Why Army Will Win The AutoZone Liberty Bowl
– The running game still works. It’s not the dominant force it’s been in past seasons, but it’s still fourth in the nation, ie averages 281 yards per game, and it’s brilliant at grinding down the clock. The Knights operate at their own pace, their own tempo, and it all works in the system that keeps the defense off the field and fresh. Unlike past seasons under Jeff Monken – like 2017 and 2018 – this isn’t quite as explosive as it normally is, but it’s methodical, and it works.
West Virginia is 5-4 on the season. The four losses all came in the four games when the run D gave up 179 yards or more. Army only failed to his that once, gaining 134 yards in the snowy win over Navy.
– The defense – it’s good. Again, it all works within the system that starts with the offense grinding time off the clock, and then the defense does the rest. It’s second in the nation behind Wisconsin allowing just 271 yards per game, and it’s No. 1 in college football in pass defense. To be very, very fair, though, the stats are skewed considering the Knights haven’t faced anyone who throws. However, the system really is working. Tulane is the only team to come up with more than 27 points on this D.
– Army does a whole lot of the smaller things right. West Virginia gets hit with a whole lot of penalties – the most in the Big 12 – and Army doesn’t. The Knights are great at taking the ball away, they’re great at closing out drives with points, and while there is no passing game, it just takes one big play a game to open things up.
There’s a problem, though …
Why West Virginia Will Win The AutoZone Liberty Bowl
– West Virginia might have the system to deal with Army. Army HAS to win the time of possession by a large margin. West Virginia was second in the Big 12 at keeping the ball, holding it for 32:38 per game. To pull this off, Army HAS to win the turnover margin, and it might have to be at least +2. West Virginia turned it over the fewest times in the Big 12, giving it away nine times. And then there’s Army’s big problem No. 1 …
– Darius and Dante Stills. The Mountaineers have the defensive line around the Stills brothers to be a major pain for the Army ground attack. Yes, it’s all about precision, cuts, and a different sort of blocking scheme as opposed to pure power, but the Mountaineers have the linemen to hold up, and the rest of the D knows how top stop the run.
Head coach Neal Brown is good at putting together good run defenses, and this one allowed just 3.6 yards per carry and eight scores on the season. Army’s big problem No. 2 …
– Army didn’t face a whole lot of passing teams. Cincinnati can throw, and Tulane had its moments, but for the most part, Army played running teams like Navy, Georgia Southern, Air Force and Citadel. Jarret Doege isn’t Aaron Rodgers, but he has thrown for over 200 yards in every game, and most importantly in this, he doesn’t throw picks. He has given up three on the year, and two game in the win over Baylor.