Jemel Jones has waited six years for a moment like Saturday.
The last time that Jones played a football game in Texas was the 2016 high school season for The Colony High School. It’s about a 35-minute ride from Globe Life Field, the site of Army’s Commander in Chief’s showdown against Air Force, in Arlington.
Jones, a senior quarterback, has started and led Army to consecutive wins over Colgate and Louisiana-Monroe entering the service-academy matchup for the CIC trophy on the line.
Army coach Jeff Monken has kept his starting quarterback tight-lipped but it would be a surprise if Jones doesn’t open the game or receive early action.
“This is my first time being involved in this game,” Jones said. “I hear a lot about the emotions of the game. I just want to prepare like it’s another game on our schedule like I’ve prepared for every single game on our schedule so far.”
Jones, one of 18 players from Texas on Army’s roster, should have a strong cheering section. He expects to have at least 16 family and close friends in attendance.
The Black Knights are 5-0 since 2018 in games played in Texas (Brendan in Jersey stat credit).
Army is an underdog for the fourth straight time in the series, getting seven points. The Black Knights are seeking the program’s first three-game winning streak over Air Force since 1976-78.
Sal Interdonato (Black Knight Nation): Army 20, Air Force 17. Expect another thriller to come down to a late-minute play possibly on special teams. Maybe, a game-winning kick from Quinn Maretzki. If Army needs a momentum changer on defense, look for Jabari Moore. Moore has an interception in each of the last two games against Air Force including the overtime, game-clincher last season.
Seth Mendelson (Black Knight Nation): Air Force 35, Army 17. Speed and experience will dominate the day in Texas and lead to a Falcons’ victory. But will Army coach Jeff Monken try new things to stop Air Force?
Brendan In Jersey: Army 20, Air Force 16. Only once in the past eight years has either side in this matchup scored more than 23 points and I believe that will hold true again. However, I think the offenses will be more successful between the 20s than the “caveman football” we’ve seen in recent years in this matchup. Points will still be at a premium. Both teams have reasonably reliable field goal kickers (certainly by service academy standards) so expect that to be a factor. Most importantly, however, Army looks to be as healthy as they’ve been all season (including Week 1) and Army loves playing in the state of Texas (9-3 under Monken, 5-0 since 2018).
Steve Kriepe (Crawdad’s Countdown to Kickoff): Army 24, Air Force 19. This is a tough one – do I go with my head or my heart? My head says Air Force is where coach Monken wants Army to be in terms of rushing yards/game, penalties and time of possession. However, I think Army enters this game hungrier, which will be the difference.
Predictions from around the college football universe
Pete Fiutak (College Football News): Air Force 21, Army 13
Kevin McGuire (Athlon Sports): Air Force 26, Army 20
Sean O’Toole (Mountain West Wire): Air Force 21, Army 20