It appears that Navy turned some heads in the Mids American Athletic Conference debut last season. Navy has been picked to finish second in the AAC West in 2016, despite having pretty much no returning starters on the offensive side of the ball.
Navy received 128 points in the preseason media poll to take the second place position in the West. The Mids finished ahead of Tulane (44), SMU (65), Tulsa (92), and Memphis (124). Navy though was well behind returning conference champions Houston, who received 180 points to top all schools in votes.
Houston is the overwhelming favorite to win the conference among the media. Of the 30 votes cast, 27 had the Cougars retaining their crown, while AAC East members USF (2) and Temple (1) picked up the remaining three votes. Houston was also the unanimous choice to beat Navy and win the West, picking up all 30 votes.
This was the expected outcome given that Houston returns many of its star players from a year ago. The key to the Cougars chances will be the play of quarterback Greg Ward Jr. He is a Heisman Trophy candidate if he can stay healthy for the entire season and Houston can muscle their way into College Football Playoff talk by being the best Group of Five team in the country.
It does speak to the trust that Navy has earned after just one year in the conference that the Mids can finish second in the voting with everything they have lost. The Navy defense will return six starts, but the media is putting a lot of faith in the ability of Ken Niumatalolo to get quarterback Tago Smith to play up to the level set by Keenan Reynolds over the last few years.
It also means that the media sees no reason to believe that the Mids tricky and hard to prepare for option offense will be easy for the AAC teams to figure out now that they have played against it. This was something of a worry now that Navy will have an almost entirely set schedule year after year.
With just four votes separating Navy and Memphis the poll suggests that this will be one of the better AAC match ups this fall. That game takes place on October 22 in Annapolis, so if you can only watch a couple of Mids games this fall that is one that should be targeted.