The Navy Midshipmen enter the 124th edition of America’s Game at Gillette Stadium on Saturday hoping to pull off what oddsmakers would consider an upset and earn a share of the Commander In Chief’s Trophy.

And while the 5-6 Midshipmen might wish they were bowl eligible, a victory over the Army Black Knights would make the 2023 campaign much easier to reflect on. The season finale holds a spot in their mind all season long, as players confirmed.

Navy leads the rivalry series 62-54-7 while the two sides have split their last four matchups. Most recently, Army earned a double-overtime win over Navy in the 2022 clash at Lincoln Financial Field.

This year’s game marks the first time it will be held in New England, an experience all involved have appreciated.

Story continues below advertisement

“It’s really difficult to describe,” first-year Navy head coach Brian Newberry said of the matchup. “There’s nothing like it. There’s no college football game like it, just the pure effort and fight that both teams will play with Saturday. There’s no game like that in the country.”

Both teams share their strengths and weaknesses. They muck it up in the trenches with a run-first mindset on offense and rely on their physicality on the defensive side. Newberry projected there will be somewhere around 55 to 60 plays from scrimmage.

    What do you think?  Leave a comment.

Navy’s offense runs the ball three times (46.6 attempts per game) for every one passing play (15.5 attempts per game). While you might find it hard to believe, the Black Knights surpass those numbers and average 47.9 rush attempts per game compared to 13.6 passes.

It’s why FanDuel Sportsbook currently has the total listed at 28.5. Those sorts of totals usually are reserved for offensively-challenged Iowa football.

Story continues below advertisement

Navy is one of two schools in the country that has started four or more quarterbacks this season. Senior Xavier Arline, a rare two-sport athlete at the United States Naval Academy, will play behind center at One Patriot Place. A product of Long Island, N.Y., Arline has completed 55% of his 42 passing attempts in eight games this season and has rushed for 251 yards on 72 tries.

Sophomore fullback Alex Tecza, of Pittsburgh, Penn., leads the Midshipmen on the ground. He averages 6.2 yards per rush with five of Navy’s 16 rushing scores. Fellow sophomores Eli Heidenreich leads the team in receiving yards (326) while Brandon Chatman has a team-best 17 receptions on the season.

“These games, we know our kids are going to play out of their minds as far as their effort and physicality. The main focus is their ability to focus, play in and play out,” Newberry said. “We call it a breathe, focus, explode kind of game.

The Middies are stout on the defensive side of the ball, one of two programs in the FBS to have three shutouts this season. Navy’s red zone defense ranks fifth in college football while its 24 forced turnovers are tied for the sixth-most in the country, per a team release. The Midshipmen also are tied for first in the nation in fumbles recovered (14).

Story continues below advertisement

“It doesn’t take a miracle to win this game,” Newberry said. “It just takes the best version of yourself and doing your job, and having all other 11 guys do that. Because it comes down to execution.”

While there is no added need for motivation, the Commander In Chief’s Trophy is on the line at Gillette Stadium. The Midshipmen will earn a share with a victory while the Black Knights will bring it back to West Point with a win of their own.

Featured image via Reggie Hildred/USA TODAY Sports Images