Air Force at Navy: Game Preview, How to Watch, Odds, Prediction
Weeks zero and one are in the books, now the real fireworks start as it’s Air Force at Navy for week two!
What should we expect from Air Force at Navy?
WEEK 2: United States Air Force Academy (1-0) at United States Naval Academy (0-1)
WHEN: Saturday, September 11th — 1:30 PM MT/12:30 PM PT
WHERE: Navy-Marine Corp Stadium; Annapolis, MD
STREAMING: Paramount+ (paid subscription required)
RADIO: The Air Force broadcast can be found in Colorado Springs on 740 AM (KVOR) or streamed via Air Force All-Access. The Navy broadcast can be found on the affiliates of the Navy Radio Network, including 1430 AM and 99.9 FM (KNAV) in Annapolis.
SERIES RECORD: Air Force 31 Wins – Navy 22 Wins
LAST WEEK: Air Force defeated Lafayette at home, 35-14, while Navy lost to Marshall at home, 49-7.
ODDS (as of 9/9, via Vegas Insider): Air Force -6
SP+ PROJECTION: Air Force by 8.1
FEI PROJECTION: Air Force by 9.8
— Air Force Football (@AF_Football) September 8, 2021
The Falcons take on the Midshipmen this week to kick off the first matchup in the round robin competition for the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy. Air Force enters the contest with a little more confidence after a win over FCS Lafayette last week. Navy, on the other hand, is trying to find calmer seas after having their hull battered by Marshall by a score of 49-7.
This rivalry has been a historically competitive one, though and the two schools alternating victories for the past eight years is a very good illustration of that. Air Force embarrassed the Mids last year to the tune of 40-7, but that was in Colorado Springs. The 2021 renewal of the rivalry is in Annapolis, and on the 20th anniversary of the terror attacks from 9/11.
There will be a lot of attention given to this week’s game from a national perspective, despite not ultimately hosting ESPN for Gameday as many speculated would happen. The game will be on the main CBS network and covered by their national broadcast. For a game that needs no additiional motivations, one can’t help but think Saturday’s tilt will be filled with unrivaled passion.
Perhaps the Mids’ week one gaffe was more indicative of their attention being placed on their matchup ahead with Air Force? If Troy Calhoun and crew want to make the long trip back to Colorado with the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy still in play, they’ll have to ignore Navy’s week one drubbing and come prepared for four quarters of war.
Three Keys to an Air Force Victory
1. start fast
This game has all the makings of a momentum game, momentum that Navy will desperately need to find its way back on course for the 2021 season, momentum that Air Force just as desperately needs to have any chance at ending a very long CiC drought. And, most notably, momentum that could come on any given play Saturday with a stadium full of cadets and fans alike desperate to cast aside their ability to speak for days, to help propel their team for one afternoon.
Neither team can afford to get behind by more than a score or two in this kind of engagement. For the Falcons it may actually be more dangerous with all of the added intensity filling the Naval Academy’s home crowd. It will be very important for Air Force to find their game quick, and surface early reminders that another 30-plus point deficit may loom.
2. don’t be fooled
Neither of these teams are strangers to trick plays, especially when playing one another. This is the kind of game that Navy should be far more desperate for the benefits of a imaginative big play than Air Force. In fact, the last time that Ken Niumatalolo’s squad beat the Falcons, it was greatly helped by these kind of plays.
The Mids still feature one of the slot-backs with experience at quarterback in Chance Warren who was part of that 2019 victory. Tyger Goslin is another player with starting experience under center, prior to his recent transition to slot-back. It’s not unlikely that, if successful, this kind of play will account for most if not all of Navy’s gains through the air. Don’t let it happen.
3. GET A HAT ON DIEGO FAGOT
One of the things that everyone who watches this game from a national perspective should walk away with is an appreciation for great inside linebacker play. Two of the best players in the country at this position will be playing on Sunday, in Navy’s Diego Fagot and Air Force’s Demonte Meeks.
Fagot is a preseason All-American, and he’s been decorated with that honor previously. This guy has been a menace for the Mids for a while now, and he could single handedly disrupt a lot of what the Falcons want and need to do. In last years game, Fagot went down with an injury, hopefully that’s not his fate on Saturday. The Air Force offensive line would do well to find chemistry early and get to the second level to try and neutralize Fagot as often as possible. Regardless of your rooting interest, appreciate the play of Fagot and Meeks on Saturday.
● LB Spotlight ●
Diego Fagot – Navy
• Fagot is one of the best Linebackers in #CFB and an elite tackler. In his career he has 188 Tackles, 24.5 Tackles for Loss, 8.5 Sacks, 1 INT, 4 Pass Breakups, 1 TD and 4 Forced Fumbles. pic.twitter.com/AepEbj1Rti
— NCAAF Nation (@NCAAFNation247) August 24, 2021
It’s so rare that a Ken Niumatalolo coached team has back-to-back down years. Unfortunately for the Mids, this game could propel what seemed improbable into reality.
Navy has spent more than a year trying to find its way on offense. Really, ever since Malcom Perry graduated and went on to the NFL. And it’s no coincidence that in that time, they have played musical quarterbacks with little to no success. Quarterback is not the sole reason for Navy’s struggles, but it’s certainly not been a position that’s capable of covering other sins.
The defense hasn’t fared much better in Annapolis, despite some NFL talent and the aforementioned stud in the middle, Diego Fagot. The defense, quite honestly, is the likelier unit to spark a Navy reversal of fortune, and their effort will need to be herculean on Saturday to win the game.
Opposite them, Air Force is also trying to figure things out in this very young season. Despite a nearly 400-yard offensive effort, there is still a lot of opportunity for improvement on offense. The same can be said for their defense, which is loaded with talent and experience.
But in a game like this, it’s the little things that can really make the difference. Haaziq Daniels for instance, connected on 3/5 pass attempts last week against a largely overmatched opponent. What the statistics don’t show are the two additional dropbacks in which Daniels took a sack rather than forcing throws into coverage. It was the right decision to eat the ball in the given plays. This is one example that is a microcosm of simplified play can be so critical. Those kind of decisions could have been the difference between a New York residence and a Colorado home for the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy.
Man for man, Air Force is flat out a more talented team, and a more confident team. It won’t be until the ladder part of the game that the Falcon’s create a little breathing room, but it will certainly have to be earned.
Air Force sinks Navy and sings second.
Air Force 28, Navy 10