Five Predictions to Bank on in 2012

Earlier this week, I shared my first five predictions for the 2012 Navy football season. Absent, of course, was the fate of the CINC Trophy, as well as the all important question of whether or not Navy will finish the season on a bowl-game high note. Today I'll reveal my answers to the five biggest questions for Navy in 2012, and tell you exactly what will transpire next season.

The Mids will make it 11 in a row against Army...:

It won't come easy -- not with a senior Trent Steelman at the helm -- but Navy will take its unprecedented success in the historic rivalry to a new level next season when the Mids defeat the Black Knights on December 8th. How can I be so sure? Chiefly, my reason stems from the idea that Navy's defense will be able to contain Army's offense better than it did in 2011. While I've been impressed with the ability of several of Army's younger playmakers (in particular slotback Raymond Maples), the experience gained by even a struggling Navy defense against Army during this year's 27-21 win will prove invaluable. But above all, the current group of Midshipmen players just don't understand the concept of losing to Army, and the current group of Army players don't understand the concept of beating Navy. As simple as this sounds, the mentality of the dynamic will be tough for the Cadets to overcome. When Army finally breaks Navy's dominance (even for a season) it will come during a year in which an exceptionally experienced Army team takes on an inexperienced or injury-prone Navy team. And that's not likely in 2012.

...But won't win the CINC Trophy:

This is a tough call to make, but after watching Navy come out of the tunnel against Air Force last season, I'm already worried about how the Mids will approach their annual meeting with the Falcons. While one could make the argument the Falcons will be noticeably weaker next year without the services of Tim Jefferson at quarterback and Asher Clark at tailback, my concern rests in the ability of Navy to mentally focus for the game in Colorado Springs coming off what will already be a challenging opening portion of the season. My other concern is for Navy's special teams, which may have cost the Mids the game against the Falcons in 2011, and could be a weakness for Navy heading into next year. With so many Navy-Air Force games coming down to a touchdown or less over the last decade, having a clutch kicker is paramount. Will Pablo Beltran or Stephen Picchini be able to answer that call with the graduation of Jon Teague next year? It remains to be seen, but given how even a struggling Teague was the firm number one for Navy in 2011, it's hard to imagine an improved Navy kicking game in 2012.

Vinnie Mauro will see the field (on special teams):

It never ceases to amaze me how diehard fans can obsess about an incoming recruit. Such was the case (and still is) for many Navy followers, who've been waiting for Navy linebacker Vinnie Mauro to make the on-field impact they thought he'd have made by now. Mauro, for those of you who don't know, chose Navy out of high school in 2010 over several high level BCS scholarship offers, but after two years of scout-team action and injury recovery, Mauro has yet to see the field in a meaningful way. While I fully expect Mauro (if healthy) to be involved as a member of Navy's special teams in 2012, it'll take a breakout spring for him to challenge for a place on the two-deep. Matt Warrick and Matt Brewer are obvious choices for starters at inside linebacker next season, and with a plethora of juniors and seniors who've already started at OLB coming back, it'll be tough for Mauro to break his way into any starting position. Disappointing for Mauro, no doubt, but a good problem to have for Navy fans.

Navy will make it back to the postseason:

Sometimes, the greatest motivation for a person, team, or organization is to have a bitter taste left in the mouth. And after a 5-7 season last year, the Navy program gets a gut-check on the phrase we've all been taking for granted. Navy fans have reason to question whether their team should "expect to win" after last year, but make no mistake about it, Navy's players and coaches don't. Given what should be much more manageable schedule in 2012 as compared to 2011 -- coupled with a more experienced defensive unit -- Navy should again be in contention for a bowl berth in 2012. The "x-factor" which gets Navy over the .500 hump and into the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl? That would be said gut-check.

Navy will win its bowl game:

Lets just call it a hunch, but after a year of tasting what not going to a bowl game is like, I wouldn't doubt the resolve of the senior class to make sure it goes out on the right note in 2012. That, and I'm not sold on whatever underachieving Pac-12 team will inevitably make its way to San Francisco.

Adam Nettina has been covering college football at the Naval Academy for the past five seasons. He is the former Sports Editor of the Utah Statesman and currently writes his own sports and pop-culture blog called Option Pitch and Waffle Crisp

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