Stanford and Army will meet for the 11th time overall and the first time since 1979 when the Cardinal travels to West Point in Week 2. Two guarantees for the game: the foliage at Michie Stadium on the banks of the Hudson will be beautiful and Army will run the ball (a lot). The Black Knights (or Cadets, if you prefer) have led the nation in rushing in each of the past two seasons by a healthy margin. In 2012, Army rushed for 369.8 yards per game, which was 53 more yards per game than the nation's No. 2 rushing unit, Air Force.
Unlike Oregon, which has a strong passing attack to complement its gaudy rushing totals, Army ranked last among FBS schools in passing yards per game (66.4) for the fifth consecutive year. In 2012, Army QBs attempted 115 passes all season and completed only 44 percent of them. Coach Rich Ellerson led the Black Knights to their first winning season since 1996 in 2010, but Army has gone 5-19 over the last two years. Last season's brutal campaign culminated in Army's 11th consecutive loss to hated rival Navy.
2012 record: 2-10
What to expect from the Cadets in 2013: With Ellerson back for a fifth season, don't expect the Black Knights' running ways to change, though they could look to air it out a little more this season. Here's what Ellerson told reporters during the offseason:
"Balance might be a reach, but we’re getting things from opponents that force us to be able to take advantage of the run support out of the secondary. We’re doing such a good job of running the football that put folks in a bind and creates opportunities in the passing game. We need to take advantage of those opportunities. Frankly, that’s one of the things we tried to shake up this spring."
Four-year starting quarterback Trent Steelman, who rushed for 1,248 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior, is gone, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see the offense take a step back. Angel Santiago and AJ Schurr are in a competition to fill Steelman's big shoes. Army's scoring defense has slipped in each of the last four years and the Black Knights surrendered the third-most rushing yards per game (232.3) of any FBS team last season. The schedule features winnable games, including home dates with Morgan State, Wake Forest and Eastern Michigan, but it's hard to imagine the Black Knights returning to bowl eligibility this season.
Best player: Running back Raymond Maples. The senior, who ran for 1,215 yards and averaged 5.45 yards per carry, is the Black Knights' leading returning rusher.
Prediction vs. Stanford: The only previous time a ranked Stanford team faced Army was 1971, when the Cardinal left West Point with a 38-3 victory. Given the Black Knights' inability to stop the run last season, expect Stanford's tailbacks to pad their early-season rushing totals. A preseason not-so preposterous prediction: three different Stanford players eclipse 100 yards on the ground. Another 38-3 win isn't so outlandish.
Best Random Fact about Army: George Edward Pickett graduated last in his West Point class in 1846. In fairness, it was a rather legendary class.