WHEN: Saturday, Sept. 14; 3:30 p.m. EST
WHERE: Memorial Stadium (Annapolis, MD.)
LAST SEASON: 5-6 (2-6 Colonial Athletic Association, 8th place in CAA; No bowl game)
CURRENT PRESEASON RANKING: Not Ranked in FCS Top 25
SERIES HISTORY: Navy leads 9-7. (Last meeting: Navy 40, Delaware 17, opening game of 2011)
OFFENSE: The Blue Hens will look markedly different on offense in 2013 compared to the 2011 squad which Navy last faced. Under first year head coach Dave Brock and offensive coordinator Sean Devine, Delaware will be using a spread offense with a much higher tempo than in recent years. This is fantastic news for Blue Hen fans who have seen their team go from perennial contenders to also-rans as the offense stagnated and became predictable under the old regime.
The most important cog in this offense is senior running back Andrew Pierce. Pierce stands at number three all time on the Blue Hens rushing charts and needs around 950 yards to become the all time leader at the school. After something of an off year in 2012, hampered by injury, he is looking to rebound with a strong senior season, one which should be aided by the move to the spread and the extra running lanes it creates. Expect Pierce to see countless touches out of the backfield both running and with swing/screen passes to take advantage of his running ability.
Conclusion: Delaware aren't going to be confused with Oregon in 2013 by the move to the spread is notable. Sometimes playing first year head coaches early in the season can be a negative thing as the Mids will not have much game tape to look at and get a read on plays and tendencies. The defense will have to adjust on the fly and make sure to not allow any game breaking big plays to give Delaware any sniff of an upset.
DEFENSE: The strength of Delaware defensively is the front line, a unit anchored by second year Maryland transfer Zach Kerr. The 6'2", 310 pounder has been given numerous pre-season honors including being named a first team All-American on Phil Steele's FCS squad. A dominating run stuffer he will command double team blocks all day as his combination of size and speed are that of an FBS defensive linemen.
If Navy can reach the second level with the run they should have more success. The Blue Hens are having to replace Atlanta Falcons hopeful, and first team All-American, Paul Worrilow. Junior Patrick Callaway and sophomore Jeff Williams are the two most likely 'backers to step up and fill the void, but the loss of Worrilow's CAA leading 6.5 sacks and 14 tackles for a loss we undoubtedly be felt to some degree. Navy should also be able to get a good look at how the new spread elements to their own offense work too as Delaware is replacing three starters in the secondary.
Conclusion: The match-up of the Navy offensive line against the Delaware front four, and Kerr in particular, is going to be one of the games highlights. He is so highly thought of for good reason so don't be surprised to see plenty of option going to the other side of the field. Navy will love their match-ups in the back seven if they can get there and will expect to wear down the generally smaller Delaware squad.
Other Factors: Strangely enough, Navy comes up against a highly thought of kicker for the second straight week as 2011 All-CAA pick Sean Baner will handle kicking duties for the Blue Hens. He was a perfect 33-of-33 on extra points last season and made 18-of-23 field goals. The other x-factor is coaching and the relative unknown that will be Dave Brock's offense. The ability to scout and break down limited game film will see the Navy backroom staff have an important role in this game.
Conclusion: Navy should win this, but it might be tighter than expected until after half time. Delaware has pedigree and no one associated with the school is happy with the decline in performance over the last couple of seasons. Though the Blue Hens will likely get back to the point that they can play an FBS team close it will not be this year and the Mids will pull away in the second half as the ground game wears down the Delaware defense.
Preseason Preview: Navy vs. Delaware
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