It’s going to be hard for the Army Black Knights to top their previous 60 minutes of football.
Army and Navy fought to the finish in snowy Philadelphia, with the Knights prevailing 14-13 thanks to a long TD march in the 4th quarter. Not only did Jeff Monken’s team knock off its most bitter rival, the game also marked the 3rd time in 4 outings in which the West Point defense gave up less than 20 points.
The odds of that happening again in the Armed Forces Bowl are unlikely. Weather will be more offense-friendly in Fort Worth, and the opposing San Diego State Aztecs are led by one of the most talented student-athletes in the land.
Rashaad Penny has rushed for 2000+ yards and 19 touchdowns in a phenomenal senior season, leading SDSU to a 10-2 record. Looking at the Aztecs’ 2017 campaign, it is almost laughable that the Mountain West conference doesn’t get more respect from the media. San Diego State has beaten Stanford, Arizona State and Northern Illinois…and lost only to conference-rivals Boise State and Fresno State back-to-back in a brief mid-season slump.
Not surprisingly, the action has leaned slightly in SDSU’s favor.
Who: San Diego State Aztecs vs Army Black Knights
When: Saturday, December 23rd, 3:30 PM EST
Where: Amon Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, TX
Lines: SDSU (-7) at Army (+7) / O/U Total: (46)
There seems to be only one way to beat Penny and the Aztecs in ’17…get a nice lead early, and force QB Christian Chapman to rely on his arm instead of just handing it to the big man. Boise State took a 14-0 lead in the 1st quarter, scoring on a sack and strip-6 and frustrating the junior into a 12-for-27 day. Penny was unable to get it going on limited carries. The RB was better the following week, but didn’t get a ton of touches as Fresno State beat SDSU 27-3 with a very similar formula.
Army has an excellent rusher of its own, senior QB Ahmad Bradshaw. But the offense hasn’t shown enough potency to score 14 or 21 points in a hurry. The Knights don’t have much of a passing game in 2017, and they don’t have the pass rush of Boise or the brawn of Fresno up the middle.
The Knights will be plugging away for 1st downs against a stout Aztec ‘D that humiliated Stanford’s Keller Chryst, held Air Force without a 100-yard rusher and held New Mexico, another option-heavy team, to 10 points in a season-ending win. SDSU can defend give-pitch-or-carry running attacks like that of Army, and there is no reason not to give Penny 25+ touches in this contest even if the squad happens to fall behind by 3, 7 or 10 points early-on.
Certainly, a (-6.5) spread is a great favorites’ bet if you can find it anywhere. But even with the line set at an even TD + XP, we’re liking San Diego State to cover. Army is a fine football team, but there’s only one way to beat the Aztecs this season and the Black Knights don’t fit the mold. Penny will expose a ‘D that been playing well, but is still developing and currently filled with 2-star recruits in key roles.
Take SDSU to prevail ATS in Fort Worth.