Navy a TD Favorite over Maryland…Really?

Five years ago, Navy's head coach said before the Maryland game that the Terps were "bigger, stronger, and faster," and that "they should win." The odds makers agreed and made the Mids nearly a two-touchdown underdog. This season, Navy is a favored by a touchdown. So I had to ask Navy's new coach whether or not he thought the Mids have gotten bigger, stronger and faster than Maryland?

Since the last time Navy and Maryland met in 2005, the two teams have gone in somewhat different directions. The Mids are 42-22 since the 23-20 loss and the Terps are 30-31. Furthermore, Navy is coming off a 10-win season and Maryland is coming off a 10-loss season. The Mids are touting a Heisman candidate and the Terps will definitely play against a few. Sports magazines have Navy ranked near the Top 25 going into the season and Maryland has been lucky to not be ranked last in their own division.

I guess if you add up all of these considerations, you can see why the odds makers expect Navy to beat Maryland by a touchdown when the two teams meet in Baltimore on Labor Day.

Five years ago, then Navy coach Paul Johnson said leading up to the game with the Terps that, "On paper (Maryland) should win. They are bigger, faster and stronger. They should win."

I'd be willing to bet that if Johnson was still in town, he'd dismiss any notion that anything has changed in Annapolis. He probably would have given little credit to the odds makers and stood by his statement from five years ago. Navy, he'd argue was still smaller, slower, and weaker…and that it would take a Herculean effort to avoid getting embarrassed.

Of course Navy has switched sheriffs since the 2005 game and any talk about who said what and what happened back then was quickly dismissed by the Mids' head coach Ken Niumatalolo. Here's how the exchange on this topic went down after practice earlier this week:

GoMids.com: Coach, prior to the last time that Navy played Maryland your predecessor said that on paper Maryland should win, they are bigger, faster and stronger.
 
Niumatalolo: Who are you talking about?
 
GoMids.com:  Your predecessor, Coach Johnson.  Prior to the Maryland game he said, and I quote, "that Maryland is bigger, faster and stronger, they should win."  Do you agree with that sentiment in 2010?
 
Niumatalolo:  No comment.
 
GoMids.com:  So you don't have any sense whether or not that has changed on paper?
 
Niumatalolo: Nope, I have no comment on that.
 
GoMids.com:  Can you talk about Navy five years ago compared to now?
 
Niumatalolo: No, different year and different team.
 
GoMids.com:  So you don't see that Navy has made strides since then?
 
Niumatalolo:  I don't look at that.  I just look at the 2010 team.
 
GoMids.com:  Do you think that going into this game there's an expectation to win that wasn't there five years ago?
 
Niumatalolo:  We expect to win all the time.
 
GoMids.com:  That hasn't changed at all?
 
Niumatalolo: No, I've been trying to win since high school. Everything I do I try to win and that goes for all of our players and coaches.  We try and win at everything we do.

GoMids.com:  I guess what I was getting at is that people would say that other teams are bigger, stronger and faster and that used to be something where Navy was the underdog and you could say we aren't supposed to beat these guys, but now there is a mentality that, wait a minute, Navy is not an automatic ‘W' anymore.
 
Niumatalolo: You might be right, but that's not our thought process.  We know the other teams are going to be bigger than us, but we are still going to come ready to play whether we are expected to win or not by the outside. We always try to win and we expect to win.  
I guess if I was to sum up the difference between how Johnson and Niumatalolo handled such a line of questioning in terms of a point spread, it would be the following:

Paul Johnson's odds:              Maryland         21        Navy

Ken Niumatalolo's odds:        Maryland         NL       Navy 

Of course this is just all silly talk because on September 6, all of these questions will be answered on the field. But until then fans are left to speculate about whether or not Navy has really passed Maryland on the football landscape. If you look at the point spreads alone, a three touchdown swing in five years is staggering and would lead some to conclude just that. Nevertheless, I'd be willing to bet that it would be tough to find anyone close to either program who genuinely thinks that this game will be anything other than a close contest that comes down to the fourth quarter. Count me in on that line of thinking. I think a touchdown is way too high of a spread.

Do you agree with the spread? Talk about it on the GoMids.com message boards.


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