Things didn’t go as planned for Navy last year. After winning its first five Games, the Midshipmen collapsed in the second half of the season, losing six of their last seven. A lot of that had to do with the offense suddenly falling off and that was highlighted in the 14-13 loss to Army. The problem is that they lose a lot of talent from that squad, although still have an over/under of seven wins at 5Dimes Sportsbook. Hitting the over is possible playing in the AAC (+1350 to win it), but with only 11 returning starters, there are questions.
There isn’t a question at quarterback where Malcolm Perry is expected to have a huge season and was even listed with +45000 odds to win the Heisman, the second-to-last name on the 5Dimes list. He takes over for Zach Abey, after running for 1,068 yards, 9 TDs and 8.8 yards per carry last year, 646 of those yards coming in three starts at quarterback. Last year’s quarterback Zach Abey is still there, but due to size, will likely be used in bigger packages and rack up touchdowns (14 last season). That combination gives the offense another layer, while Keoni-Kordell Makekau is expected to be the lead slot back with full back Anthony Gargiulo still there. Finding a legit pass catcher will also be important, as the quarterbacks don’t want to repeat the 10 interceptions they had last year. Behind a line of upperclassmen and two studs at tackle, the triple-option will do its usual work after going for 351.4 rushing yards per Game last year. But with Perry at quarterback the entire season, the option has another speed dynamic that Abey lacked.
To surpass seven wins, the defense can’t let up after allowing 26.3 points per Game last year. There are a couple starters returning at every level and the hope is that’s enough for this group. Safety Sean Williams is one of the best in the conference, while Jarvis Polu and Nizaire Cromartie are expected to have solid seasons coming off the edges. To improve on last year, linebacker Hudson Sullivan has to take up a bigger role in the middle. Navy’s defense is rarely elite, but as long as it doesn’t get blown up every Game against AAC teams, that’s enough.
The Mids started last season with a bang and have the tools to do that again with potency in the triple-option. Traveling to Hawai’i is difficult for the opener, but the early home Game against Memphis will be important in Navy’s hopes of reaching eight wins. The trip to Air Force in October should also be a difficult Game and that’s followed by a stretch of Temple, Houston and Notre Dame. None of those Games are on the road, but Navy may not be favored in any of them, pending on how the first month goes. Things don’t get easier from there with a road Game at UCF standing out in November. It’s worth noting, the Midshipmen have 13 total Games, which is part of the reason the over/under sits at seven wins. Head coach Ken Niumatalolo believes Perry adds another dimension to the offense and if that’s the case, Navy should be a more consistent team. And with 13 Games on the Schedule, reaching eight wins in the regular season is more than attainable and the AAC title Game isn’t a stretch with the West division up for grabs behind Memphis and Houston.
2018 Navy Midshipmen Football Schedule
Sept. 1 at Hawai’i
Sept. 8 vs. Memphis
Sept. 15 vs. Lehigh
Sept. 22 at SMU
Oct. 6 at Air Force
Oct. 13 vs. Temple
Oct. 20 vs. Houston
Oct. 27 vs. Notre Dame (San Diego County Credit Union Stadium)
Nov. 3 at Cincinnati
Nov. 10 at UCF
Nov. 17 vs. Tulsa
Nov. 24 at Tulane
Dec. 8 vs. Army (Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia)