Michigan vs. Army
►Kickoff: Saturday, noon, Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor
►TV/radio: Fox/950 AM
►Records: Both teams 1-0
►Line: Michigan by 23
View from the other side
Charles Grevious is publisher of the Rivals Army site and covers the Black Knights. He breaks down the Black Knights for The Detroit News, answering five questions heading into Saturday’s game at Michigan Stadium. You can follow his work at GoBlackKnights.com.
►Question: What did you learn about Army in its season-opening 14-7 win over Rice?
►Grevious: That the 2018 season was the 2018 season and technically, the 2019 must develop its own identity despite the successes of last year and despite having several seasoned players returning. Playing without starting fullback Connor Slomka surely slowed down the offense, although coach Jeff Monken readily admitted after the win over Rice, that he is very confident in players like Sandon McCoy, who stepped in. Defensively, the Black Knights played a solid game and minus two to three big plays by Rice, they pretty much bent the entire game, but never broke – hence giving up only 7 points to the Owls.
►Question: Will playing in Michigan Stadium intimidate the Black Knights?
►Grevious: Simply put, not at all. Many of these players played on the road two years ago at Ohio State, last year versus Oklahoma on the road and every year it’s the Army-Navy game.
►Question: What makes Kelvin Hopkins, who rushed for 1,000 yards and threw for 1,000 yards last year, so special and difficult to defend?
►Grevious: Ironically, he’s not the fastest or quickest, but his decision-making running the triple option is a 10 on a scale of 1-10. The fact that he is a quality passer clearly makes the option more effective. At any point in the game, he can either run or pass for a back-breaking play or take the Army offense on a 70- or 80-yard TD drive and use up nine to 10 minutes on the clock. Hence, Army’s time of possession will ultimately be their best defense against Michigan.
►Question: Michigan has had one of the top-rated defenses the last few years. How do you think the Army offense will fare?
►Grevious: I think Army’s offense will do what Army’s offense always does and that is move the ball on the ground – effectively. The question becomes: How will Michigan’s defense react emotionally and physically after enduring a 70-yard, nine-minute TD drive.
►Question: We spend so much time talking about Army’s offense, but what should Michigan fans know about the Black Knights’ defense?
►Grevious: It will be that bend-not-break defensive mentality. Cornerback Javhari Bourdeau told GoBlackKnights.com on Wednesday: “We’ve watched a lot of film on them (Michigan offense) already a couple days in. We noticed that they are deep vertical threat team and they like to take shots down the field and that is something that coach has been preaching – just try to stay over top of all the routes and they do have some athletes. But also not feeling threatened when they do make plays and just line up the next play, because with those athletes they are going to make plays, and line up and treat every snap independent of the last.”
Players to watch
►Kelvin Hopkins, QB: The 5-foot-10, 205-pound senior is starting for the second straight season. He became the first quarterback in Army history to rush for 1,000 yards and throw for 1,000 yards in a single season last year, reaching those numbers after a big performance in the Armed Forces Bowl. Hopkins ran for 170 yards and five touchdowns – including a season-best 77-yard TD – against Houston in that game. He had 1,017 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground last season. In the opener against Rice, he finished with 80 yards rushing on 21 carries and was 3-of-8 passing for 53 yards.
►Cole Christiansen, LB: Christiansen (6-2, 225) is a two-time captain senior linebacker had a team-high seven tackles in Army’s opener against Rice. The middle linebacker was second on the team last season with 77 tackles and one sack. He also had two pass breakups and a forced fumble. In the annual Army-Navy game, he had six tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss last season.
►Kell Walker, RB: In the season opener, Walker had 25 yards on four carries and his lone reception, a 17-yarder, was the game-winner against Rice. The 5-9, 195-pounder rushed for 629 yards and six touchdowns in 2017 and then last season had 320 rushing yards and 170 yards receiving.
Facts and figures
►Going for it: Army led the nation in third-down conversions last season (122-of-196, 57 percent) and fourth-down conversions (31-of-36, 86 percent). The Black Knights converted a fourth down in 11 of 13 games. In the season opener, they were 1-of-2 on fourth down against Rice This is a big reason why the Black Knights were among the top two teams nationally in rushing offense in 2018. They finished averaging 312.6 yards a game, second behind Georgia Tech. Rice held them to 231 yards in the opener, their lowest total since the opener against Duke last season (168 yards).
►Wins keep rolling: With the victory over Rice last week, the Black Knights have now won 10 straight, second behind Clemson for longest active winning streak in the nation. It’s the longest for Army since the Black Knights won 11 straight between 1995 and 1996. They have won 14 straight at home – the streak started with the final home game of 2106 – second longest in Michie Stadium history. Army won 39 straight at home from 1925-31. Since 2017, Army has won 22 of its last 27 games. The game at Michigan will be Army’s first against a ranked opponent since facing No. 5 Oklahoma last year.
►Army advantage: Michigan and Army haven’t played since 1962, and this will be their 10th meeting. The Black Knights have a 5-4 series lead, one of three teams to have a winning record against Michigan with a minimum of five games played – Cornell and USC are the others. Michigan, however, won the last four meetings. This will be the sixth time the schools have played when Michigan, ranked No. 7, has been ranked in the top 10.