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Army Football 2016 Team Preview: Monken Struggling

Army didn't win many games in 2014 and was victorious in even fewer last year. Can they get better?

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

This will be the last Shamrock Series before the event takes a break in 2017. The Irish will head down to San Antonio to face an Army team looking to rebuild after a disastrous 2nd-year under Jeff Monken.

2015 Record: 2-10

F/+ Rank: 108

S&P Rank: 123

FEI Rank: 101

Wins: Eastern Michigan, Bucknell

Losses: Fordham, UConn, Wake Forest, Penn State, Duke, Rice, Air Force, Tulane, Rutgers, No. 18 Navy

*****

Jeff Monken was supposed to be the guy to raise the ceiling at Army but through 2 years he's discovered how difficult of a job he walked into back in 2014.

He was successful in his first head coaching position with Georgia Southern, going 31-12 from 2010-12 and making 3 straight semi-final appearances in the FCS playoffs. Then again, he did go 7-4 with a 4-4 conference record before bolting for Army.

The move by Monken was a little curious at the time. Despite the 4 losses in 2013, Georgia Southern capped off the year with a defeat of Florida in the Swamp despite not completing a single pass. GSU was scheduled to join the Sun Belt Conference coming up from the FCS ranks so perhaps Monken thought it was a good time to leave.

At any rate, it's been a major struggle at West Point. He took over a poor and moribund program and hasn't made progress with a 6-18 record through 2 seasons. Army has even lost to a FCS opponent in each of the last two campaigns.

If there's hope it's in the youth of this program. Last year, the Black Knights saw 9 true freshmen combined to make 39 starts which is just an astounding number even for a military academy. It appears there's been a total re-set by Monken as he tries to build the program in his image but it won't be easy. Although Army recruits enormous-sized classes they recently announced 16 players--both from the 2016 class and USMAPS--will not be attending West Point.

Stuff like that makes rebuilding that much more difficult.

Low Moment

Army didn't get off on the right foot last year by opening the season with a loss to the FCS Fordham Rams. The Rams even spotted Army 11 penalties!

Army was out-gained 445-389 and lost the game 37-35 following a failed 2-point attempt late in the 4th quarter.

High Moment

The Black Knights have lost approximately 74 straight games to Navy but they go into the off-season knowing they gave the Midshipmen everything they could handle in a 21-17 loss to finish 2015.

Army led 10-7 after the 1st quarter and even took a 17-14 lead into halftime. They out-gained Navy by 34 yards, too. However, they lost the turnover battled 3-0 and tripped over themselves with drives ending in a missed field goal, fumble, and 2 interceptions to finish the game. The fumble and latter interception both came inside the Navy 40-yard line.

2016 Schedule

Home: Rice, Lafayette, North Texas, Air Force, Morgan State

Away: Temple, UTEP, Buffalo, Duke, Wake Forest

Neutral: Notre Dame, Navy

That's a super friendly home lineup even for Army's standards. A pair of FCS teams and 2 more (traditionally) poor FBS teams.

Adding Temple and Notre Dame doesn't make their life easier, though. Last year, the Black Knights got bad versions of Penn State and Rutgers during the regular season. To be fair, Temple could have a downturn after losing some fantastic defenders.

S&P Projected Rank: 124

By quite some distance Army is projected to be the easiest game of the 2016 season for Notre Dame.

Predicted Kickoff Spread: Notre Dame (-28.5)

There's only one concern with this game and it's that it comes after a pretty tough stretch for the Irish and I don't know if the Shamrock Series aspect to things helps the cause. I can picture a tired team that had to fly back from Jacksonville the week prior and back down to San Antonio for a really dull and uninteresting opponent. I can picture a team that isn't too hyped to play a triple option team for the second week in a row.

For that reason, I can totally see some 17-13 halftime score that has most of the Notre Dame fan base up in arms and the Shamrock Series being cursed from coast to coast.

Army could take a sizable jump forward in Monken's third year but despite fears that the Irish might not be 100% ready or fatigued from a tough schedule late in the season they should run away with it by the final whistle. The Black Knights just aren't in the same tier as Navy and the biggest problem for these academies is being able to stop Notre Dame's offense.

Even if it is 17-13 at halftime the game is just as likely to end 48-16 because Army is going to be severely over-matched on defense.