2010 Armed Forces Bowl - SMU vs. Army
Army QB Trent Steelman & SMU QB Kyle Padron
Army QB Trent Steelman & SMU QB Kyle Padron
Posted Dec 28, 2010

2010-2011 Bowls - CFN's Preview & Prediction for the 2010 Bell Helicopters Armed Forces Bowl - SMU vs. Army

2010 Bell Helicopters Armed Forces

(6-6) vs. SMU (7-6)

Thursday, December 30th 12:00 ESPN  

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Pick ATS: SMU  Confidence Score: 70
OVERALL CONFIDENCE (35 most - 1 least): 21 out of 35
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By Richard Cirminiello

For many programs, a bowl berth is a given, a routine annual capper to a winning season. For SMU and Army, though, the postseason is like a shiny new gift.

The Black Knights are returning to the postseason for the first time since 1996 and haven't won one of these in a quarter-century. The Mustangs are bowling for a second straight year, quite an achievement for a school that took more than two decades to emerge from the shadows of the NCAA Death Penalty. For both programs, this trip to Fort Worth qualifies as a very big deal.

Statistics In Yards
Army   SMU
4,057 Total
3,984 Total
27.5 Scoring
25.2 Scoring
3,072 Rushing
1,698 Rushing
985 Passing
2,286 Passing
1.08 Turnover Margin -0.69
Position Rankings
5 Highest - 1 Lowest
Army   SMU
3.5 QBs 4
3 RBs 3
1.5 WRs 5
3 O Line 3
3 D Line 3
3 LBs 3.5
3 DBs 3.5
3.5 STs 3
4.5 Coach 4.5
CFN 2010 2011 CFN Bowl Previews & Confidence Picks
- New Mexico - BYU vs. UTEP
- Human. - Fresno St vs. NIU
- New Orleans - Troy vs. Ohio
- St. Pete - UL vs. So Miss
- Las Vegas - Utah vs. Boise St
- Poinsettia - SDSU vs. Navy
- Hawaii - Tulsa vs. Hawaii
- Little Caesars - Toledo vs. FIU
- Ind. - Air Force vs. GT
- Champs - NC St vs. WVU
- Insight - Iowa vs. Mizz
- Military - Mary. vs. ECU
- Texas - Illinois vs. Baylor
- Alamo - Ok St vs. Arizona
- Armed Forces - SMU vs. Army
- Pinstripe - SU vs. KSU
- Music City - UNC vs. Tenn
- Holiday - Neb vs. Wash
- Meineke - USF vs. Clemson
- Sun - Miami vs. ND
- Liberty - UCF vs. Georgia
- Chick-fil-A - FSU vs. USC
- TicketCity - NW vs. TT
- Outback - PSU vs. Florida
- Capital One - MSU vs. Bama
- Gator - Mich vs. Miss St
- GoDaddy - MU vs. MT
- Cotton - A&M vs. LSU
- Compass - Pitt vs. UK
- Kraft - BC vs. Nevada
- Rose - UW vs. TCU
- Fiesta - OU vs. UConn
- Orange - Stan. vs. VT
- Sugar - Ark. vs. OSU
- BCS Champ. - Aub. vs. Oregon
SMU has come a long way in three seasons under June Jones, winning the Conference USA West Division a year after snapping a 25-year bowl drought. The program fell short against UCF in Orlando at the beginning of the month, but the mere appearance in a title game was another tangible sign of progress. The fact that seven wins was a bit of a disappointment around Dallas was another indication that the bar is being raised for the Mustangs. No one around the school, especially Jones, was content with losses to Navy, UTEP, and a Houston squad that was missing QB Case Keenum.

As hard as it is to imagine with Jones calling the shots, the Mustang offense was a letdown during the fall. Pegged as one of the most potent passing games around, especially with Hawaii Bowl MVP Kyle Padron back behind center, SMU was just seventh in the league in scoring, and was held under 30 points eight different times. There was desirable balance, but a lack of consistency, especially against better competition.

Yeah, Army has beefed up on some rather mealy opponents, but when you've waited this long to play in a bowl game, why quibble about the fine print? While the Black Knights' best win came over Duke, and they lost to rivals Navy and Air Force, their overall level of play was markedly better in Rich Ellerson's second year at West Point. Even in losses, the Academy was making strides, losing to Hawaii, Temple, and Rutgers by only 13 points combined. Once it builds more depth and starts learning how to win the close ones, there's hope on the Hudson that it can match the recent success of the Middies and Falcons.

While SMU operates out of the run-and-shoot, Army employs the triple-option, a bona fide study in contrasts. The Knights rank No. 10 in FBS rushing, but dead last in passing, throwing the ball less than a dozen times per game. Although there's little trickery here, that doesn't mean the Mustangs will have the answers or the defenders to make the necessary stops. No amount of additional practice time will prepare them for what they're going to see on Thursday afternoon.

Contrasting styles. Similar goals. With a rare opportunity to showcase their programs in front of a national audience, SMU and Army want to have some fun in Texas and add another floor to the rebuilding project.

Players to Watch: While Army employs a slew of different players in its running game, there are two key parts that'll dominate the action—QB Trent Steelman and FB Jared Hassin. Steelman is the nimble point guard of the attack, distributing the ball and taking off when he spots an opening. He's rushed a team-high 187 times for 694 yards and 11 touchdowns, gradually getting better as a passer. Hassin is a load on dive plays, approaching 1,000 yards and averaging almost six yards a carry. He began to wear down toward the end of the season and needed the three-week break as much as any other Knight.

