By Justin McGillivray-Zanelli / @RivalsStubbs
College football is like any other business. If you fail to adapt, you die. And in today’s college football, adapting means being on the cutting edge of innovation and creativity. Teams who fail to keep up will, for better or worse, be forgotten and replaced much like the cassette tape or the VCR.
But what if I told you there were two college football programs not only competing with ancient methods but thriving with them? Meet the fighting men and women of the United States Air Force and US Naval Academy, two teams that look like they are stuck in the stone age of football but are somehow stumping some of the greatest football minds in the country.
If you took the offensive film of Navy and played it in black and white, you might think you were watching college football film from yesteryear. It's triple-option football at its most basic, beautiful form. You know what’s coming but simply can’t stop it. Like Novocain, if you give it enough time, it always works.
Air Force, on the other hand, will throw more than just a few wrinkles at you. One of the wrinkles is, well, throwing the ball. The Falcons had success not only running but throwing the ball last year, especially in big time games. Air Force walked straight onto the famed blue turf of Boise State and torched the Broncos on the ground and through the air. At their core, however, the Falcons are a triple-option running nightmare that will slowly and methodically crush your team’s hopes and dreams.
Watching your team lose to Air Force or Navy is among one of the most frustrating experiences you can have as a football fan. It gets even more frustrating when you realize what it is like for these schools to recruit.
Aside from the fact that mandatory military service is required—a turnoff to most high school seniors—the Air Force has size restrictions on perspective athletes. The Falcons usually average around 255 pounds per defensive lineman, the size of most linebackers nationwide. And Navy seniors have to routinely drop upwards of 60 pounds between the end of their senior season and graduation to be able to complete the fitness test of running a mile and a half in 10 minutes and thirty seconds.
The fact that either of these programs can contend in this day and age is remarkable; the fact that they are both doing it simultaneously is simply unbelievable.
You are watching throwback football when Air Force and Navy play. These athletes are playing because they love the game. And while they may not be the most physically gifted athletes, they do play with extreme discipline and effort.
If you are a fan of well-designed, well-executed, passionate football, then you need to tune in to watch the Falcons take on the Midshipmen. Rarely, if ever, will you find two programs more comfortable with who they are: no tricks, no deception, just pure force of will.
While the world, and college football, keeps progressing, these two service academies will keep doing what they’ve always done. They take coal and make diamonds. Underestimate them if you will, but that’s exactly what they want you to do.
A writer and politican of all things college football and college basketball from Boise State to UCA and beyond.