U.S. Military Academy, West Point, Monday: At 5 a.m., five Air Force exchange students storm the central guard house. They seize control of the public address system and awaken campus by calling for a formation. They declare a state of emergency before they are hauled away.

U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Wednesday: Several Army exchange students are seized. They are taken to the central parade ground, where they are pelted with food. This is called "nuking them."

U.S. Military Academy, all week: West Point cadets retaliate by seizing Air Force students in the dead of night. The Air Force cadets also are pelted. These actions are called spirit missions. "I hear the guys at West Point are getting it bad," Air Force safety Scott Thomas says worriedly.

U.S. Military Academy, Thursday: Low flying Air Force jets infuriate the Cadets by skimming West Point, disrupting formation and drowning out all conversation.

At Air Force's meeting with Army at Falcon Stadium today, there will be scouts from 13 bowl games, a falcon and a mule, a four-star general and an Air Force chief of staff, all descending on Colorado Springs for one of the most intriguing college football games of the season. It just makes the cadets want to splash some paint on a statue and dirty their uniforms with pushups.

Here Air Force is, hurtling along at 9-0 and ranked fifth in the country, and here is Army, unranked but 7-1, its only loss coming against Notre Dame. There are two good and very different coaches, Air Force's talk-happy Fisher DeBerry and Army's close-mouthed Jim Young. And whoops, there go those improbable wishbones -- Army's purloined, incidentally, from the Falcons.

Air Force has the No. 1 scoring offense in the nation, averaging 39.2 points, Army is No. 2 in scoring, averaging 38 points, and their meeting has drawn nearly every bowl scout, from the Cherry to the Orange.

"It's a unique game in the rivalry because, let's face it, it means something," Army kicker Craig Stopa said. "But records don't matter. Strong team or a weak team, it doesn't matter. Anything goes, anything wins. It's all up in the, uh, air."

The game certainly is one of the more significant in the history of the service academy rivalries. You have to go back to the Army-Navy game of 1963 to find teams with comparable records and as much at stake. The Midshipmen, led by Roger Staubach, won that one 21-15, to go 9-1. Army finished at 7-3.

Beyond that you must go to perhaps 1958 when Army, which had Heisman Trophy winner Pete Dawkins and went 8-0-1, beat Navy, 22-6. (Air Force, which did not play Army that year, went 9-0-1 and tied TCU, 0-0, in the Cotton Bowl.) From then it's back to the war years, when Army won national championships with 9-0 records and the season-ending victories over Navy in 1944 and 1945.

The Air Force-Army series is tied at 9-9-1.

"When we're 7-1, it's an unusual game," said Army Athletic Director Carl Ullrich.

"Frankly, it's a little hard to imagine that two service academy teams have a combined record of 16-1," said Air Force Athletic Director Col. John Clune.

As if you needed anything more, throw in the increasingly heated rivalry between Army and Air Force for the Commander in Chief's Trophy, which also is probably at stake. The trophy is awarded every year to the service academy that wins the round robin among Army, Navy and Air Force, but the Midshipmen have been struggling lately. The Falcons already have defeated Navy and a victory over Army would assure them of the trophy, which Army possesses after taking it from the Falcons last season.

"It's no joke," said Army fullback Doug Black. "The worst rivalry has always been Navy, but in recent years Air Force has really been the turning point of the season. It's taken on more importance, and it's getting bitter. We don't like them and they don't like us."

Of course, there is the inevitable possibility of the thieving of the mascots. The Air Force Falcon is under 'round-the-clock guard. Clune would not divulge its location. The Army mule is making the trip by plane.

"We're taking all kinds of precautions," Clune said. "There are 500 cadets coming in here and I'm sure they're going to want to steal it. And I'm sure our cadets will go for the mule."

Cadets at both schools are forbidden to bet money, so bathrobes often are substituted for dollars. Any piece of clothing, however, is acceptable. The 500 Army cadets who were to fly to Colorado Springs this morning were to take along luggage full of robes, school sweaters, tie clasps and cuff links.

The two athletic directors, Clune and Ullrich, also have a running bet: The loser buys dinner at the NCAA convention in January. This time, it will be held in New Orleans. "He's in deep trouble," Clune said, "because we are going to New Orleans, where the restaurants are very good and very, very expensive."