Friday, October 08, 2010

Meet The Unbalanced Line

As part of an ongoing tradition here, I am turning Frank Helps You Think It All Out over to The Unbalanced Line. He is answering questions I posed- and a reciprocal exchange is posted over at his site:

Last year you editorialized:

“Army plays Tulane today... Along with Rutgers, I believe that this rivalry should be developed in the long-term.”

I enjoyed this series too- but I am up in the air of the merits of continuing. Of all the teams in I-A, you pick Tulane? Why?

The Unbalanced Line: Of the teams on this year's schedule, Tulane is only Army's 5th most played opponent. Navy, Notre Dame, Air Force, Rutgers and Duke all have significant series against the Cadets. In terms of all Div. 1-A teams it might surprise that Tulane is 10th on the list Army's most played opponents.

The Army/Tulane series began in 1958 and Tulane is the only Conference USA team that Army played more than once before they joined the conference and is the only CUSA team that Army has continued scheduling regularly since leaving CUSA.

The other teams on USMA's most played teams list either actively play Army, or have stopped scheduling the academy years ago.

Army's most played opponents are these:

Team Games Record vs.
Navy (110) 49-54-7
Notre Dame (49) 8-37-4
Air Force (44) 13-30-1
Boston College (36) 12-24-0
Rutgers (36) 18-18-0
Pittsburgh (27) 6-19-2
Penn State (25) 10-13-2
Syracuse (21) 10-11-0
Duke (22) 10-11-1
Tulane (17) 7-9-1
Stanford (10) 5-5-0
Michigan (9) 5-4-0

Penn State (last game 1979), Pitt (1983), Michigan (1962), Stanford (1975) and Syracuse (1996) have for the most part moved on from their respective series. A suppose a lot of that is on Army for seeking out a lighter slate of games. In the context of scheduling competitive games and a desirable series my first thought in Div 1-A is Tulane. New Orleans presents a legitimate jump-off point for non-Texas southern recruiting trips.

An eighteen game series with Army shouldn't constitute a rivalry game to most Tulane fans considering the Green Wave's long history with the SEC, but from Army's perspective as an independent - it's the year 2010 - I think seeking out and building viable traditions and rivalries is far more important than skipping around D1-A taking any old paycheck game or scheduling home and homes with teams like Marshall. Nothing against Marshall, but in my eyes that trip just doesn't complement Army's schedule. Tulane and New Orleans do, and I look forward to this game every year.

Through five weeks of college football, no list of “most improved” would be complete without Army. What few things are most improved?

The Unbalanced Line: I could carry on all day about Army's improvement. Most notably, Army's offense is sustaining drives and scoring points. Last year the team had a difficult time doing anything with the football and the whole year it kind of seemed that the offense just wasn't comfortable in its own skin. Looking at 2010 the comparison is night and day. Army’s 2010 points per game through the first 5 games simply doubles last year's average; 30.6 ppg up from 15.3 ppg.

A lot of that comes with having such a veteran unit. To my knowledge, Army's starting five O-linemen have played every offensive snap of the season. That not only speaks to their ability, but to their experience as well.

The Black Knights are running an actual fullback this year with the addition of Air Force transfer Jared Hassin. He's a tough player who can endure the rigors of the position. It's the nature of the flexbone offense that the fullback will get drilled on every play and Hassin is a definite step up at fullback from last year's reliance on the more speedy guys that are better suited finding the edge as slotbacks.

This year's Army team is playing actual football - and playing to win. Last year in every game it kind of seemed like the team's scheme was held together with duct tape. In 2009 the team appeared to be a football team, and they were definitely playing the game of football - but things just had a feel like they could unravel at any time. This year is completely different, you will see a much sharper Army team on Saturday (well, at least for those who plan on attending the game will.)

Army opens as a slight road favorite. Your game prediction?

The Unbalanced Line: I don't normally do predictions, but I'll give it a guess. Without knowing the status of some of Army's key defensive pieces... I like Army's chances to control the clock and I'll pick the Black Knights 27-17.

Thanks for having me aboard for this guest post it’s been a lot of fun. Good luck and enjoy the game!

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