Now that the 2010 season is in the rearview mirror it's time look ahead at what challenges will face the Midshipmen in 2011. The first order of business is to breakdown their opponents. Eight teams that played in a bowl, including SEC power South Carolina, highlight the schedule. Here is a look at the first four games.

Home games in CAPS. 2010 Record in ( ).


Sept. 3: DELAWARE (12-2*)


Key 2010 Stats: Averaged over 400 yards of total offense. Ranked #15 in stopping the run.

Returning Star: Rising sophomore RB Andrew Pierce. He already has over 1,513 yards rushing on the season entering the FCS Championship Game.

Departing Star: Quarterback Pat Devlin won't be around – thankfully.


Quick Thoughts: The Blue Hens will have all the confidence in the world entering this game. Not only will they be coming off what could be one of the most successful seasons in team history, but beating Georgia Southern in the FCS semifinals will also help prepare them for Navy's offense. Devlin's departure helps, but Pierce will give Navy's defense its first of four consecutive stiff tests against potent rushing offenses.


* Delaware plays Eastern Washington in the FCS Championship Game on Jan. 7.


Sept. 10: at Western Kentucky (2-10)


Key 2010 Stats: Gave up over 33 points a game and had trouble stopping the run.


Returning Star: Sun Belt offensive player of the year and honorable mention All-American RB Bobby Rainey will be a senior (1.649 yards including 248 against Middle Tenn. State).

Departing Star: Linebacker Thomas Majors who led the team in tackles with 105 will need to be replaced – as too will the Hilltoppers' defensive coordinator (not that he was a star.)


Quick Thoughts: Western Kentucky still has a long way to go and besides Rainey, they are pretty thin on talent. However a year after only losing 4 starters to graduation, they will only have to replace 6 starters (2 on offense and 4 on defense) for 2011. They open their season against in-state rival(?) Kentucky and will have nine days to prepare for Navy.


Sept. 17 at South Carolina (9-5)

Key 2010 Stats: They beat Alabama – enough said.


Returning Stars: Quarterback Stephen Garcia (3059 yards, 20TDs) will be a senior; Running back Marcus Lattimore (1,197 yards and 17 TDs) will only be a sophomore; and

wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (1,517 and 9 TDs) will be tough to cover.


Departing Star: WR Tori Gurley declared for the NFL draft. Hopefully others follow his lead.


Quick Thoughts: Not really too much to say about this match-up except that it will remind a lot of Navy fans about the Ohio State game in terms of an upgrade in the competition. The Gamecocks will be loaded and coming off of a 9-5 season which included an appearance in the SEC Championship Game. I'm thinking the over/under for carries by Lattimore will be about 30.


Oct. 1 AIR FORCE (9-4)  

Key 2010 Stats: They beat Navy, 14-6 and won the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy for the first time since 2002.


Returning Stars: Running back Asher Clark (1,001 yards), dual-threat Jonathan Warzeka (718 all-purpose yards), quarterback Tim Jefferson (25 TDs), linebacker Jordan Waiwaiole, and DB Anthony Wright, Jr. all return.


Departing Stars: Reggie Rembert is finally graduating…seems like he has been in Colorado Springs forever.


Quick Thoughts: In a weird twist, Navy is returning 8 starters on offense and Air Force is returning 8 starters on defense. Meanwhile, Navy is returning 5 starters on defense and Air Force is returning 6 starters on offense. What does that mean? It will probably be another close game. Heck, this game will probably be close for the next decade. I'm not sure it is even worth analyzing in-depth anymore…but we will. Of note though is that at the end of this four-game stretch, Navy fans will know a lot more about the Midshipmen's ability to stop the run. Top Stories