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SHERMAN'S MARCH: Army, Navy, and Air Force

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A salute to the service academies!

Rob Carr/Getty Images

On this the 240th Independence Day, I, General William Tecumseh Sherman, am engorged with pride for my country and wish to celebrate some of its accomplishments. However, I cannot deviate from the war path, and football is all that is on my mind these days, so I shall shout from the highest mountaintops the football achievements of the United States' glorious service academies.

Before getting to the specifics, I would like to take a second to marvel at the fact that in the age of enormous TV contracts, detestably decadent facilities and legions of bagmen, the service academies can field competitive FBS football teams. All three were in bowl games as recently as 2010, and two were in bowls just last year. This is an incredible testament to the character and discipline of the young men of our service academies, and it should warm the heart of every American to see football thriving in these places.

Army Black Knights

My alma mater, West Point, is the proud owner of the coolest team name in FBS football. WHAT PITIFUL LEGION OF PAMPERED RAPSCALLIONS WOULD DARE TO STAND AGAINST THE BLACK KNIGHTS? The Army-Rutgers rivalry dates back to 1891. I can only assume Rutgers became known as the Scarlet Knights due to the enormous amounts of their own blood found on their armor after attempting to battle the Black Knights.

In 1912, Army fielded a team containing two future five-star generals. There have been nine five-star generals in the history of the U.S. Armed Forces. Omar Bradley and President Dwight D. Eisenhower played on the 1912 team. Before you Michigan Wolverines fans shout at me about Gerald Ford having played football in Ann Arbor, I'll point out that Eisenhower was actually elected to the presidency, so Ford was the President of the United States in the same way that Bill Cubit was the head coach of the Illinois Fighting Illini. IF THEY MET ON THE FIELD TODAY, EISENHOWER WOULD RUN AROUND FORD FOR ONE TOUCHDOWN AND OVER HIM FOR ANOTHER.

Army was one of the national powerhouses of the early twentieth century in spite of a 1913 upset at the hands of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The zealots in South Bend used cheap, gimmicky offensive tactics that were widely considered un-American, such as the forward pass. I, THEREFORE, REFUSE TO RECOGNIZE THE RESULT OF THIS GAME AS OFFICIAL.

Under head coach Earl Blaik, Army went on one of the greatest runs in the history of college football beginning in the 1940's, winning three national titles in 1944, 1945 and 1946 without losing a game. During this run, the U.S. Armed Forces became back-to-back World War champs by winning World War II. Two Heisman Trophies were won by Army players Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis during this time, with a third being won by Pete Dawkins in 1958.

In the 1980's, Army defeated the Michigan State Spartans in a bowl game and went on to beat Illinois the next year to move to 2-0 against the Big Ten in bowl games, a record that still stands. They would lose to Auburn and Alabama in their next two bowls, but this in no way diminishes Army's blowout of Alabama in the 1860's.

Since a 2010 bowl win against SMU, the Black Knights have been somewhat adrift. If I were capable of feeling shame, I might have felt this emotion at their 2-10 campaign if not for the fact that unlike the ten teams that defeated them, they consist entirely of West Point officer candidates. TWO TERRIFIC WINS AND TEN MEANINGLESS LOSSES DO NOT IN ANY WAY DIMINISH THE ARMY BLACK KNIGHTS.

GF3's Old Grad Notes on Army: First, most grads absolutely hate that the team is called the Black Knights. For years, that was merely a nickname that stemmed from newspaper reporters referring to the Army Cadets as the "Black Knights of the Hudson." The team officially became the Black Knights in 1999 as the result of a disastrous rebranding that gave us the "Speed A" logo and the cartoonish knight mascot. Most graduates hoped that the 2015 rebranding with Nike would take the team back to being the Cadets.

Nope. Instead, things got worse. We're now the Army West Point Black Knights. That's right. The teams now all compete as "Army West Point." I can't even.

Nonetheless, Army has seen its long-term fortunes turn around lately, with major substantive changes to how the team is funded (non-government dollars) and the hiring of Jeff Monken, who enters his third season and will finally see a bumper crop of his own recruits matriculate at Plebes (most players take a "redshirt" year at the USMA Prep School).

As ever, we remain hopeful.

Oh, and speaking of Rutgers, it's important to note that the R-U Rah Rah cheer was taken from the Army "Rocket Cheer," which goes...

