FACTS & STATS: Site: Qualcomm Stadium (54.000) -- San Diego, California. Television: NBCSN. Home Record: Army 0-0, SDSU 0-0. Away Record: Army 0-0, SDSU 0-1. Neutral Record: Army 0-0, SDSU 0-0. Conference Record: Army 0-0, SDSU 0-0. Series Record: San Diego State leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: The 123rd season of Army football kicks off this weekend at Qualcomm Stadium, as the Black Knights make the trip across the continent to challenge the San Diego State Aztecs.
Landing on the West Coast for the first time since 1995 when they tangled with Washington, this is the first game for the Academy in the Golden State since the squad took their battle with Navy on the road to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Army hopes the change of scenery will also bring about a change in final results since the program dropped four straight to close out last season.
Army, which competes as an FBS Independent, won a total of three games in 12 opportunities in 2011, one of those coming against Fordham by a score of 55-0 which served to help bolster some of the team's stats.
As for the Aztecs, members of the Mountain West Conference, they've already gotten their schedule off the ground, but not in a good way as they bowed to Washington on the road last Saturday night, 21-12. San Diego State, which was 8-4 during the regular season last year, suffered a 32-30 setback in the postseason versus Louisiana, which means the squad is attempting to snap a two-game slide this weekend.
SDSU won the only previous meeting between these two squads by a score of 23-20 last season.
Known primarily as a running team, Army proved it for sure last season when the squad set a program record with a staggering 4,158 yards, marking the first time in history the team had eclipsed the 4,000-yard mark. Needless to say, the Academy led the nation in rushing last season with an average of 346.5 ypg.
Coming back to try and surpass last year's efforts is running back Raymond Maples, who finished with 1,066 yards in 2011, ninth-most in school history. Even more remarkable is the fact that Maples averaged a monumental 7.3 yards per carry, which is the most in school history for any running back with at least 100 carries.
Now a senior, Trent Steelman has a chance to become the winningest quarterback for the program since 1963, already having posted 14 victories entering 2012. Steelman, who was second on the team last year with 645 yards rushing and tops with 12 TDs on the ground, is more of a field general than he is a passer, just like so many QBs who make their home with one of the service academies.
Steelman threw for just 424 yards and three touchdowns in 2011, so it should come as little surprise that Army was last in the nation in that department with a meager 50.4 ypg through the air.
From a defensive standpoint, the Knights have had a tough time building a group that can get after opponents, particularly at the line of scrimmage. A year ago the squad struggled to get a strong push in the trenches which is why they were 100th in the country in stopping the run, allowing 194.9 ypg and 106th in tackles for loss with only 4.4 per outing.
If not for the late October meeting against Fordham when the Knights held the Rams to a mere 88 total yards, the numbers would have been even worse for Army.
Many of the defensive starters listed for Army in this game are upperclassmen, although there are a couple of sophomores checking in at linebacker spots so that might be a vulnerable spot for the group.
Luckily for the Black Knights, this is not the same SDSU team that hit the field last season because if it were the Academy would have its hands full trying to stop both the run and the pass. While it has been just one game, SDSU's passing attack was nothing all that special against Washington last week when new quarterback Ryan Katz converted just 10-of-19 passes for 128 yards and a single score. Katz, who has the unenviable task of taking over for Ryan Lindley, was picked off once and sacked four times which brought the entire team's rushing total down to 199 yards.
Katz was second on the unit with 77 yards on the ground, trailing only Walter Kazee who produced 86 yards on nine carries, but it still wasn't nearly enough to even the playing field. It also didn't help that the Huskies scored one of their three touchdowns off a fumble which was returned 44 yards to the end zone.
Turnover margin was something that always seemed to favor the Aztecs a year ago when they tied for ninth in the nation with a plus-0.92 turnovers per contest, but against Washington the team came out on the wrong side of that department.
If looking for a bright spot for the SDSU defense last week, the team did log 10.0 TFL and while that pace probably won't be upheld for the entire season, it is still a positive sign for the group.
Army, which has dropped seven straight games away from West Point and hasn't won a game in the state of California since 1979 (Stanford, 17-13), figures to have some issues kicking off the new season on a positive note as well.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: San Diego State 31, Army 14Game Date and Time
Saturday, September 8, 7:30 p.m. (et).