Fear not, college football fans, for you will not have to go a full Saturday without a game for the rest of 2017. Filling that potential void this week—which falls after championship weekend yet before the start of the bowl season—is the 118th meeting between Army and Navy. This historic rivalry is uniquely collegiate, from the in-uniform crowd to the dueling triple-option offenses to the sheer grit and determination on display from young men who will defend our country after graduation. It’s a game you just feel good watching, and it’s the only college football game on the slate this weekend, so there’s really no excuse for not tuning in. Here are three storylines to look for during Saturday’s game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia (3:00 p.m. ET, CBS).
It may be difficult for younger fans to believe, but Army actually held a 49-46-7 all-time edge over Navy before the Midshipmen went on a 14-game win streak that swung the historical tilt in their favor. After a series of close losses, Army finally reversed that streak last season with a 21–17 victory—as you might imagine, everyone celebrated like they’d just won the natty—and comes into this year’s contest at 8–3, with one loss to Ohio State and the other two by a combined seven points. This is a solid football team.
Navy started the season 5–0, a start that earned a brief appearance in the AP Poll at No. 25, only to lose five of six since. But none of those losses came by more than 10 points (the team to beat the Midshipmen by 10 was unbeaten UCF), and Navy played a tougher schedule than Army did. Not much separates the two teams on the field, which should make for a hyper-competitive game that should remain close deep into the second half.
APPRECIATE THE THROWBACK FEEL OF THE SPECTACLE
There is perhaps no better way to summarize the type of ground-and-pound football you’re going to see in this game than the following stat: the two teams’ starting quarterbacks (Ahmad Bradshaw for Army, Zach Abey for Navy) have combined to throw just 109 passes on the season. For comparison, Washington State’s Luke Falk threw 124 passes over the course of his team’s final two games.
Both Army and Navy run variations of the triple-option offense that rely heavily on their quarterbacks’ running abilities—Bradshaw has rushed for 1,472 yards and 11 touchdowns, while Abey has posted 1,322 yards and 14 scores. And nothing either offense will do on Saturday will surprise the other team in the slightest. It’s good old-fashioned football in the truest sense, from a time when the option existed in more than a handful of special cases. If you love dive plays and six-yard gains on second-and-four, this game is for you.
THIS YEAR’S UNIFORMS ARE INCREDIBLE
It’s become a tradition for both Army and Navy to swag it out with special uniforms for this game. It’s a bit of an off-brand move—I just used a whole section to tout the no-frills nature of both teams, and special shiny uniforms don’t fit that description—but it’s hard to be upset when the uniforms are this sick.
Nike has gifted Army, the road team this year, with an icy white-on-white combo punctuated by accents of that signature Army green, inspired by the 10th Mountain Division. There’s also a skiing panda on the cleats, the insignia of the Pando Commandos. (Pando, Col., is the nearest town to the alpine training facility at Camp Hale.) The unintentional timing is perfect: There’s some snow in the forecast on Saturday in Philly.
Navy’s Under Armour get-ups pay homage to the Blue Angels flight demonstration team—the uniforms are all blue and the helmets have two planes in motion on them.
If the football game is as good as the uniforms, we’re all in for a treat.