- Associated Press - Sunday, November 18, 2018

Army is ranked for the first time since 1996, moving into The Associated Press college football poll at No. 23 on Sunday as it begins preparations to face rival Navy.

The Black Knights (9-2) have been edging toward the Top 25 in recent weeks, and they finally broke through. The rest of the rankings were mostly unchanged after a weekend with few big games or surprising results.

Led by unanimous No. 1 Alabama, the top six stayed the same as last week. Clemson was No. 2, followed by Notre Dame, Michigan, Georgia and Oklahoma.

Washington State moved up a spot to No. 7 and UCF jumped three spots to No. 8, season highs for both schools. LSU tied Central Florida at No. 8 and Ohio State was 10th.

Also debuting this season in the Top 25 was Pittsburgh at No. 24.

Army being ranked has been a rarity since the early 1960s. From 1963-2017, there have been only two seasons in which the Black Knights appeared in the AP Top 25. In 1985, Army was No. 19 for one week on its way to a 9-3 season. In 1996, Army went 10-2 and was ranked in four of the final five polls of the season. The Cadets finished 25th that season.

Army managed just one winning record from 1997-2015. But under coach Jeff Monken, who took over in 2014, Army has had three straight winning seasons. The Black Knights head into the Navy game on Dec. 8, looking for a third straight victory against the Midshipmen and a second consecutive 10-win season.

Monken said reaching the Top 25 was not so much the goal for Army as finishing in the Top 25. But you can’t do one without the other.

The Cadets are on a seven-game winning streak since losing in overtime at Oklahoma on Sept. 22.

“The two biggest games of the year are coming up,” Monken said Sunday of Navy and a bowl game. “We’d trade any ranking for a win over Navy to be sure. But it’s nice to be recognized. And it’s nice to see that our guys and how hard they’ve worked, they’ve gotten themselves in position where people are taking notice of Army football.”

Army and Pitt became the 52nd and 53rd teams to be ranked this season, setting a record for the most ranked teams since the poll expanded to 25 in 1989. The previous high was 51 teams ranked in 2008.

The Panthers, who were 3-4 and 0-3 vs. ranked teams on Oct. 7, are ranked for the first time since Dec. 4, 2016. They have won four straight to capture the Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division and earn a trip to the league championship game for the first time.

No. 19 Syracuse and No. 25 Iowa State dropped seven spots after lopsided losses to other ranked teams on Saturday. No. 12 West Virginia fell five spots out of the top 10 after losing at Oklahoma State.

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