Breaking down the 2021 Army-Navy Game

By Amy Daughters -

The only game slated for what’s technically Week 15 of the 2021 college football schedule is the game – the 122nd edition of the Army-Navy Game

Here’s what you need to know.

The Schedule

Saturday, Dec. 11, 3pm EST, CBS at MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.

The Series

Navy leads 61-53-7, but Army has won four of the last five including last season’s game, a 15-0 shutout in West Point, N.Y.

The Matchup

What’s plagued Navy this season, despite being the No. 7 ranked rushing offense in the nation, is an epic struggle to score points. Averaging 20.4 points per game (No. 114 in the FBS/No. 10 in the AAC), the Midshipmen have only scored 24-plus in four of their 11 outings: 34 in a win over UCF, 24 in a loss to SMU, 35 in a loss to East Carolina, and then 38 in the win over Temple.

Army’s D is ranked No. 39 in scoring, No. 11 vs. the run, and No. 18 in total defense. The only other units of the same caliber that Navy has faced this season are Air Force (No. 5 nationally in total D), Houston (No. 6), and Cincinnati (No. 7) – all matchups that resulted in losses.

On the flip side, though the Midshipmen defense is ranked a respectable No. 39 in the FBS vs. the run, it’s only faced one opponent with a rushing offense ranked among the top 30 units in the nation.  That was Air Force – currently ranked No. 1 overall – which rushed for 176 yards (the second most allowed this season) in a 23-3 Week 2 loss. Army’s option attack is currently ranked No. 2 in the FBS in rushing yards per game, averaging 302.

The Line

Army -7.5

Players to Watch

Army: Junior OLB Andre Carter II (#34) (No. 2 in the FBS in sacks, No. 9 in forced fumbles and No. 13 in tackles for a loss)

Navy: Senior LB Diego Fagot (#54) (No. 8 in the AAC in tackles and No. 6 in tackles for a loss)

Hardware Up for Grabs

The Commander in Chief’s Trophy – The three-way contest between Army, Navy, and Air Force, the Commander in Chief was established in 1972 to ensure that the newer Air Force Academy (which kicked off football in 1957) would play Navy and Army (both dating back to 1891) annually. The Falcons lead the way with 20 trophies, followed by the Midshipmen with 16 and the Black Knights with nine.

Air Force sunk Navy 23-3 on Sept. 11 and then fell to Army 21-14 in overtime in Arlington, Texas, on Nov. 6. Regardless of who wins Army-Navy this Saturday, the Black Knights, as the current holders of the Commander in Chief, will retain the trophy. It marks only the second time in history that Army has won the prize in back-to-back seasons.

The Secretary’s Trophy –  Though little is known about its history, the Secretary’s Trophy is “presented annually to the winner of the U.S. Army – U.S. Navy football game.” The Secretary’s Trophy shouldn’t be confused with the Secretary’s Cup, awarded since 1981 to the winner of the annual game between the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Bears (New London, Conn.) and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Mariners (Kings Point, N.Y.) – both Division III programs.

The Thompson Cup – The third prize awarded to the winner of Army-Navy, The Thompson Cup honors its donor, Robert Means Thompson. Thompson graduated from the Naval Academy in 1868, served as a Navy officer, organized the Naval Athletic Association, graduated from Harvard Law School in 1874, made a fortune in the mining business, and served as president of the American Olympic Association for the 1912 and 1924 Olympic Games.

Did you know?

  • This is only the fifth time that Army-Navy is in East Rutherford, N.J., which also hosted the 1989, 1993, 1997, and 2002 contests. The Black Knights have only won once there – a 16-14 decision in 1993. The only other meeting in the Garden State was the 1905 game, a 6-6 tie in Princeton.
  • Despite the few times it’s played host, East Rutherford is the venue that holds the record for the most points scored by a single team. That came in the 2002 game, when Navy won 58-12, rushing for 421 yards and seven scores. Six of the TDs were ran in by QB Craig Candeto, who was the head coach at D-III Capital University (Bexley, Ohio) from 2013-15 and, after three seasons as an assistant at Georgia Tech, is now the running backs coach at FCS Austin Peay.
  • At 8-4, Army is bowl eligible and will face Missouri in the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas, on Wednesday, Dec. 22 at 8pm EST on ESPN. It’s the second straight season that the Black Knights will appear in a bowl game, falling 24-21 to West Virginia in last seasons’ Liberty Bowl. They haven’t beaten a current Power 5 member in bowl action since edging Illinois 31-29 in the 1985 Peach Bowl.
  • After posting a 3-7 record last season and at 3-8 coming into this weekend’s game, Navy won’t go bowling in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2001-02. The Midshipmen’s last bowl appearance came in the 2019 Liberty Bowl, a 20-17 win over K-State.
  • After winning as a 7.5-point favorite last season, Army is Vegas’ pick to win again this year. It marks the first time since 2000-01 that the Black Knights were favored in back-to-back games.
  • This is only the second time in history that Army-Navy is being played on Dec. 11. The only other occurrence came in 2010, a 31-17 Navy win in Philadelphia, the tenth win in a series-record 14-game streak that lasted from 2002-15.

Historical data courtesy of Sports-Reference/College Football. Odds courtesy of Odds Shark.

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