The season-long competition to decide the 51st edition of the Commander-in-Chief's trophy heads into its next game on Saturday as Army and Air Force meet in Arlington, Texas, in the 2022 Commander's Classic. For the Falcons, the game vs. the Black KLnights presents a chance to clinch the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy for the 21st time after defeating Navy in a 13-10 thriller last month in Colorado Springs.
Accomplishing that feat may prove difficult, however, as this leg of the competition has gone Army's way in recent years. Jeff Monken's Black Knights have won four of the last five in this series, including a 21-14 overtime victory last season that prevented the Falcons from winning the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy outright. Army would go on to fall to Navy at the end of the season, resulting in just the fifth shared trophy in the history of the competition (Army officially "retained" the trophy).
Air Force has the most Commander-In-Chief's Trophy wins with 20, ahead of Navy with 15 and Army with nine, but the Falcons have not won the competition since 2016 in part because of the recent shortcomings in this game. With the neutral site of Globe Life Field as the backdrop, the trophy will be on the line for Air Force's taking on Saturday while Army looks to get its first Commander-in-Chief's rivalry win of the season and set up an opportunity to win the trophy outright on Dec. 10 in Philadelphia vs. Navy.
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Army vs. Air Force: Need to know
Air Force looking to match CiC success with conference success: While the Falcons have not won the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy since 2016, Troy Calhoun has built this program into one of the powers in the Mountain West Conference in recent years. Air Force tied for the Mountain Division title in 2021 with a 6-2 record and finished second in the division with a 7-1 record in 2019. When you exclude the COVID-shortened season of 2020, this Air Force program is 26-8 over the last three seasons, and with a win will be bowl eligible for the 13th time in the last 16 seasons.
Elite rushing attacks on display: Air Force ranks No. 1 nationally in rushing yards per game with 336.8, barely ahead of Army which is No. 2 with 334.6 rushing yards per game. The two programs are also tied for fourth nationally with 25 rushing touchdowns, just three scores behind the FBS-leading Georgia Bulldogs (28). Few teams in the country commit to the run like these two programs, with Air Force checking in second in the FBS with 59.4 attempts per game and Army third at 55.6 attempts per game. Only Commander-in-Chief's Trophy rival Navy, with 61.1 attempts per game, runs the ball more often.
Air Force FB Brad Roberts climbing in the record books: Roberts, a senior, had been a key piece of the Air Force offense, and his contributions are well-represented in the program's record books. Roberts just recently became the all-time leading rusher among fullbacks at Air Force with 2,756 yards for his career, and he sits fifth on the career rushing list for all players. He also has the most career rushing touchdowns for a fullback with 31 (sixth all-time among all players) and continues to add to that total with six rushing touchdowns in eight games this season. Roberts is just 249 yards from moving into fourth place on that all-time rushing list, and if he keeps up his average of 117.9 yards per game, which is No. 10 nationally, he could make a run at third all-time in the bowl game.
Army vs. Air Force prediction, picks
Since 2005, the under in games between service academies has gone 42-9-1. Even as the oddsmakers have caught on to the trend over the years and dropped the totals, the under continues to cash. The methodology is simple and works on both sides of the ball for both teams. Since service academies run the ball more than almost any other team in college football, the clock rarely stops. And since service academy defenses are familiar with the option-based principles from practicing against them every day, there are not as many mistakes that result in long running plays. It takes a lot of plays to move the ball down the field 3-4 yards at a time and those runs keep the clock moving. All of those conditions limit scoring and lead us back to the well for another under. Prediction: Under 40.5
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