The Navy Midshipmen will meet the Fordham Rams at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Field this Saturday to open the season. It is the first game of the season for both teams and those 0-0 records mean that anything is possible at this point. This is also the first head to head of the new season so without further ado these are the matchups that matter for Navy vs Fordham.
NAVY PASSING OFFENSE
FORDHAM PASSING DEFENSE
REMARKS: Following on from the greatest season in program history is not going to be easy for Navy. Much of the weight of the program will fall on quarterback Tago Smith who has the unenviable task of following in the footsteps of an instant Navy legend in Keenan Reynolds. The senior has been with the program studying Reynolds and Smith i not expected to come in and run a pass first offense. If Navy can make any plays in the passing game against a Fordham squad that had 16 interceptions (No. 12 in the FCS) last year, then it will be seen as a bonus.
NAVY RUSHING OFFENSE
FORDHAM RUSHING DEFENSE
REMARKS: It is in the run game that Navy has a big advantage on Fordham offensively. Smith may have had limited reps, but he is 2-0 as a starter and has looked very good for the Mids whenever he was called upon over the last few seasons. Chris Swain at fullback has also moved on, but Navy never seems to lack for a stud back or two to emerge early in the season. In addition, the slotbacks on the roster this year are a group of dynamic playmakers. The one concern here is the inexperience of the offensive line (five new starters) but the Fordham front seven is not all that spectacular outside of linebacker Nico Thorpe and Navy should be able to control tempo.
FORDHAM PASSING OFFENSE
NAVY PASSING DEFENSE
REMARKS: The Navy passing defense is going to be in for an early test against Kevin Anderson and the Rams offense. It is hard to know exactly what to expect of the Navy defense, especially after top cornerback Brandon Clements was dismissed from the team in late June. His experience and skill set in the secondary will be missed. With two other havoc guys in Lorentez Barbour and Quincy Adams gone, some of the younger guys on the roster will have to step up against a competent passer who threw for over 3,100 yards and 32 touchdowns last year.
FORDHAM RUSHING OFFENSE
NAVY RUSHING DEFENSE
REMARKS: The strength of the Fordham offense is the running game. Starting running back Chase Edmonds is a 2016 FCS Preseason All-American and he was the 2015 Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year. Edmonds is not just good for an FCS player, he is the real deal and he can take over a game on any day as shown by his 347-yard rushing day against Lehigh last season. Navy will also have to replace big nose guard Bernard Sarra, a destructive force in the middle of the defensive line that did an outstanding job of eating up blocks and allowing the Navy linebackers to swarm to the ball. With no Sarra and no Will Anthony at defensive end, the ability of Navy to win in short yardage situations will be interesting to watch.
REMARKS: Navy gets the edge here purely for the ability of return specialist Dishan Romine who is certainly one of the best in the AAC and who might be one of the best in the nation. Romine is a touchdown waiting to happen and his legs make up for some of the other special teams issues such as Alex Barta allowing too many return yards per punt and the giant hole to be filled at kicker. On the plus side, whoever does kick only has to improve on a touchback rate of 25-percent to be better than last season.
REMARKS: The biggest win of the offseason for the Mids bar none was keeping head coach Ken Niumatalolo in town and out of the grasp of BYU. Niumatalolo has proven time and time again that he is one of the best and without a doubt the most underrated, coach in the entire country. His overall record at Navy is 68-37 and he has just one losing season as a head coach with the Mids.Niumatalolo always gets the best out of his players and they love playing for him.
Andrew Breiner will be the Fordham head coach for the first time in 2016 after serving as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at the school for the four years prior. Breiner looks like a solid hire to continue the recent winning tradition at the school, but Niumatalolo wins the matchup hands down on experience alone.
REMARKS: Fordham has some previous when it comes to knocking off FBS schools. The Rams ruined opening day for Army last season and are looking for their third win over an FBS opponent over the past four seasons. Fordham also has recent history on its side as, after losing its final game of 2015, Fordham has not lost back to back games since 2011. Navy, however, is the FBS school here. The Mids are playing at home and the game is being promoted as the start of a new era where Navy will push on from last season's stunning success.
PREDICTION: Navy 35, Fordham 27. This game could be closer than most expect. Fordham has no fear of FBS schools and the Rams are not a normal FCS opponent. Throw in the Mids youth and the upset chances are there. navy though are well coached and well disciplined and shouldn't slip up here.