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CFB Preview -- Navy
by Matt Fargo - 07/27/2007
Maybe someday we wonâ€™t have to cover the Independents in college football but with the traditions of Notre Dame, Army and Navy, it is likely the trio isnâ€™t going anywhere soon. The Irish have always had the upper hand between the three teams even though it officially isnâ€™t a conference but Navy has closed the gap while Army is an improving team and should be better again. The Independents lose Temple to the MAC this season but gain Western Kentucky, who will join the SBC in 2008.
Itâ€™s not often a team has accepted an invitation to attend a bowl game â€˜beforeâ€™ the season begins but if Navy wins six games, it will be going to the Poinsettia Bowl. That might put some pressure on this team but one thing that the Midshipmen have proven over the last four years is that they donâ€™t cave in to pressure. Navy has not only gone to a bowl game in each of the last four seasons but the seniors can become the first class ever to win three bowl games. Navy set a school record by averaging 327 ypg on the ground last season which let the nation and that record can be in jeopardy with the entire backfield coming back. The defense is a different story but being an Independent, the Midshipmen have the luxury of having a schedule that is not overwhelming if they so choose and once again, they didnâ€™t.
Returning Starters on Offense â€“ 8
The offense is going to be run heavy once again and why would that change? Navy has averaged at least 290 ypg on the ground in each of the last four seasons and that has resulted in the offense putting up over 27 ppg in each of those years. The quarterback situation is still up in the air but in this case, itâ€™s a good thing as everyone performed well in the spring to have a shot at the starting job. Fullback Adam Ballard and slotback Reggie Campbell are a great one-two punch and one of the best in the country. The offensive line plays a huge part in this offense and replacing two starters is a concern but there is plenty of experience as the two-deep consists of nine players either juniors or seniors.
Returning Starters on Defense â€“ 2
This is the area of concern with obvious reasons. The defense allowed a respectable 20.1 ppg last season but losing nine starters from that unit is bound to send that average up. Leaving it up to the offense to outscore opponents might have to be the task early on until the newcomers have some time to play together. The entire defensive line needs to be replaced as well as three-fourths of the secondary. Passing defense has never been a strength as opponents have completed at least 62 percent of their passes in each of the last four seasons. Both outside linebackers will be new so overall, this is a very green defense and one that is going to struggle in the early part of the season. The last time Navy had to replace over half of its starters, the defense allowed 26.1 ppg that season and was 62nd in total defense.
The schedule is not very demanding and one that cannot be taken advantage of. Only three bowl teams from last season are on the slate this year and those three games against Rutgers, Wake Forest and Notre Dame are the only sure losses on the schedule. The Midshipmen have only five true road games with contests at Temple, Pittsburgh and North Texas likely to be won. Other home games include Ball St., Delaware and Duke and taking care of those three likely means that trip to San Diego in the postseason is going to occur. A fifth straight Commander-In-Chief Trophy is likely with Air Force coming to Annapolis and then playing Army in Baltimore, which is more of a home game than a neutral one.
After a combined three wins in 2000-2002, Navy has averaged 8.3 victories over the last four seasonsâ€¦The Midshipmen are 9-1 ATS as a road underdog since 2003 and 12-3-1 ATS as an underdog over that stretchâ€¦Navy has lost 43 straight games to Notre Dame but it is 12-5 ATS the last 17 meetingsâ€¦The Midshipmen are 11-3 ATS against the service academies since 2000â€¦Navy is 17-4 in its last 21 true home gamesâ€¦Navy has defeated Army by an average of 26.8 ppg over the last five years.