Predictions for this week's Navy game
Q: Will the Navy offense be able to open the season firing on all cylinders?
The first two games of last season, Navy was held to 100+ yards below their season average in rushing yards. Certainly, some of that had to do with the caliber of the opponents in those games (Maryland and Stanford). But those two defenses both finished in the bottom half of all D-1A rushing defenses (79 and 70, respectively). It is fair to assume that, even with 8 starters returning, Navy's offense probably will not be the well oiled machine that dismantled Colorado State in the Poinsettia Bowl. East Carolina's defense finished last year ranked 113th against the rush. However, they return 6 starters, including 4 defensive linemen. They should show improvement in that area.
Q: What impact will the weather have?
The big question will be the wind. A strong wind will severely impact East Carolina's passing game. This is important, because Navy has traditionally been susceptible to the pass finishing 69th in pass defense last year against some weak opponents, two of whom, Rice and Air Force, are option teams. A heavy rain will slow down Navy's running game, but will have a similar impact on ECU's offense.
Q: Who will win the game, and who will win against the spread?
Navy enters the game as an 11.5 favorite. This is not a terribly familiar role for the Mids. Navy was a double digit favorite 3 times last year, and while they won all 3 of those games straight up, they failed to cover in two of them. Navy is 1-4 against the spread in their last 5 games as a double digit favorite against .500 or better teams. Additionally, in it's last 11 games against poor pass defenses, ECU is 10-1 against the spread. With a good quarterback and a stud receiver returning, ECU is going to score. ECU scored 24 points or more 7 times last year and were winners against the spread in all those instances.
Final score: Navy 31 – ECU 24
Predictions for future Navy opponents:
-UMass defeats Colgate. UMass is a top 20 D-1AA team opening the season at home.
-Stanford loses @ Oregon. Stanford will be better in its second season under Walt Harris. However, it won't be a big enough improvement to stop the Ducks in their home opener.
-Tulsa beats S.F. Austin. Tulsa was a bowl team last season and returns 16 starters. They should have little trouble in its home opener against 1AA team.
-UConn beats URI although it will be a close one.
-Air Force is idle and gearing up for its trip to Tennessee
-Rutgers loses @UNC. UNC is at home and is a favorite. Rutgers has a new quarterback starting his first game and although Rutgers returns a strong running game, UNC returns 7 defensive starters from a team that was 42nd against the rush last season.
-Notre Dame wins @Georgia Tech. Probably won't be that close. Charlie will have the Irish ready to go.
-Duke loses to Richmond at home. Will be a long year for the Devils.
-Eastern Michigan loses @Ball St
-Temple wins @ Buffalo. New coach Al Golden will turn Temple into a MAC contender by 2008. It starts here.
-Army wins @ Arkansas St. in a close game.