The Notre Dame Fighting Irish play one of their oldest rivals, the Navy Midshipmen, in sunny San Diego on October 27th this year. After a close win in South Bend for the Irish last season, the Irish once again can’t afford to take Ken Niumatalolo’s triple-option loving squad lightly in 2018.
Mr. Joe Serpico writes and podcasts about American Conference football over on SBN’s G5 football site Underdog Dynasty. He also lives in Navy’s backyard covering the Baltimore Orioles as a beat reporter for FOX Sports 1340 AM. I interrupted Serpico’s baseball season to toss him a couple questions about the current state of Navy football.
1. What’s your overall impression of how Navy’s 2017 season went?
There are a couple ways to look at how the Mids played in 2017. They started 5-0, but then lost six of their final seven games. They also lost to Army for the second year in a row in an epic snow game which makes the entire season feel like a loss. But on the flip side, they lost every game by 10 points or less, impressive considering the offense they operate. A 49-7 trashing of Virginia in the Military Bowl capped off one of the tougher seasons in recent memory for Navy. They will never draw the top talent to Annapolis, but continued to be a competitive matchup for whoever they play.
2. Will Navy be better or worse in 2018?
The schedule makers did Ken Niumatalolo no favors this season. They will travel 26,496 miles this season, second only to Hawaii. That includes this matchup that will be played in San Diego, the third trip the Mids will take out west during the season. With that said, the offense should look even better with Malcolm Perry starting at quarterback this year. He averaged 8.6 yards per carry last season and will have his hands on the football even more this year.
3. What’s going to be the biggest change between last year’s Navy team and this one?
Perry brings a dimension to that offense that was missing with Zach Abey under center. Abey is more of a bruising, downhill runner. Perry’s explosiveness on the edge showed in the matchups against Army and UVA. With both players back in 2018, the offense will be even better. However, the same can’t be said for the defense as only four starters return. Navy was competitive in just about every game last year by controlling the clock and playing sound defense. That might not be the case this season as the new defensive starters adjust to being full-time players.
4. Who are the big name players to watch for Navy this year?
It’s easy to continue to praise Perry’s impact on offense. Navy looked like a completely different team once he took over at quarterback. But don’t forget about Abey as Navy is sure to come up with ways for both players to make an impact in the game. Abey is expected to line up at wide receiver as well, and is the only returning player to catch more than one pass last year. Basically, this is team is built around their two quarterbacks, and if something should happen to either, Navy is in a world of hurt, literally and figuratively.
5. What’s your prediction for this team’s game against Notre Dame this year?
The Midshipmen led for much of the contest last season by keeping the Irish offense off the field for most of the game. In order for Navy to pull off the upset, they’ll have to do the same. But the reality is they just don’t have the firepower to keep up with Notre Dame if they build a lead. Not to mention that Notre Dame has an extra week to prepare for the option with a bye week ahead of this meeting, the Irish should take this one with relative ease. My prediction: Notre Dame 37 - Navy 21.
For more on Navy, the American Conference, and the rest of the G5, check out UnderdogDynasty.com.