Navy preseason predictions 2012

Navy football enters the 2012 season looking to rebound from the program's first losing season since 2002. This season seems to be a cross roads for head coach Ken Niumatalolo entering his fifth season. His challenge is to get the team back to its winning ways. Every player in the program has been recruited by Catalonia and his staff. If Navy's kicking game was solid last..

..year they would have posted a winning record and made a bowl game.

a winning record and made a bowl game. While there is talent on the roster there are reasons to be concerned since so many players are unproven. On offense only the slotback position has a lot of game experience. Navy is breaking in three starters on the offensive line, a new fullback and a new quarterback. While new fullback Noah Copeland looks like he can become a star it's still unclear if Trey Miller can be an very effective option quarterback. Miller has ability but he was indecisive with his reads last year. If Miller gets hurt neither of his back-ups have any varsity experience. Again, there is talent there but how it will jell remains to be seen.

On defense the team lost its best player in Jabaree Tuani and returns just five full time starters. Defensive coordinator Buddy Green needs to replace two defensive linemen, improve the play of the linebackers and see a young secondary, that allowed over 74 percent of their opponents passes to be completed, lift their games. Last year we predicted eight wins and a bowl appearance only to see the Mids stumble to a 5-7 record. Let's look at the 2012 Navy schedule.

Sept 1 Notre Dame (In Dublin, Ireland)
The Mids travel to Dublin, Ireland for the first time since 1996 to play Notre Dame in their opener. The Fighting Irish crushed Navy 56-14 last year in a payback rout at Notre Dame Stadium. Navy, after winning three of the previous four games, suffered its worst loss in the series since 2000. Quarterback Trey Miller's made his first career start as the Irish limited Navy to a season low 229 yards of total offense. The Mids struggled on offense, made special teams mistakes and were over-matched on defense. Even with ND quarterback Everett Golson making his first start it's hard to see the Mids shutting down the Notre Dame's rushing attack that averaged 5.2 yards per carry and rushed for seven touchdowns in last year's game. Navy Loss

Sept 15 at Penn State
The trip to Happy Valley lost all its luster in the wake of the ugly Sandusky scandal, the firing and death of Joe Paterno and the NCAA sanctions. Penn State wasn't a good offensive team last year and they lost their best running back and receiver who transferred after the NCAA sanctions were handed down. The Nittany Lions defensive front seven is loaded with star linebacker Gerald Hodges leading the charge. This is potentially a winnable game for Navy which often plays its best in marquee games like last year's contest against South Carolina. I think Penn State will hold off the Mids at home but Navy should hang tough and could pull off an upset. Navy Loss

Sept 22 vs Virginia Military Institute
Navy plays their first home game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium against an over matched VMI team that is coming off a dismal 2-9 campaign. VMI head coach Sparky Woods (11-33) has been unable to change the FCS division Keydets chronic losing ways. VMI lost 41-9 last year against the Citadel's option attack. Navy will roll in a big way. Navy Win

Sept 29 vs San Jose State
Last year Navy's bowl streak ended with a 27-24 loss on the road to the San Jose State Spartan team. Navy managed just 344 yards of total offense against a Spartan defense that stacked the box against the run. If they do that against Trey Miller he will probably make them pay with his arm. Navy should extract some payback at home. Navy Win

Oct 6 at Air Force
Last year Navy fell behind and battled back from an 18 point fourth quarter deficit to force overtime. The Mids comeback fell short as quarterback Kriss Proctor drew an unsportsmanlike penalty that forced a long extra point attempt which was blocked. Air Force has won the last two Commander-in-Chief's Trophy. Air Force and Navy have played great games recently. I give the slight edge to Air Force at home. Navy Loss

Oct 12 at Central Michigan
Navy travels to Central Michigan for a Friday night game against the Chippewas from the MAC conference. Central Michigan has struggled to back-to-back 3-9 seasons since Dan Enos replaced Butch Jones a head coach. CMU returns three year starter Ryan Radcliff (3,286 passing yards, 25 TDs) at quarterback. Radcliff nearly pulled off a fourth quarter comeback against the Mids in Annapolis in 2010.Wyatt Middleton broke up a two point conversion pass when the Chippewas went for the win late in the game. Navy's offense should prevail in a shootout against a team that commits too many turnovers and, since Enos took over, seems to find ways to lose. Navy Win

