ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Army vs. Navy is the only FBS game played after conference championship week. It's one of the biggest rivalries in college football history, with this year's meeting being the 122nd between the service academies.
It's a game where the records don't matter, and both teams know it's about more than bragging rights.
"It’s nothing like anything else," said St. Petersburg-native and Navy sophomore linebacker Xavier McDonald. "Just running out on the field, seeing your whole school out there cheering for you. It’s super-exhilarating. Just knowing there’s thousands of people out there that support you, as well. It’s super-electric. Just running out there, playing."
McDonald is taking the field for his second game in the series. So he knows all about the "wow" factor that the freshmen will experience.
"We have a lot of young people starting and playing on both sides of the football," he said with a smile. "So I’m thinking in my head 'Yeah, they don’t even realize what kind of game this going to be.'"
It's the only day of the year when the Army and Navy aren't on the same side, but they know they're always on the same team.
"Just having two military branches come together and play a game. Just to show that unity," McDonald added. "We’re just fighting for our nation, United States. It’s just a really powerful game, powerful meaning. And I think it was perfect for me as well. Finally do something that’s bigger than me, and I wanted to be a part of that."
The two teams will take the field in style. Army will wear special uniforms honoring "Task Force Dagger." They were the troops who lead the United States military response in Afghanistan following 9/11. Navy's uniforms will pay tribute to the entire Naval aviation fleet.
McDonald said the uniforms are special, and they symbolize more than just getting a new jersey.
"It’s very important to both of us. And it’s very cool to wear because we only wear them once. And they let us keep the jersey after the game. So we’ll have those for the rest of our life. Just to represent the time here and how important the game is. It’s a very good trophy to keep, something nice."
Navy leads the all-time series 61-53-7. They won 14 straight from 2002 through 2015. Army has won four of the last five meetings, including last year's 15-0 victory. Army is 8-3 heading into the game with Navy at 3-8. Army has accepted a bid to the Armed Forces Bowl where they will play the SEC's Missouri Tigers.
Kickoff from MetLife Stadium in New Jersey is set for Saturday at 3 P.M.