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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Army vs. Navy: College Football's Dormant Rivalry

As another college football regular season comes to an end, we once again find ourselves in a familiar place. With all of the FBS conference championships decided, and the bowl matchups set, there is one game left to play.

Army vs. Navy. Tradition. Honor. History. Pageantry. Cadets. Midshipmen.

There are many sports fans who don't understand the rivalry, even as old as it is, simply because neither team has been nationally relevant since the mid 1960s. Yet as someone who is related to three alumni of the United States Naval Academy, I can tell you that few rivalries across the country are bigger than the one between the schools from Annapolis, Maryland, and West Point, New York.

The participants in today's game may not hold such bitter feelings toward each other like the Ohio State-Michigan or Auburn-Alabama rivalries. Both Navy and Army want to beat each other just as badly nonetheless.

The real problem with this rivalry is that, at least recently, it has been one-sided. In fact, Navy's current 11 game win streak over Army is the longest any FBS (Football Bowl Subdivison) school holds over its arch rival in the nation. It also represents the longest winning streak that either team has enjoyed in the 113 years this series has been played.

And while I might be a little biased in my projection, I believe this afternoon Navy will make it 12 straight victories over the Army Black Knights. The Midshipmen, led by sophomore quarterback Keenan Reynolds, boast a rushing attack that ranks third in the nation (Reynolds himself has rushed for 1,124 yards and 26 TDs ). Their record not only includes wins against Indiana, Air Force, and Pitt among others, but they also came within a touchdown of beating Notre Dame for the fourth time in seven years. If Army is to have any chance, they will need to get to Reynolds.

Yet things just don't look that promising for Army in this the 114th meeting between these two teams. While Navy, at 7-4, has already accepted a bid to the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl (to be played on December 30th against Middle Tennessee), Army, at 3-8 will be once again spending the holidays at home. And while you can be sure the Black Knights will give the Middies everything they've got, in the end, it may not be enough for Rich Ellerson's squad.

Of course, the game isn't played on paper, and on any given Saturday anything could happen. While I personally don't want to see Ken Niumatalolo's Navy squad lose today, it could be just the thing to bring this currently dormant rivalry back to life.

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