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Is this the year? Army jumps out to two-score halftime lead over No. 25 Navy

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There are few traditions in college football quite like the annual Army-Navy game and the pageantry was in full force once again on Saturday afternoon from Baltimore.

Army kicked off the scoring for the third season in a row in this rivalry game after recovering a Navy fumble and marching right down the field with a 14 play, 66 yard drive that culminated in a touchdown.

While the early score was notable, turnovers dominated first quarter play with three of the first four drives from the teams ending in a giveaway. The quarterbacks combined to complete just a single pass to their own team all half but completed three to the opposing defenses in the form of three ugly interceptions. Army’s Xavier Moss forced the first fumble of the season from Navy fullback Shawn White for the first quarter’s other turnover as well.

Army’s triple option looked to be the superior attack for most of the half, with the Black Knights picking up six of their seven third downs and converting the other on fourth down. Andy Davidson punched it into the end zone both times and finished with 15 carries for 50 yards.

There’s still a lot of football left to be played but the best Army team in nearly a decade certainly is looking primed to end Navy’s long winning streak in convincing fashion based on how the first half went.

The 10 best and 10 worst bowl matchups, as ranked by F/+

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2016’s most even bowl matchup will happen in El Paso, Texas, while the most lopsided game will take place in Boise, Idaho.

Those on-paper analyses are based on the end-of-the-season F/+ rankings, which are explained here on Football Outsiders. Personally, they’re a go-to for getting a rough idea of how good a certain team is, so why not use them to preview the best and worst bowl matchups?

Here are the 10 best games based on how close the two participants’ F/+ rankings are:

Sun Bowl (+1): No. 25 Stanford vs. No. 26 UNC
Fiesta Bowl (+2): No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 4 Clemson
Rose Bowl (+2): No. 7 USC vs. No. 9 Penn State
Sugar Bowl (+2): No. 8 Auburn vs. No. 10 Oklahoma
Armed Forces Bowl (+2): No. 51 Louisiana Tech vs. No. 53 Navy

Peach Bowl (+4): No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 5 Washington
Quick Lane Bowl (+4): No. 93 Boston College vs. No. 97 Maryland
New Mexico Bowl (+5): No. 81 New Mexico vs. No. 86 UT-San Antonio
Citrus Bowl (+6): No. 5 LSU vs. No. 11 Louisville
Cotton Bowl (+10): No. 12 Wisconsin vs. No. 22 Western Michigan

Obviously, the two College Football Playoff games (Ohio State-Clemson, Alabama-Washington) are among the closest, but it’s good to see three of the four other New Year’s Six bowls in here as well. The Orange Bowl (No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 13 Florida State) just barely missed the cut.

As for the 10 biggest mismatches:

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (+71): No. 29 Colorado State vs. No. 100 Idaho
Birmingham Bowl (+61): No. 33 South Florida vs. No. 94 South Carolina
Military Bowl (+54): No. 18 Temple vs. No. 72 Wake Forest
Cactus Bowl (+52): No. 14 Boise State vs. No. 66 Baylor
Miami Beach Bowl (+45): No. 44 Tulsa vs. No. 89 Central Michigan

Arizona Bowl (+38): No. 49 Air Force vs. No. 87 South Alabama
Las Vegas Bowl (+30): No. 20 Houston vs. No. 50 San Diego State
Poinsettia Bowl (+27): No. 30 BYU vs. No. 57 Wyoming
Heart of Dallas Bowl (+26): No. 85 Army vs. No. 111 North Texas
Russell Athletic Bowl (+25): No. 15 Miami vs. No. 40 West Virginia

It’s not surprising three of these games involve top-level Group of Five teams (South Florida, Temple, Boise State) playing 6-6 Power Five teams (South Carolina, Wake Forest, Baylor), given that’s where a lot of bowl mismatches can take place. It was a little surprising to see the gulf between Houston and San Diego State be so significant, though.

But while these matchups may either be close or lopsided, always remember the ironclad rule of bowl season: Weird stuff is gonna happen. One team may not care while the other does, one team may not deal with the elements (especially in the northern bowls) as well as the other, or one team may come in with something to prove while the other team doesn’t. The best-case scenario for us college football fans is that every game is interesting and worth watching, no matter what the on-paper numbers may say.