Boom! Ah!

US-MA Rah! Rah!

US-MA Rah! Rah!

Hoo-rah! Hoo-rah! Arrrrr-my rah!

TEAM TEAM TEAM! Hey!

You'll see cadets perform the yell on TV during games, en masse. What you won't see is the oft-used "Short Rocket"

Boom! Ah!

Shit!

That one comes in handy.

Navy Midshipmen

The other half of the greatest game in college football (Army-Navy) is the Navy Midshipmen of Annapolis, Maryland, who have held the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy for nine of the past twelve years. Navy has rivalries with the two newest members of the Big Ten in Maryland and Rutgers. In 1926, Navy won its lone National Championship with a win against Michigan and a tie against Army.

1954 would see Navy blow away the Ole Miss Rebels 21-0 in the Sugar Bowl. NAVY CRUSHES MISSISSIPPI; IT'S 1864 ALL OVER AGAIN. Two Heisman trophies have been won at Navy: one in 1960 by runningback Joe Bellino, and a second in 1963 by quarterback Roger Staubach. Perhaps you've heard of the latter. He's sometimes known as "Captain America" and one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of football. And yet his NFL debut was delayed by his naval service. LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, ROGER STAUBACH IS A PRIME EXAMPLE OF HOW TO AMERICA PROPERLY.

During the second World War, Navy saved Notre Dame from going under and the Fighting Irish have repaid them by using them to pad their record for decades. Navy lost 43 straight to the decadents in South Bend before finally winning in 2007. They would win again in 2009 and 2010. Let us all salute the Navy teams of 2007-2010 for serving our country not just in their military service but in providing one of the greatest public services of all: generation of Notre Dame Fighting Irish angst, tears, gnashing of teeth and hurting of butts.

Current head coach Ken Niumatalolo has racked up a 68-37 record since taking over full-time in 2008. Navy ended the 2015 campaign 11-2, ranked #18 in the final AP poll. It was the final year of quarterback Keenan Reynolds, who is the all-time leader in FBS touchdowns with 88. He set numerous team and individual records for offense during his time in the academy, but his favorite record exemplifies everything great about service academy football:

When asked after the game which record meant the most to him, one of the most decorated quarterbacks in college football history didn't hesitate with his response.  He didn't take the time to scroll through a mental rolodex of everything that he had accomplished.  He knew exactly what was the most important.

"Most wins in a season."

Going into 2016, Navy is coming off the best season in the long and illustrious history of its football program and currently holds the Commander-in-Chief's trophy. There's one more challenger to the crown to discuss:

Air Force Falcons

The newest service academy team is the Air Force Falcons of Colorado Springs, Colorado, and they have made a name for themselves as one of the premier ground attacks in college football. Ignoring the irony that Air Force attacks exclusively through the ground, I must acknowledge that a seven-point loss to BYU eliminated the 1985 Falcons from playing for the national title they so deserved. Having only been established in 1955, the Falcons football team missed out on the time period before all the big money went into college football, but have managed to produce 39 Academic All-Americans.

Air Force is the only team of the three to play fully in a football conference. Army briefly had a run with C-USA, but has returned to independent. The Falcons compete in the MWC, and generally do well against the Little Children of the Meek and other mountain football competition.

Long-time Air Force coach Fisher Deberry retired in 2006 after 26 total years at USAFA. Under his watch, Air Force won 8 games in a season 11 separate times. Their current head coach, Troy Calhoun, has led the Falcons to a bowl game in eight of his nine seasons at the helm. Currently, the Falcons are coming off a berth in the Mountain West Championship game.

GF3's Bro Grad Notes on Air Force: Kid brother went there, so I can't dislike them too much. Plus, nothing can touch my disdain for Navy. As much as it pains me to admit it, and as beautiful as the Hudson Valley is in fall, Colorado is the finest place for a school. Granted the architecture is largely atrocious, save for the chapel. The rest is a mid-century monument to Soviet taste.

Next BIG Matchup for the Army Black Knights:

Ohio State on Saturday, Sept 17th, 2017

Next B1G Matchup for the Navy Midshipmen:

Unknown. Maybe in a bowl game.


Next B1G Matchup for the Air Force Falcons:

Michigan, Saturday Sep 17th, 2017


Sherman's Next Destination:

Columbia, South Carolina