Sept. 11, Northeastern- Northeastern is a Division I-AA from the Atlantic 10. The Huskies, who finished the 2003 season 8-4, outscored the opposition 414-219. They look like a good football team and defeated the likes of William and Mary (48-17), Delaware (24-14, the only team to do so), and Stonehill (78-6). Northeastern is coached by Rocky Hager who is in his first season there. He previously coached North Dakota State to two national titles. Prediction: Navy 35 Northeastern 28.
Sept. 18, at Tulsa- Navy travels to the Golden Hurricanes of the WAC for its third game of the season. First year head coach Steve Kragthorpe and Tulsa finished 2003 8-5 and were defeated 52-10 in the humanitarian Bowl by Georgia Tech. Tulsa defeated the likes of SMU, UTEP, Louisiana Tech and Troy State to get to the bowl. Expect Tulsa to be even better in 2004. They return most of their defense and the majority of their offense. Prediction: Navy 38 Tulsa 31.
Sept. 25, Vanderbilt- Navy surprised Vandy 37-27 last season in Nashville in the battle of the Coach Johnsons. Vanderbilt, like Navy, returns the vast majority of its starters. The Commodores, who finished 2-10 in 2003 but lost several close games to good teams, are expected to be much improved in 2004. The "experts" just aren't sure how much of that improvement is going to translate into actual wins. The Commodores return steady quarterback Jay Cutler who is on track to be the all time leading passer in Vanderbilt history. End Jovan Haye was the SEC sack leader in 2003. Prediction: Vanderbilt 24 Navy 21.
Sept. 30, at Air Force- Navy fans got a real treat last season when the Midshipmen upset the Falcons, 28-25. The fly boys were 5-0 coming into the Navy game but finished the season 2-5. Don't look for Air Force to be much better in 2004. The Falcons lose 15 starters and will struggle just to have a winning record. Falcon head coach Fisher Deberry will be in his 21st season at the Air Force Academy. Deberry is a fine coach who has compiled an impressive career record of 156-88-1 but his age is starting to catch up with him. Prediction: Navy 30 Air Force 21.
Oct. 16, Notre Dame- Navy hasn't beaten Notre Dame in 40 years yet this a game is always a special one for Navy fans. The Irish suffered through a 5-7 2003 season that included a close, 27-24, victory over the Midshipmen. This season the Irish return 8 starters to an offense that sputtered through the 2003 season. Quarterback Brady Quinn threw for over 1,800 yards but was picked off 15 times with just 9 touchdown passes. He'll need to turn that figure around for Notre Dame to be successful. On defense the Irish return 6 starters. Prediction: Notre Dame 21 Navy 17.
Oct. 23, Rice- The Owls were so distraught over their 38-6 loss to Navy in 2003 that they considered dropping football. Rice is coached by Ken Hatfield who is 51-60-1 in 10 years in Houston. The Owls, of the Western Athletic Conference, have 7 returning starters on offense but must replace their quarterback. Rice features a punter who was a top 10 punter nationally with a 45 yard average. Rice will be improved in 2004 but not that much. Prediction: Navy 45 Rice 13.
Oct 30, Delaware- The Blue Hens not only surprised the Midshipmen last season but won the 2003 NCAA Division I-AA national championship, winning 15 games in the process. The Blue Hens only loss was to Northeastern. The Hens outscored their opposition 515-247. Navy will be looking for payback in this on. Prediction: Navy 31 Delaware 20
Nov. 6, at Tulane- The Midshipmen will travel to New Orleans, La. for a meeting with the Green wave in the historic Super Dome. Navy pounded the Greenies 35-17 in 2003. Tulane returns most of their offense except for their offensive backfield. The defense returns 7 starters to a unit that allowed over 450 yards a game last season. Tulane is coached by Chris Scelfo who has a 26-34 record in 5 years on the job. Prediction: Tulane 31 Navy 27.
Nov. 20, Rutgers- Rutgers was a much improved team last season and defeated Navy 48-27. It was one of the few dark days of the Midshipmen's season. The Scarlet Knights should be improved in 2004, at least offensively. Other than a couple of linemen on offense, they return most of that unit. However, the defense lost 7 starters from a group that gave up 30 points or more in 7 games. Rutgers is coached by Greg Schiano who is 8-27 going into his fourth season in New Jersey. Navy will get revenge. Prediction: Navy 35 Rutgers 24.
Dec. 4, Army- Army suffered through the worst season won-lost wise in the history of college football. Army has a new sheriff in town that has been around the block both collegiately and professionally. The Black Knights return 6 starters on both the offensive and defensive units. Expect Army to play sounder, smarter football in 2004. That should translate into at least a couple of wins. However, Navy should again handle Army. Prediction: Navy 23 Army 14
In a nutshell, Navy should be better in 2004. At a minimum Navy will have a winning season. The Midshipmen have the potential to go undefeated if all things fall into place. The system Paul Johnson has installed is a good one for Navy and will help the Midshipmen to win their second straight CIC Trophy and qualify for a second consecutive bowl game.