The SMU linebackers are always active. That'll be especially true for this game. Taylor Reed, Ja'Gared Davis, and Pete Fleps are the Mustangs' leading tacklers, playing from sideline-to-sideline and north-south. All three earned some kind of All-Conference USA recognition this fall, with Davis landing a spot on the first team. He's the best athlete of the three, though he'll need to be a little more disciplined in his approach for this methodical opponent. That won't be an issue for Reed and Fleps, who are two of the league's better run defenders and wrap-up tacklers.

Padron has myriad weapons that he'll be looking to point in the direction of the Army defense. The biggest revelation has come from RB Zach Line, the Mustangs' version of Hassin. The 6-1, 235-pound sophomore leads Conference USA in rushing, averaging more than six yards a carry and providing an ideal complement on the ground to the quick-strike passing attack. He has the style of running to wear teams down, especially late in the game. The Black Knights will also labor to contain SMU's receiver, namely Aldrick Robinson and Cole Beasley. While Beasley will work the inside routes, Robinson has the get-off and straight-line speed to make the Army defensive backs look as if they're standing still.

The fact that the Army D has played relatively well this season has a lot to do with the play of two seniors, DE Josh McNary and LB Stephen Anderson. While only 6-1 and 235 pounds, McNary plays much bigger than his size, using his quick hands and feet to get around tackles and live in the backfield. He has 46.5 career tackles for loss, and will be Padron's biggest concern on Thursday. Though smaller than Line, Anderson will be in charge of slowing him down, filling the running lanes and preventing yards after contact. He has 94 tackles and 58 solos, an indication of his ability to stop a back in his tracks in the open field.

SMU will win if ... it gets off to a fast start.

The last thing the Mustangs can afford to do is allow Army to hang around deep into the game. If this is close in the second half, the Knights will gain confidence and that could become dangerous. On the contrary, the cadets are not built to play from behind. They don't score quickly and they're not accustomed to having to throw. When SMU has a lead, it opens up all kinds of possibilities on offense. Jones can dig deep into his playbook, mixing in the running of Line with the passing of Padron. Tempo will play a huge part of this game, and the Mustangs want to be sure they're controlling it for as long as possible.

Army will win if ... it rushes for more than 250 yards.

When it's happened this season, the Black Knights are 4-1, with the only loss coming at Rutgers in overtime. It's no secret that Army needs to run the ball with considerable success, wearing out an undersized SMU defense and sustaining long, clock-draining drives. It'll probably have to get up around 30 points to win this game, which means converting on third-and-short and trading field goal attempts for touchdowns. Steelman and Hassin are the undisputed front men for the Academy, needing to spark the offense and keep the Mustang D on the field as much as they can.

What will happen: While it's not as if Army is happy to just be here, it'll have to settle for simply getting the bid and appearing in a bowl game for a change.

SMU possesses the offensive balance needed to win this time of year. The Black Knights are scrappy and fundamentally sound on defense, but that won't be enough against a Mustang attack that can run and throw it with equal success. Padron was in this spot a year ago, and will play well again, taking advantage of the edge his receivers will enjoy on the Army defensive backs. The MVP, however, will be Line, who's played such a pivotal role throughout the season. In an ironic twist considering the opponent, he'll be the game's top rusher, turning 25 carries into 150 bruising yards and a pair of touchdowns.

CFN Prediction: SMU 31 … Army 20 ... Line: SMU -7
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Pick ATS: SMU  Confidence Score: 70
OVERALL CONFIDENCE (35 most - 1 least): 21 out of 35

Pete Fiutak: Pick ATS - Army  Pick Confidence - 24
- SMU came up with a whale of a performance in last year's bowl win over Nevada, and now it has to try to handle the Army offense that's hit-or-miss with its ground game. Dead last in the nation in passing, Army isn't exactly going to be winging it all over the field and it'll have to control the clock to keep Kyle Padron and the Mustang attack on the sidelines.

Richard Cirminiello: Pick ATS - SMU  Pick Confidence - 7
- It ought to be an interesting battle of well-sized feature backs. Army will lean on FB Jared Hassin, while SMU feeds Zach Line. Line has been the salvation of a Mustang offense that's been a big disappointment this fall.

Matt Zemek: Pick ATS - SMU  Pick Confidence - 18
- Another contrast-of-styles game involving a service academy against a non-AQ foe. SMU's defense hit hard against Central Florida in the Conference USA Championship Game. The Mustangs will have a month to prepare for Army's triple-option offense, too; that will help them.

Russ Mitchell: Pick ATS - SMU  Pick Confidence - 18
- Go Army. Just keep it close. It won't happen.

Barrett Sallee: Pick ATS - SMU  Pick Confidence - 15
- Glad to see Army back in a bowl game for the first time since 1996. A tough task awaits, as June Jones has quietly done some good things at SMU since taking over in 2008.

Gabe Harris: Pick ATS - SMU  Pick Confidence - 20
Brian Harbach: Pick ATS - SMU Pick Confidence - 27
Matthew Smith: Pick ATS - Army  Pick Confidence - 35
Billy Gomila: Pick ATS - SMU  Pick Confidence -  31
Clucko (A coin flip): Pick ATS - Army   Pick Confidence -  7