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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, December 10, 2011 at 12:00 PM

In recent seasons, the Army-Navy game basically served as a tune-up for a quality Navy squad as they got ready for their bowl game. The Middies have won this rivalry nine straight years. And, we've gotten in the habit of trying to handicap how a concerned opponent was going to try and deal with their option attack in a bowl game somewhere.

THIS YEAR
Navy: 4-7
Army: 3-8

Neither team will go bowling. THIS IS THEIR BOWL! Only Air Force of the military schools qualified for the postseason. They'll face Toledo of the MAC in the Military Bowl held in Washington, DC on December 28th.

Normally we crunch some numbers to preview a big TV game like this. Today, let's use those numbers to try and get a sense of what went wrong. Navy wasn't supposed to fall off the map this year. Army actually played in a bowl game last year (beating SMU), and certainly had higher expectations than 3-8 this season.

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE
Army: 81st
Navy: 62nd

Neither team played an overwhelmingly difficult schedule. So, it's not like the records got worse because they bit off more than they thought they could chew. They had the standard diet of opponents and just flat played worse. Army in particularly has to be disappointed with a 3-8 mark against a schedule that soft.

TOTAL OFFENSE
Army: 48th
Navy: 43rd

Both teams run the same offense, and both teams ran that offense with similar success. Navy would grade out better than those rankings suggest at first once you adjust for strength of schedule. If the stats are about even...but you played the tougher schedule...you've got the better offense. Navy should have the offensive edge in Saturday's meeting...though they have been dealing with injuries on that side of the ball (as have both teams actually).

TOTAL DEFENSE
Army: 48th
Navy: 85th

This is where Navy really falls off the map in terms of expectations this year. They just couldn't stop anybody, while playing what graded out to an "average" schedule over the full sampling of 120 board teams. This is why Navy isn't a bowl team this year. They couldn't do enough to keep people out of the end zone.

NAVY'S LOWEST OF THE LOWLIGHTS
Navy lost a heartbreaker to Air Force 35-34 in overtime
Navy lost to Southern Miss 63-35 the next week
Navy lost to East Carolina 38-35 as 12-point favorites
Navy lost to Notre Dame 56-24
Navy lost to San Jose State 27-24 as 6-point favorites to blow their bowl bid

Well, Navy would still have had to defeat Army to claim a bowl bid...which they would have been favored by at least seven points to do (they're favored by seven here...even without bowl need). The blowout losses to Southern Miss and Notre Dame made it clear that Navy was way below even mid-major bowl standards this year (that's the Southern Miss team that upset Houston don't forget). The losses to East Carolina and San Jose State just shouldn't have happened.

You can see that it didn't take much to knock Navy out of the postseason. If you turn Air Force, East Carolina, and San Jose State into nailbiter wins instead of nailbiter losses, then the Middies are 7-4 heading into Army instead of 4-7. Fine line. Oh, we didn't mention a one-point loss to Rutgers. That 4-7 record could have been as good as 8-3 if Navy caught all the breaks in close games.

ARMY'S LOWEST OF THE LOWLIGHTS
Army lost at Northern Illinois 49-26 to set the tone for the season
Army lost at Ball State 48-21 as a 4-point favorite in a head scratcher
Army lost at Vanderbilt 44-21, and Vandy has no offense
Army lost at Temple 42-14, bookending their first 11 games with another MAC blowout

Army would have struggled to compete in the MAC based on those results, and a seven-point loss to Miami of Ohio as a two-point favorite. Maybe Army joined the MAC and didn't tell anybody! Didn't do them any good in terms of qualifying for a bowl.

HIGHLIGHTS
Navy demolished Western Kentucky and Troy by almost identical scores of 40-14 and 42-14
Navy just missed upsetting South Carolina on the road
Army (+5) upset Northwestern 21-14
Army (-7) crushed Tulane 45-6
Army led Air Force 14-0 at the half, hung tough with Rutgers for 3.5 quarters at Yankee Stadium when shorthanded, and lost a close one to bowl bound San Diego State too. 

Let's say it this way. Navy got worse...but probably not as bad as that 4-7 record would suggest. This is basically a 6-5 team that's better than many teams who are playing in bowls this month...even if this isn't a vintage Navy squad from recent years. Army can hang with many opponents when healthy, but didn't have the depth to deal with attrition this season. Beating Northwestern is a quality win.

What does that mean for today's game? Well, emotions are always a huge part of the Army-Navy rivalry. In the years where Army has given up hope, this isn't much of a game. In the year's Army shows up...they can sneak under the number with ease. What's going to happen now that Navy is disappointed? THAT'S WHY JIM HURLEY HAS ON-SITE SOURCES!

Crunching the numbers may not end up meaning much this year. Information could mean EVERYTHING! That's why you should log on a few hours before kickoff to purchase our regular season college football finale with your credit card. We also have great stuff planned in college hoops. We outlined those games for you yesterday here in the NOTEBOOK. Please check the archives if you missed that report. If you have any questions about college football or basketball, call our office at 1-800-323-4453.

Today's a bankroll building day for another Stocking Stuffer Sunday in the NFL. Among the games we're looking at tomorrow are:

  • Houston at Cincinnati: where the Texans try to stay in the race for a bye and home field advantage with a #3 quarterback...against a Cincinnati team that's fighting for its lives to make the playoffs. The Red Rifle Andy Dalton has struggled recently against top notch defenses. Is he ready for this challenge?

  • Oakland at Green Bay: where undefeated Green Bay tries to stay on track to make history against a Raiders team that's now tied with Denver atop the AFC West. Can the Packers run the table? Supposedly Detroit and the NY Giants were going to be their toughest hurdles. Will Green Bay fall asleep against Oakland?

  • Chicago at Denver: where Tebow-mania tries to stay hot against a disoriented Bears squad that couldn't even convert a third down last week let alone score a touchdown. Any loss for the Bears now is critical in the NFC Wildcard race. Atlanta and Detroit are both favored to win their games.

  • NY Giants at Dallas: where the NFC East crown may already be on the line in the first of two rivalry meetings. If the Cowboys win, they grab a two-game lead with three to go...and the Giants are still dealing with a tough schedule. If the Giants win...December is going to be something special in this division.

We'll be up bright and early in the NOTEBOOK to preview that Giants-Cowboys prime time game on NBC and run through the NFC playoff picture. We're glad so many of you are with us EVERY DAY here in the NOTEBOOK. Now, LINK UP WITH JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK FOR SOME BIG JUICY FOOTBALL AND BASKETBALL WINNERS!

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