, which were previously scheduled to play on Nov. 7, each has an opportunity to sweep the annual series of U.S. service academies.

Air Force opened its season with a dominant 40-7 victory over Navy in early October. The Falcons beat Utah State 35-7 Dec. 3 to improve to 3-2 overall and 2-2 in Mountain West. Another victory would not only cement a winning record, but it would give Air Force its 21st Commander-in-Chief's Trophy overall and first since 2016. Army is in search of its ninth Trophy win and third in four seasons.

Air Force at Army West Point

Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 19, at 3 p.m. ET

TV: CBS Sports Network

Spread: Air Force -2.5

When Air Force Has the Ball

Air Force quarterback Haaziq Daniels suffered a shoulder injury early in the Falcons' 49-30 loss to Boise State that has limited him at times, but the sophomore has still managed to play in all five games for the Falcons this season. Daniels has run for 236 yards and three touchdowns while averaging 5.2 yards per carry and has completed 24-of-40 pass attempts for 326 yards and two touchdowns (one to tight end Kyle Patterson, who leads the team with 140 yards and nine receptions, and the other to wideout Ben Peterson) as well. Backup Warren Bryan, who has played in three games, is 3-for-6 with 36 yards as a passer. Bryan picked up 87 of his 116 rushing yards against the Broncos and scored once on two carries in the win over Navy.

Air Force has a total of eight players with more than 100 rushing yards for a unit that ranks No. 2 nationally with an average of 336.0 yards on the ground per contest. Brad Roberts leads the way with 378 rushing yards and five touchdowns on a team-high 53 carries (7.13 per attempt) despite appearing in just three games. Brandon Lewis, listed as a receiver officially, stepped in for previously injured Kadin Remsberg early this season and carried the ball 10 times and gained 112 yards and a TD against Boise State. Lewis has 180 yards and one score on the ground in addition to eight receptions and 68 receiving yards. Remsberg, who ran for 1,050 yards and eight touchdowns in 2019, returned from a two-game absence to earn 107 yards and his first score of the season against Utah State. Fullback Timothy Jackson (178 rushing yards) hasn't played since Oct. 24, so Matthew Murla has stepped up with four touchdowns and 111 yards on 22 carries. Elijah Robinson (128 rushing yards) has provided depth as needed.

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When Army West Point Has the Ball

Quarterback Christian Anderson won the starting quarterback job out of fall camp and has run for 316 yards and four touchdowns while throwing for 158 yards and one touchdown with three interceptions. However, Anderson has missed time with multiple injuries and has not played since Nov. 14. Tyhier Tyler entered the year behind both Anderson and Jamel Jones (238 rushing yards, 3 touchdowns) on the depth chart, but has played every game since Oct. 17 and is in line to make his fourth career start and third in a row. Tyler leads the Black Knights with 440 rushing yards and has scored two touchdowns — including a four-yarder against Navy — on 99 attempts (4.44 yards per carry). He is 2-for-3 for 53 yards passing.

The Black Knights rank fourth nationally with an average of 280.4 rushing yards per game and have scored 32 touchdowns on the ground, which ranks third in FBS. True freshman running back Tyrell Robinson is the surprise leader among running backs with 392 rushing yards on just 55 attempts — an impressive 7.13 yards per carry — and has caught five passes for a team-high 117 yards and two touchdowns, while also returning kicks and punts. Jakobi Buchanan (388 rushing yards, 5 touchdowns) and Sandon McCoy (236, 10) have done much of the heavy lifting between the tackles with Anthony Adkins (276, 4) adding big-play ability (6.57 yards per carry).

Final Analysis

Army West Point and Air Force know each other very well already — both in terms of personnel and scheme — which limits the upside of each offense when the two meet each season. If the style of play in last week's Army-Navy game is any indication, this game will be a defensive slugfest as well. Add to that the fact both defenses have also performed very well stopping the run. The Black Knights have held opponents to 117.9 rushing yards per game and 3.78 yards per attempt, which rank No. 20 and No. 36 nationally, respectively. The Falcons, which began the season with zero returning defensive starters from its 2019 squad, rank 12th overall in rushing defense (105.8 ypg) and 29th in yards per carry (3.62).

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Army has played a weaker schedule (three of the Black Knights' wins have come against FCS opponents), but has also played twice as many games, meaning both rest and prep time are in Air Force's favor. Army has a more talented group of defenders at its disposal led by linebacker Jon Rhattigan (an All-American candidate who has recorded 71 total tackles, 9.0 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and two interceptions — one of which he returned for a touchdown), Arik Smith, Cedrick Cunningham Jr., Marquel Broughton, and Amadeo West, but the Falcons have more offensive weapons — especially with the return of Remsberg.

Expect a close, hard-fought, and low-scoring affair, but for the Falcons to win and take back the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy.

Prediction: Air Force 24, Army West Point 20

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— Written by Nicholas Ian Allen, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and Football Research Director for CFB Winning Edge. Follow him on Twitter @CFBWinningEdge.