November 7, 2009
The raw data: Notre Dame has gone with youth the past couple years and in 2008 it began to pay off. After a rough 2007 season, the Irish managed a 7-6 record, which included a bowl win at Hawaii. The Irish return 44 lettermen including nine offensive starters and six defensive starters. They are coached by Charlie Weis who is entering his fifth year at Notre Dame.
Why we should be worried: This is Notre Dame, the Mids haven't had too much success against them in the past. The Irish have a 71-10-1 all time lead in the series and have won 44 of the last 45. Notre Dame has quarterback Jimmy Clausen back who completed 268 of 440 passes for 3,172 yards and 25 scores. He'll have Golden Tate back to throw to. Tate caught 58 passes last season for 1,080 yards and 10 touchdowns. Tate also averaged 20 yards per punt return. On defense the Irish have safety Harrison Smith back. He tallied 57 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 5 tackles for a loss and 7 passes broken up.
Why we should be optimistic: Navy won there last time so why not again? The streak is over. The Irish will be coming off what will likely be a big win over Washington State in San Antonio and might be a little flat. It could very well happen again!
What might happen: This Notre Dame team should be much better this season with another year of experience under their belt. The veteran Irish offensive line coupled with great skill players returning for the Irish spell trouble for Navy. This could be a bad day at the offense for the Midshipmen.
Predicted Score: Notre Dame 35 Navy 14
November 14, 2009
The raw data: Delaware finished the 2008 season with a 4-8 record. The Blue Hens return 37 lettermen including four offensive and six defensive starters. Head coach K.C. Keeler is entering his eighth year at Delaware and has a 144-55-1 career record.
Why we should be worried: Remember 2007? Sure we'd like to forget but that year, after a tough loss to Wake Forest, Navy overlooked Delaware and ended up losing, 59-52. Safety Charles Graves is back for the Blue Hens. He had 78 tackles, including 43 solo stops, and ranked among the league leaders with five interceptions. Tight end Josh Baker also returns. He caught 22 passes for 344 yards last season.
Why we should be optimistic: This isn't the same Delaware team as 2007. They've only got 10 starters back from a team that won just four games a year ago; that means problems in my book. That stinging loss to the Blue Hens is still remembered well by many of the Navy upperclassmen and will not want to endure that again.
What might happen: Option left, option right, fullback dive. Navy scores at will while the Blue Hens get shut down by the Mid defense. The Midshipmen build a comfortable lead by late in the third quarterback before pulling many of their starters.
Predicted Score: Navy 45 Delaware 13
November 28, 2009
The raw data: Hawaii finished the 2008 season at 7-7. The Warriors, coached by Greg McMacklin who is entering his second year, returns 50 lettermen including seven offensive starters and just two defensive starters.
Why we should be worried: Good football teams have a history of going to Hawaii and getting sidetracked with the great beauty of the area and then getting shocked in Saturday. Navy will need to concentrate on football first before worrying about the sights. They'll have plenty of time later to see the world when they are at sea. Hawaii returns two quarterbacks, Greg Alexander and Inoke Funaki, who combined for over 3,000 yards and 21 touchdowns last year. One big guy returns on the Warrior defensive line, last year end John Fonoti (6-2, 255) had 62 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 6 tackles for losses and 3 broken up passes.
Why we should be optimistic: Defense, what defense? The Warriors gave up almost 30 points per game last year and they return just TWO starters. The Navy offense should be able to shred through the Warrior defense with little resistance. Niumatalalolo will be ready for this game. No way he goes home to lose to Hawaii.
What might happen: This should be a high scoring affair. Hawaii had a formidable offense last season that averaged 25 points a game. With their quarterback returning they'll likely up those numbers.
Predicted Score: Navy 38 Hawaii 27
December 12, 2009
The raw data: Army finished the 2008 season 3-9 and fired head coach Stan Brock after a, 34-0, loss to Navy. West Point brought in head coach Rich Ellerson from Cal Poly who is highly regarded by many including Navy's head coach Niumatalalolo. The Black Knight return 5 offensive starters and 7 defensive starters along with just 33 lettermen.
Why we should be worried: Ellerson is a fine coach. His Cal Poly team almost knocked off Wisconsin last year in Madison. If not for a couple of missed extra points they would have pulled off the stunner of the year in front of 80,000 hostile fans. Army has a quarterback now, Trent Steelman, who can run the option. He ran it in high school and then last year he ran it at the West Point Prep School and helped soundly defeat the Navy's Prep School. Unlike last year, Army has coaches that know the option. It won't be just the fullback dive like last year. On defense the Cadets will be pretty good. They've got defensive tackles Victory Ugenyi back. Last year he had 36 tackles, 4 sacks and 2 tackles for losses. Stellar linebacker Stephen Anderson is also back. He was second on the team last year with 92 tackles and also had 2 sacks and 9 tackles for losses.
Why we should be optimistic: Despite the anticipated improvement in coaching for Army it's going to take time before the Cadets get it together. Ellerson might have been able to quick-start Cal Poly but Army is going to be an entire different story.
What might happen: We know one thing: there's going to be a lot of rushing yardage in this game. Army will put up a more valiant fight than over the last few years but Navy will still prevail by two scores.
Predicted Score: Navy 34 Army 24
There you have it. In a best case scenario Navy can finish the regular season 10-3. The Wake Forest and Air Force games could probably go either way despite my predictions.