Friday, Sept. 5.
Where: Scheumann Stadium (22,500)
When: 7 p.m.
Tickets: $15, $10 (really)
Essentially, Ball State does not have a very big defensive line. The expected starters weigh (in pounds) 260 , 271, 255, 222. The starting linebackers are 223, 214, 230.
My best guess is Navy will test the middle of that defensive line early, and that responsibility falls on Kettani and Gaskins. Navy will move the ball if Gaskins is clearing room up front and Kettani is breaking tackles and/or finding seams in the defensive line.
Paul Johnson never liked showing too much of the playbook if he didn't have to. And with Duke, Rutgers, Wake Forest and Air Force coming up, having success with 'Plan A' and not having show Plans B, C or D would be very, very welcome.
NUTS AND BOLTS: This also is the game where we will learn who Navy's center is and whether he is good or not. I know the coaches wanted Ricky Moore to play tackle and for Andy Lark to establish himself as the starting center. So watch who is at center--whether it's Lark or Moore--and how he's performing. Take it as a good sign if the center, Bass and Gaskins are moving people backward. Take it as a very bad sign if Gaskins is the only one doing so (even if Navy wins).
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: The experience on defense that Sovie and Deliz bring back negate QB Nate Davis's improvisational ability. Davis does not like to run, but he is good at evading the pass rush laterally to buy time to hit underneath receivers. The key is for the defense to keep the offensive players in front of them and to make the tackles on initial contact.
Also, Ball State's stadium is one of the smallest in Division I-A. (No. 117 out of 119, I believe.) Their home attendances last year look sorta like Navy lacrosse attendances (15,488; 14,333; 9,617; 15,824; 10,162).
However, a night game on ESPN will bring out the students and they will be excited. A big early lead for Navy would be really nice.
WORST-CASE SCENARIO: Pretty much the opposite of everything you read to this point.