Oct 20 vs Indiana
Indiana went 1-11 under first year head coach Kevin Wilson in 2011. Wilson, a former offensive coordinator at Oklahoma, only victory last fall was a win over South Carolina State of the FCS. Wilson will try to rebuild his offense around promising dual threat quarterback Tre Roberson and running back Stephen Houston. Houston had 151 carries for 802 yards with 8 touchdowns last year. The Hoosier defense was terrible last year allowing 37.3 points per game. Wilson signed numerous JUCO players to shore up their awful run defense. Navy's option offense should be able to run the ball very effectively against Indiana at home. Navy Win

Oct 27 at East Carolina
The East Carolina Pirates defeated the Navy Midshipmen 38-35 at Navy Marine Corp Stadium last year. Navy made a terrific comeback behind Trey Miller's two fourth quarter touchdown passes. The comeback fell short as kicker Jon Teague's game tying field goal attempt banged off the right upright as time ran out. Navy had dominated the Pirates on the ground in the two previous meetings. ECU had trouble against Miller when he opened up the passing game after Kriss Proctor was hurt. This is another evenly matched game but ECU's spread passing game gave the Mids fits last year. My guess is ECU probably wins a shootout at home. Navy Loss

Nov 3 vs Florida Atlantic
New head coach Carl Pelini takes over Florida Atlantic from the retired Howard Schnellenberger who built the program from the ground up over the past eleven years. It all crashed with a 1-11 season for the Owls last fall. The team was winless in the Sun Belt Conference. Carl Pelini was the former defensive coordination at Nebraska serving under his brother Bo Pelini. The Owls were one of the worst offensive teams in football in 2011 and allowed 34.7 point per game on defense. It will take a couple of years for Pelini to upgrade the roster by recruiting the bountiful local Florida talent. Navy should win at home. Navy Win

Nov 10 at Troy
Troy had its five year streak of winning at least eight games and sharing the Sun Belt conference title snapped last year with a dismal 3-9 season. Navy ended their six game losing streak last year by easily defeating the Trojans 42-14 in a rout at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Navy raced out to a 35-0 halftime lead as the Mids played their best game of the year. The Trojan's normally high powered offense struggled last year but it does return talented quarterback Corey Robinson who passed for 3,411 yards and 21 touchdowns. Troy offense can give Navy defense trouble but I like the Mids. Navy Win

Nov 17 vs Texas State
Dennis Franchione and the Texas State Bobcats travel to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium for their first meeting on Senior Day. The 6-6 Texas State Bobcats are moving up from the FCS and joining the Western Athletic Conference in 2012 before moving over to the Sun Belt conference. The Bobcats are well coached but lack the talent to match up with Navy. Navy Win

Dec 8 Army (Philadelphia, Pa.)
Navy has beaten Army a series record ten consecutive games. I think this is the year Army ends the streak, the Black Knights ran for school record 4,158 yards last season. The Mids allowed Army to rush for 298 yards, average six yards a carry and two rushing touchdowns in last year's 27-21 win. Army has been unable to block Jabaree Tuani the last four years but this year they no longer have to worry about him. The Black Knight have done a solid job limiting Navy's spread option running game under Ellerson. Troy Miller has the ability to hurt Army over the top deep like Ricky Dobbs did in the past. However, I think Army finally wins a close game. Navy Loss

So I predict a 7-5 season with a return to a bowl appearance in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. I think Navy may be a year away from once again a very good team on both sides of the ball. There are so many teams on this year's schedule who struggled last year. I don't believe Navy is currently deep enough and with enough game experience to post a nine or ten win season. While the Mids are young there are so many mediocre teams on this year's slate that I would be surprised if Navy doesn't improve on last year's 5-7 record. If the Mids can keep Trey Miller healthy and he continues to improve, the Mids should post a winning season.

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