Navy football enters the 2014 season seemingly loaded with a veteran offensive unit. Junior quarterback Keenan Reynolds was named honorable mention All-American in 2013 by the Sports Illustrated. Reynolds is already the best Navy quarterback in the triple option era. The Mids return all of last year’s starting member of the Bell helicopter Armed Forces Bowl offensive line. Senior right guard Jake Zuzek, a beast who can bench press over 500 pounds, and senior left tackle Bradlyn Heap both earned All East honors last season. Navy will use a lot of different personnel in the running game. Noah Copeland and Chris Swain share the fullback spot. Copeland has the best run vision while Swain is a big 245 pound bruiser. The Mids will again rotate in a lot of slotbacks. All of the top returning slotbacks in the rotation Geoffrey Whiteside, DeBrandon Sanders and Demond Brown averaged at least 7.4 yards a carry last fall. The only question is at wide receiver where the Mids have two new starters.
The defense is led by senior free safety co-captain Parrish Gaines who earned All-Independent honors in 2013. I like the staff's decision to move William Tuider to Raider linebacker. Navy has two very athletic outside linebackers in their 3-4 defense in Tuider and Chris Johnson. The Mids need a big year from 303-pound nose guard Bernie Sarra to keep the opposition guards off Navy's new inside linebackers. Let’s look at the 2014 Navy schedule.
Aug 30 vs Ohio State (M&T Bank Stadium)
The Navy Midshipmen open against the fifth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. This will be the fifth meeting between the two programs with Ohio State winning the previous four. Navy gave Ohio State a scare in their last meeting on the road in 2009. Former Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs rallied the Mids with two late touchdowns only to have his two point conversion attempt to tie the game picked off and return for two in Ohio State 31-27 win. I believe Navy's veteran offense will compete and play well but I do not think the Navy defense will get enough stops against the Buckeyes high power offense unless redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett proves not to be ready for prime time. Navy Loss
Sept 6 at Temple
Navy and Temple engaged in some memorable battles when Al Golden was their head coach. The 33-27 overtime win at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium was one for the ages with Clint Stovie returning a fumble 42-yards for a touchdown to tie with just 37 seconds left after Temple ran the ball instead of taking a knee. Ricky Dobbs had the game winning score in overtime. Last year Matt Rhule, a former Al Golden assistant, struggled to a 2-10 record in his first year as Owls head coach. After Temple inserted freshman quarterback P.J. Walker they played well down the stretch and beat Army. Rhule has done a solid job recruiting but this is a young team that Navy should beat. The Mids are undefeated (10-0) at Lincoln Field.
Sept 13 at Texas State
Navy beat Texas State 21-10 in their first meeting in a rather lackluster game during the 2012 season. Last year the Bobcats finished 6-6 and lost its last three games to end the regular season by 14 or more points or more. Head Coach Dennis Franchione is changing his offense and installing a more aggressive defense. Navy should be able to handle the Bobcats.
Sept 20 vs Rutgers
Navy plays their first home game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium against Rutgers who joined the Big Ten after last season's 6-7 campaign. Kyle Flood took over after Greg Schiano left for and then failed in the NFL. Flood's recruiting classes the last two years have been disappointing. The Scarlet Knights have beat the Mids in four of their last five meetings. Navy would have beat Rutgers on the road in 2011 if they hadn't experienced a miserable day on special teams in a 21-20 loss. I think these two teams are heading in opposite directions. Navy wins at home. Navy Win
Sept 27 vs Western Kentucky
The Midshipmen scored on their opening drive against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers last fall. They were shut down the rest of the way and lost 19-7. Western Kentucky held Navy to just 107 rushing yards. The Mids had entered the game leading the nation in rushing average. The Hilltoppers outgained Navy 417-183 in total offense. Navy was unable to generate any offensive drives after starting quarterback Keenan Reynolds was knocked out of the game. There is a revenge motive in this one. The Navy bench was furious at the headhunting tactics of Western Kentucky last year which knocked Reynolds out of the game and ended the career of senior offensive lineman Graham Vickers. Navy has won two of the three games played in the series. I think they get some payback at home. Navy Win
Oct 4 at Air Force
