Army and Navy set for annual rivalry

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Updated: 12/11/2013 10:49 am

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - All of the history and pageantry of one of the most revered rivalries in all of sports claims the spotlight on Saturday afternoon as the Army Black Knights battle the Navy Midshipmen at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

As the only Division I college football game on the schedule for the weekend, this historic matchup will garner even more attention than usual during this, the 114th installment of the series. Started back in 1890 in West Point, where the Midshipmen registered a 24-0 win over the hosts, the series currently favors Navy by a count of 57-49-7. The Midshipmen have rattled off 11 straight wins over Army, including a 17-13 decision last season, with the last victory for the Knights coming in 2001 when the squad registered a 26-17 triumph in Philadelphia.

The majority of the games (83) have taken place within the city limits of Philadelphia, with matchups going on at Municipal/JFK Stadium, Penn's Franklin Field and Veterans Stadium before moving to Lincoln Financial Field back in 2003. Navy has an unblemished mark of 8-0 in the facility against the Knights.

A victory this weekend would secure the coveted Commander-In-Chief's Trophy for Navy for the ninth time in the last 11 seasons. The trophy is presented to the service academy (Army, Navy, and Air Force) that has the most wins in the three-way series during the season. However, should Army pull off the victory, the Midshipmen would still retain possession of the trophy because of a three- way split in 2013.

As far as the 2013 campaign for both Academies, Navy has been far more successful with seven wins in 11 opportunities. The Midshipmen have won three straight and four of the last five outings, with a narrow 38-34 setback against Notre Dame in early November as the only blemish during the run. Three weeks ago the Midshipmen closed out the regular season with one of the most thrilling games in recent memory, a 58-52 triple-overtime affair against San Jose State on the road.

Meanwhile, the Black Knights have produced a total of just three wins this entire season, one of those coming against Morgan State in the opener. The most recent game for Army took place two weeks ago in Honolulu when the team came up short in a comeback bid versus the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors, 49-42. The defeat was the fourth in a row and the fifth in the six games overall.

The Knights actually played on this field two months ago when they went up against the Temple Owls and bowed in a 33-14 final, the start of the team's current losing streak.

Regardless of the outcome in this meeting, the Black Knights will be heading home to New York, while Navy has a little over two weeks to prepare for the Armed Forces Bowl against Middle Tennessee in Fort Worth, Texas.

Keeping the ball on the ground is again the bread-and-butter for the Army offense, just as it is for the Midshipmen, with the team averaging a hefty 323.6 ypg to rank second in the entire nation. Leading the charge is Terry Baggett, one of three players credited with at least 100 carries, resulting in 1,072 yards and eight touchdowns. Larry Dixon is second with 682 yards and six scores, while quarterback Angel Santiago is averaging just 3.5 yards per attempt, but has another 558 yards and has a team-best nine TDs to his credit.

Santiago's passing attack has been limited to only 547 yards and two scores, but it is clear who gets the most attention down the field with Xavier Moss having accounted for 30 of the unit's 70 completed passes, resulting in 418 yards and a TD. With a mere 80.1 ypg through the air, Army ranks last in the FBS in that department heading into the season finale.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Knights have had trouble keeping up with opposing passing attack, permitting 215.0 ypg, although that probably won't have much influence on this particular meeting. The team has just six interceptions and 16 sacks over 11 games.

Another area worth noting for the Knights is kickoff returns, where the group is producing just 15.0 yards per attempt to rank last in the country in that category as well.

Just behind the Knights in rushing this season is Navy with 320.1 ypg. Quarterback Keenan Reynolds has been the catalyst for the team's success, as he not only has completed 55.3 percent of his pass attempts for more than 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns, he is first in rushing with 1,124 yards and a staggering 26 TDs. If not for the season put together by Northern Illinois signal caller Jordan Lynch, Reynolds would be getting even more credit for his exploits on the ground.

Reynolds has posted at least one rushing touchdown in every game this season, but he saved his best effort for last as he set an FBS record for quarterbacks, with a whopping seven rushing TDs in the win over San Jose State. Twice in the last three outings Reynolds has run for at least 220 yards, going over the 100-yard plateau a total of five times this season.

Much more than just Reynolds, the Navy roster shows a total of eight other players having produced on the ground with at least 185 rushing yards this season. While the aerial assault is obviously not as much of a priority, having seven players reach the end zone on a reception means the Midshipmen have several options in that area as well.

In the last three games Navy has produced a combined 142 points to help push the team to 34.4 ppg and while the defense has surrendered about one touchdown per game less (27.6 ppg) to rank 71st in the country, the group might be a bit more vulnerable than that overall. If it were not for a combined 31 points given up to the likes of Delaware, Air Force and South Alabama, the number would be more in line with the norm for the group.

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