It is interesting how the Navy football schedule has gone from one of the most open and varied in the country to one of the most set in stone due to conference affiliation. Unless Navy were to play Hawaii, and pick up an extra (13th) game due to the Hawaii Exemption, then 11 of the Mids 12 games are already planned out. Navy will always, or for the foreseeable future at least, play eight American Athletic Conference league games, the two Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy games against Army and Air Force and take on Notre Dame. That leaves just one slot on the schedule free on a yearly basis.
In 2016 Navy will open with that one open opponent as they take on Fordham of the FCS. Honestly this game is a little bit of a head scratcher as Fordham is not the sort of FCS team most FBS schools would want on their schedule. The Rams beat Army in the season opener last year, before rolling to a 9-1 overall record, a 5-1 mark in the Patriot League, and picked up an at-large spot in the FCS playoffs. Throw in the fact that Navy will be starting a new quarterback in the opener for the first time in three years and you have a potential banana skin that could have been avoided by buying in a lower level team.
In total Navy will play seven teams that went to bowl games in 2015, meaning that over half of the Mids opponents would be seen as somewhere between average and good entering the season. Though it is always hard to predict which teams will rise in any given conference season it would seem to be logical that the two teams that fought Navy for control of the AAC West last year, Memphis and Houston, will be right up there in 2016 too. Of the two Houston would be the pre-season pick to be the most dangerous as they, unlike either Memphis or Navy, return their star quarterback in Greg Ward Jr. Navy does at least get the Cougars, and Memphis too for that matter, at home, with the Houston game scheduled to be played on Saturday October 8.
Other interesting notes about the schedule at a glance include Navy playing two non-Saturday games with the first of those coming five days after the critical Houston game when the Mids travel to East Carolina on a Thursday night. Navy also plays a Friday night game in late October at UCF. That is not the only game the Mids will play in Florida either as the annual Navy in an NFL venue Home game* against Notre Dame is to be played in Jacksonville in 2016. This seems like a good location for the Mids however as there is a huge Navy presence in Florida, and Jacksonville in particular, and the game should also help increase the visibility of the program in Florida, a state that is always one the Mids want to recruit strongly.
In summary this is a very strong schedule that features both old, established rivalries and contests against teams in the AAC that Navy are already starting to build up heat with. Navy certainly did not take the easy way out with their FCS game and while the slate is going to be tough it is one that could once again set the Mids up to be a player in the AAC race and go to another bowl game.