The Troy Calhoun era at Air Force seems to be coming apart at the seams. Last year Air Force had their worst record 2-10 since 1980. The only FBS team they beat last fall was hapless Army at home. In addition the program has been plagued recently by scandals. Navy overcame a half time deficit last season to defeat the struggling Air Force Falcons 28-10 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. The winner of this game has won the last 16 Commander-In-Chief's Trophies. Navy has clearly bypassed the Falcons in terms of talent. Navy Win
Oct 11 vs Virginia Military Institute
Navy takes on a badly overmatched VMI team that is coming off a dismal 2-10 season. VMI head coach Sparky Woods (15-52) has been unable to change the FCS division Keydets chronic losing ways. VMI lost 31-10 last year to Citadel and couldn't deal with their option attack. Navy should roll in a big way. Navy Win
Oct 25 vs San Jose State
The Navy Midshipmen outlasted San Jose State 58-52 in a wild shoot triple overtime shootout last year. Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds set an NCAA record with seven quarterback rushing touchdowns in a single game. Parrish Gaines interception set up Keenan Reynolds game winning 25-yard touchdown run in the third overtime.Reynolds ran for a touchdown on each of the last five Navy offensive possessions. Former star quarterback David Fales is now battling to make the Chicago Bears roster so the Spartans offense will not be as explosive. Their defense struggled last year and looked lost against Navy's triple option. San Jose State leads the series 2-1. Navy Win
Nov 1 at Notre Dame
The Navy Midshipmen fell just short of upsetting Notre Dame in South Bend as Navy's wide receiver Shawn Lynch was stopped on fourth down on an end-around. The Fighting Irish prevailed 38-34 in a back and forth game that saw nine lead changes. Navy's offense produced 419 yards of total offense and 28 first downs. Navy had no turnovers, no penalties and held the ball for 37:36 while the Irish had it just 22:24. The Navy defense never forced the Irish offense to punt as they racked up 506 yards of total offense and averaged nine yard a play. Navy had destiny in their hands but a pitch slipped out of Reynolds and it put the Mids third and long. Reynolds gave the Mids a chance with a 10-yard completion to setup the fourth-and-four end around that fell short. It was a terrific showing for the Mids after being beat by #17 Notre Dame a combined 82 points the two previous years. I wouldn't be surprised if Reynolds beats Notre Dame before his career ends but I like the Irish at home. Navy Loss
Nov 15 vs Georgia Southern
New head coach Willie Fitz takes over Georgia Southern from Jeff Monken who left for Army. After years as an FCS powerhouse the Eagles join the Sun Belt Conference this season. The Eagles won six national championships. Georgia Southern is the school where Paul Johnson created and then implemented his spread offense as offensive coordinator and later head coach. Fritz's offense is a more diverse run oriented system that throws the ball around 20 times a game. GSU 's old spread offense beat Florida last year while competing no passes. Defensive coordinator Jack Curtis knows how to defend the option. The Eagles put a scare in Navy in their only meeting dropping a 13-7 decision. Navy Win
Nov 28 at South Alabama
The Navy Midshipmen defeated South Alabama Jaguars 42-14 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. It was an impressive performance as the Mids posted 519 yards of offense. The Jaguars actually had a 14-10 lead but the Mids ran off 32 unanswered points. The Navy defense shutout a Jaguar team in the second half. South Alabama's worst loss other than this game was a seven point
road defeat at Tennessee. South Alabama finished the year 6-6. This game reminds me another Sun Belt team, Troy, and the home and home series in 2011 and 2012. Navy dominated at home but the following season on the road lost a shootout against a better prepared team. I think the Jaguars shock Navy on the road in a close game.
Dec 13 Army (Philadelphia, Pa.)
Last year Navy dominated the Army Black Knights in a 34-7 victory in America's game. It was a record setting twelve straight victories for the Mids. The defense shutdown what was then the second ranked rushing attack in the nation as they held the Black Knights to just one touchdown. Army is now on their sixth head coach with the hiring of Jeff Monken, a former Georgia Southern head coach and Navy assistant coach, since the streak started. The Mids are clearly the superior team and should hand an unlucky thirteenth straight loss to the Black Knight this season.
I predict a 9-3 season as the Mids play seven teams who were bowl eligible last season. I expect Navy to retain the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy and appear in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. If Navy can stay healthy they have a chance to potentially win ten games for the fourth time in school history this year.
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