PHILADELPHIA, NOV. 17 -- It will not feature a Doc Blanchard or a Glenn Davis or a Joe Bellino or a Roger Staubach. So the Heisman Trophy will not be at stake.

It will not feature a team with a winning record. So the Lambert Trophy will not be at stake.

It will not feature a team that has beaten Air Force. So even the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy will not be at stake.

So what.

When the 88th Army-Navy football game kicks off at 2 p.m. Dec. 5, about 67,000 people will fill Veterans Stadium. Millions more around the United States will watch on CBS-TV. And who knows how many more around the world will listen on Armed Forces Radio.

All this for a Midshipmen team that is 2-8 and a Cadets team that is 4-6.

"People might say, '4-6 and 2-8? What is this?' " Navy senior cocaptain Mike Musser said today during an interview session at Veterans Stadium. "But we play with our hearts and that's what counts."

"I don't look at this like, 'Because our records aren't that great, it doesn't mean anything,' " Army senior safety Chance Conner said. "Who knows, down the line {Navy running back} Chuck Smith and I might be in the Pentagon together and we'll be able to laugh about it."

Well, one of them will be able to laugh about it.

"We were expecting to do a lot better than this," Smith said. "And Coach {Elliot Uzelac} just told us the other day how he feels sorry for us because we've put in so much work and it's taken us a whole year to learn how to play as a team and now that we've finally learned how to do it, the season's over with. If we win, it'll definitely make it worthwhile."

It also will make Smith's arthroscopy Monday to shave down bone in his right knee worthwhile. Smith, who missed nearly five games with a sprained left knee, injured the right knee less than one quarter after returning to the lineup for Navy's 31-22 victory at Delaware Saturday. He, like junior linebacker Mark Pimpo -- Navy's leading tackler, who underwent an arthroscopic procedure Monday to remove torn cartilage from a knee injured in practice last week -- are expected to play against Army.

"Going into this season, we knew it was going to be tough," Uzelac said. "You don't have four {consecutive} losing seasons and then turn it around automatically unless there are some drastic changes. And at our level, there can't be."

Navy has struggled inconsistently through a rebuilding season. Every overwhelimng defensive effort, like the one in a 10-6 loss to Pittsburgh, has been a matched by an equally overwhelming defensive breakdown, like the one in a 56-13 loss to Notre Dame the week after the game against the Panthers.

Army, on the other hand, came into this season well-established as a quality team. After finishing 2-9 in 1983, Coach Jim Young's first year at West Point, the Cadets went to the wishbone and compiled a 23-11-1 record the next three seasons, with bowl game victories in 1984 and '85.

This season, though, Army has struggled as five quarterbacks went down with injuries. Senior starter Tory Crawford sprained a knee ligament in the second quarter of the Cadets' fourth game. They lost that game and the next three before defeating Temple.

Crawford, who is among Army's top 10 all-time in rushing, passing and total offense, returned for the Cadets' loss to Air Force two weeks ago and a victory against Lafayette last week. He will be fully healed for Navy, Young said.

"The season's been a disappointment in terms of wins and losses because I thought we had a good offensive team coming in," Young said. "But the injuries to our quarterbacks really hurt. Still, I feel that finishing up with three out of four wins and beating Navy in the last game can certainly recover some of the things we lost."