So here are a few questions and answers about Navy's upcoming football season.
Would 6-6 be a successful regular season?
A: Absolutely. The big-picture goal of the program is to make a bowl game. Bowl games lead to the things we spoke about last December: Increased exposure, a little bit of money and more than a dozen extra practices. Six wins may not sound like much given what Navy has done in the past four years. Consider, though, that from 1983-2002, Navy won six or more games twice (1996 and 1997).
Will Navy beat Temple?
A: Temple's coaches have been pointing to this game for some time—see Coach Al Golden's postgame comments last year and PJ's media day comments about the "Beat Navy" signs on Temple's campus. It is just as possible, however, that such emotion will play into Navy's hands. If I could pick one game in which to take an early lead, it would be this one. College football fans in pro sports towns are a different breed; I never will forget the BC fan who asked me once if college football had overtime (this was 1991, so the answer was "no." But I'm guessing this guy wasn't exactly riveted to the 1988 Sugar Bowl and/or had never heard of the 1966 ND-Michigan State game).
Losing programs don't always have the steam to come back from early deficits, especially at home. And pro sports fans watching college football are not the most patient souls. An early lead may deflate just about everybody on their sidelines. If Temple sticks around, it will be a very good game. I see Navy winning but am not expecting any style points. A one-point win on the road would be fine by me.
Can Navy beat Rutgers?
A: Rutgers Coach Greg Schiano has a reputation for tweaking his gameplan every week and not using the same plan twice. Yet it has to be tempting for him to use what worked so well in the past two games against the Mids. Remember, the Scarlet Knights have accounted for Navy's season-low rushing yards in each of the past two years. Rutgers's eight-man fronts are keyed by physical defensive tackles and FS Courtney Greene. I'm guessing this is the sort of game PJ had in mind when he moved Harper to center. Rutgers disrupts option teams by crashing its defensive tackles on the center. But Harper's low center of gravity might be just what the doctor ordered to hold his space in the middleand give Navy room to run Ballard and Kaipo on the QB follows. That matchup alone will be worth having to spend a few hours in New Jersey.
Will Air Force be better than last year?
A: Maybe, but they still have a long way to go. It is interesting to read the reports from AF's practices. Troy Calhoun wants his defensive backs to play more aggressive man-to-man. Really? It is one thing to have the speed to stay with Air Force's wide receivers. But the receivers at schools like Utah, BYU and TCU (all early-season AF opponents) are going to be faster, and better. Also, why did Calhoun change his mind about what offense to run? Now it appears he is going to stick with the option. Did he change his mind because of a lack of talent? Time will tell, but one thing is certain: I have never been the biggest Shaun Carney fan. I feel like the brother-in-law in "Field of Dreams;" all my AF buddies rave about Carney's passing, his leadership, his talent, etc.
And all I see is 13-21—AF's record since he became the starter.
Also, if Carney is such good a leader, why go to the no-huddle offense? Some of the best motivating is done in the huddle. Will Air Force be better? Some people think so. My feelings can be summed up in the words of Samuel Goldwyn Mayer: "Include me out."
Will Army be better?
A: Yep. Army's defense has a chance to be very good. Defensive lineman Ted Bentler is one of the best stories in college football; he played as a freshman at Iowa. Defensive end Victor Ugenyi reportedly turned down a scholarship offer from Baylor. The safeties (Caleb Campbell and Jordan Murray) have boy-band first names but they are really good football players. I know nothing about head coach Stan Brock, but defensive coordinator John Mumford has a good reputation and seems like a very bright guy. He will get the most he can out of that group. The offense can't be worse than last year. This could be the best Army-Navy game in years.