I think all Navy fans can agree quite easily that a win on December 30th against the ACC-foe would be the biggest win of the year for the 9-3 service academy team. But where exactly would the win rank in say the last 10 years? Before beginning the research, I figured it would probably be in the top ten somewhere.
Having done a lot of term papers in my college and graduate school days, I decided to do what every competent and well-educated researcher does these days – I headed to Google.com. I brought with me the knowledge that the last time the Mids beat a ranked team was in 2003 when they surprised an undefeated and 25th ranked Air Force team in Landover, Maryland. But what if that Air Force team finished the year with five straight losses? Could you really consider that one of the best wins even though it came over a ranked opponent at the time? To explain, Navy's 37-9 pasting of Stanford looked pretty impressive – in September. However, at the end of the year, because of Stanford's 1-11 record, the win didn't help the Mids strength of schedule.
So all of these thoughts led me to the aforementioned search engine, which brought me to this site: http://www.phys.utk.edu/sorensen/cfr/cfr/Output/CF_History.html. For those of you who would rather not venture there now, at this site, a college professor has put together a computer ranking system that ranks every college football team in history. The formula is explained in detail if you are interested, but know this, it is pretty darn close to the Sagarin Computer rankings, and well, it goes back to 1869. And perhaps most importantly, it provides a ranking for each team at the end of the year. So for instance if you wanted to know how big Navy's win over Notre Dame was back in 1963, you would see that, well, it wasn't as impressive as you would think. Notre Dame finished the year 2-7 and by these rankings, they were the 52nd best team in the country.
So, let's get to the question at hand. Where exactly would a victory over Boston College place if one were to rank Navy's victories over the past 10, 20, 30 or even (gulp) 40 years? According to a professor at the University of Tennessee, who currently has the 2006 Boston College Eagles as the #22 team in the country, it would be a pretty big win. Of course a loss to Navy would probably drop Boston College a notch or two, but that withstanding, labeling a win over Boston College as "historic" for the Mids would be appropriate.
BIGGEST NAVY WINS IN LAST 10 SEASONS
# Year Result and Notes (with final computer ranking of opponent in bold)
1. 2004 Navy 34, New Mexico 19 (34) – Emerald Bowl
2. 1996 Navy 42, California 38 (46) – Aloha Bowl
3. 1996 Navy 20, Air Force 17 (48) – Win came on field goal in Colorado Springs
4. 2006 Navy 21, UMASS, 20 (49) – Division 1-AA team was bigger win than most thought
5. 2003 Navy 28, Air Force 25 (51) – A turning point victory in Navy football history
6. 2004 Navy 24, Air Force 21 (53) – A national television audience witnessed this thriller
7. 1996 Navy 36, Georgia Tech 26 (56) – Howard Bryant TD pass to Chris McCoy was a classic
8. 1998 Navy 32, Boston College 31 (60) – Mids score 22 points in fourth quarter comeback
9. 1997 Navy 46, SMU 16 (60) – SMU finished the year 6-5, making this a quality win
10. 1996 Navy 19, SMU 17 (62) – Win proved Navy could once again win a close game
After compiling that list, a few things jumped out at me. First, Navy's two biggest wins in the past 10 years both came in bowl games. Second, the win over Massachusetts, who eventually lost in the 1-AA championship game, was significant, so significant that it was the best win of the year thus far. Surely, this will give critics of Navy's schedule plenty of ammunition; however if you consider that Navy is less than a touchdown underdog to Boston College, somebody somewhere thinks they have a shot against the Eagles. So I think it is evident that a win over Boston College will rocket to the top of that list as the best victory for the past 10 years. So what about the last 20, 30 and 40 years? Here is a snapshot of the best Navy victories in the past 40 years…according to the same computer ranking system.
BIGGEST NAVY WINS IN LAST 40 SEASONS
# Year Result (with final computer ranking of opponent in bold)
1. 1963 Navy 24, Pitt 12 (3)
2. 1984 Navy 38, South Carolina 21 (6)
3. 1967 Navy 23, Penn State 22 (11)
4. 1957 Navy 20, Notre Dame 6 (12)
5. 1960 Navy 15, Washington 14 (13)
6. 1957 Navy 20, Rice 7 (14)
7. 1975 Navy 17, Pitt 0 (16)
8. 1961 Navy 17, Miami (Fla) 6 (19)
9. 1957 Navy 14, Army 0 (20)
1980 Navy 24, Washington 10 (20)
A victory over a Boston College team rated as the 22nd best team in the country this year by the same computer ranking system would just miss being one of the ten greatest wins in the past 40 years at Navy. It would actually land at number 11. I could have kept going back in history, but I thought 40 years was enough evidence to show what is at stake for the Navy football program in Charlotte on December 30th – a boat load…or if you prefer, a ship load.