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Scouting Michigan’s match-up: Army

A triple-option attack and respectable defense await Michigan in Week 2

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 03 Air Force at Army Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Army Black Knights are at a point where they’re receiving national recognition like the days of old. That’s what happens when you have the second longest winning streak in the nation behind Clemson.

Army has momentum, and besides their huge tilt with Navy at the end of the season, the game against Michigan will be their biggest of the season. No matter what the final score is, Army is coming into The Big House with max effort.

“Holy smokes, all 11 one-on-one matchups we’re outmanned. We’re outmanned in every one-on-one matchup,” Army coach Jeff Monken said on Tuesday. “Like I said, we just try to prepare our schemes and do the best we can and hope it will be good enough.”

That’s the thing about Army, they scheme real well and put themselves in advantageous situations even if they’re the less talented group of athletes on the field.

Enter their triple-option offense, which Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown has been preparing for all off-season.

The triple-option will be even more dangerous this season because of quarterback Kelvin Hopkins, who passes the ball more than most Army QB’s in recent memory. In 2018, Hopkins rushed for 1,017 yards, 17 TD’s and passed for 1,026 yards with 6 TD’s and 3 INT’s. Last season, Hopkins accounted for more than 50% of Army’s total offense. Army lives and dies with Hopkins, the offense depends on him at the highest of degrees.

With the triple-option there’s so much going on at each play. A defense has to keep their eyes on three targets who could run the ball, and at the same time they need to be careful not to be overly-aggressive in case it’s a pass play.

Triple option rules= Give, keep, or pitch

Army will run the triple option from under center, out of the pistol formation, and even out of shotgun. Their triple-option schematics are diverse.

Army may play a lot of games against teams Michigan would classify as cupcakes, but the Black Knights also play teams such as Oklahoma, and give them all they can handle.

In September 2018, Army went into Oklahoma and faced the Sooners in what became a nail-biting overtime win for Kyler Murray and Co. Army’s defense held Murray, the Heisman winner, to just 165 yards passing. And equally as impressive, Army dominated the time of possession battle, having control for 44:41! Oklahoma had one of the most prolific offenses in the nation, and what Army was able to do against the Sooners was impressive. What we can learn from their showing here is that Army needs to be respected or a weird game can unfold.

Defensively, Army can get things done, too. Especially LB Cole Christiansen and CB Elijah Riley. In 2018 Christiansen was second on the team in tackles with 77 to go along with 1 sack and 11 tackles for loss. The team captain was a 2018 All-Independent First Team selection and is going to be a headache to gameplan against. Riley can fly all over the place and is a willing tackler with savvy instincts that lead to penetration behind the line of scrimmage. In 2018, Riley had 55 total tackles, 6.5 for loss, and 10 pass breakups. Army allowed just 62 yards passing last week, which was the 5th best in the nation.

2018 Team Statistics

  • Total Offense: 76th
  • Total Defense: 8th
  • Passing Efficiency: 7th
  • Passing Yards Allowed: 21st
  • 3rd Down Conversion Pct: 1st
  • Passes Intercepted: 118th
  • Red Zone Defense: 20th
  • Red Zone Offense: 31st
  • Scoring Defense: 10th
  • Scoring Offense: 36th
  • Team Sacks: 73rd
  • Passing Yards per Completion: 1st
  • Rushing Defense: 10th

Going off of Army’s 2018 numbers:

  • A team that doesn’t pass a lot, but has the ability to hit big plays when they decide to throw
  • Really savvy converting third downs. They can thank the triple-option for that, they have defenses over-thinking.
  • Their defense can bottle up good offenses and are fairly balanced when it comes to their effectiveness in stopping the run and pass