Army cornerback Brandon Jackson dies in car accident

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Army sophomore cornerback Brandon Jackson died in a car accident Sunday, according to the Times Herald-Record’s Sal Interdonato.

Jackson, a native of Queens, N.Y. and a starter who picked off three passes in his career, made three tackles and broke up a pass in Army’s 31-14 win over Rice on Saturday. Army is off to its best start in 20 years after beating Temple and Rice to begin the season.

“Words cannot describe the grief that our team is feeling over the loss of our brother and friend, Brandon,” Army head coach Jeff Monken said in a statement. “He was a beloved teammate and our hearts are with his family at this time of tragedy.”

According to News 12, police believe Jackson’s car hit a guardrail and flipped over in the crash.

“We will honor his life as we mourn the untimely death of a young man who had a promising future as a leader in service to our nation.” said Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen Jr., West Point superintendent in a statement, via the Times Herald-Record. “Brandon internalized our watch words, Duty, Honor, Country.”

Cal handles Hawaii in Down Under opener

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The 2016 college football season started with… an onside kick. In his first game as Hawaii’s head coach, Nick Rolovich opened with a surprise, which Cal’s Patrick Laird alertly covered. Khalfani Muhammad raced in from 34 yards out just six plays later, and it was off to the races for the Bears.

Hawaii fought back to tie the game at 7-7 and again at 14-14 late in the first quarter, but the Bears closed the first half on a 20-0 run, keyed by a pair of Davis Webb touchdown tosses, to put the game away en route to a 51-31 win. Hawaii never pulled closer than 17 points in the second half.

Played at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium, the game was the first-ever college contest played in Australia.

Webb dazzled in his Bears debut, hitting 38-of-54 throws for 441 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Chad Hansen was his top target, collecting 14 grabs for 160 yards and two of those scores. Muhammad, meanwhile, led the Bears’ ground game with 10 carries for 96 yards and a score.

Ikaika Woolsey led Hawaii with 234 passing yards and one touchdown.

Overall, Cal achieved 630 yards of total offense (30 first downs) on 7.1 yards per play, while allowing Hawaii to gain 6.7 yards per play and 482 total yards.

Cal takes next week off before a date with San Diego State, while Hawaii must turn around and prepare for a road trip to No. 7 Michigan on Saturday.

LSU’s road game at Syracuse a rare trip to the Northeast for the SEC

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LSU will travel to the Carrier Dome to face Syracuse at noon ET Saturday, and if that game feels a little weird, it’s because it is.

But it’s not as odd of a scheduling quirk as UMass’ home game against Mississippi State at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro next year, or Mizzou’s trip to UConn in 2017. At least it’s against a power five opponent.

Road games that far north of the Mason-Dixon line are a rarity for the SEC. Looking at the number of times Army, Boston College, UConn, UMass and Syracuse have welcomed an SEC team since World War II (Buffalo has never played an SEC team at home):

Army (6): 2009 vs. Vanderbilt, 1991 vs. Vanderbilt, 1988 vs. Vanderbilt, 1974 vs. Vanderbilt, 1973 vs. Tennessee, 1968 vs. Vanderbilt

Boston College (7): 1987 vs. Tennessee, 1983 vs. Alabama (Foxboro), 1979 vs. Tennessee, 1963 vs. Vanderbilt, 1949 vs. Ole Miss, 1947 vs. LSU, 1946 vs. Tennessee

UConn (1): 2010 vs. Vanderbilt

UMass (1): 2013 vs. Vanderbilt

Syracuse (5): 2001 vs. Auburn, 1998 vs. Tennessee, 1991 vs. Florida, 1991 vs. Vanderbilt, 1986 vs. Mississippi State

Of these 20 games, Vanderbilt accounts for nine of them, while Tennessee has traveled to the Northeast five times. The last SEC team not based in Tennessee to play in the Northeast was Auburn in 2001.

So that gives LSU’s trip to Syracuse some historical context. And Mississippi State’s trip to Foxboro next year. And Mizzou’s trip to UConn in 2017.

Gotta hit that fertile Northeast recruiting territory, I guess.