Navy Will Beat a Bowl-Bound Team: This may not be as big of a deal as it sounds. After all, the Midshipmen bested the East Carolina Pirates (7-6, PapaJohns.com Bowl last year) in a 28-23 game to begin the year last year. One of the most frequent criticisms by "big media" sources (not to mention fans of the Air Force Academy) of Navy's recent run of success has been that Coach Johnson and his squad haven't beaten quality teams. We can argue this point until the cows come home, but the 2007 season will provide several challenges by teams which have shown the ability to go to Bowl games in the recent past, as well as teams which figure to be competitive in 2007. Rutgers, Ball State, Pittsburgh, Wake Forest, Notre Dame, and Northern Illinois all have good chances to go bowling by season's end if you ask me, and if Navy is to be successfully this year they're going to have to take at least one of these games. Keep in mind the Midshipmen have not played Ball State, NIU, or Pitt under Coach Johnson, giving the natural order of the triple option a HUGE advantage over the opponent's defense. The game against Pittsburgh screams upset!
Navy will *at least* scare Notre Dame: After 43 years I'm neither dumb enough nor bold enough to go out on a limb and say this is the year, although who could forget that before the 2006 season began Brian Stouffer and I came to the conclusion that this year, the 2007 season, presents the best opportunity for Navy to upset the Irish in the foreseeable future. All that being said I think Navy will at least give the Irish a run for their money this season, especially when you consider that all the pundits and "experts" have already penciled in the final four games of Notre Dame's season as wins. I've discussed the reasons why I think Navy has a decent shot at the Irish many times on this blog, but just to recap them I'll go through them once again. For starters Navy returns the bulk of their offense while Notre Dame must learn a new defense under a DC who was brought in for his ability to work with 3-4 defenses meant to stop Pro-style offenses. The Irish have had some trouble against the triple option in the past and with six new starters and a new system could struggle to contain Navy's offense. Also, Notre Dame returns only four offensive starters and must break in a completely new quarterback behind a fairly inexperienced offensive line. Despite getting two weeks to prepare for the game and getting the game in South Bend the above factors lead me to think Navy should keep this game closer than the last three games played between these schools.
Delaware, Duke, or Air Force will *at least* scare Navy: Once again, I'm not predicting any upsets here (at least not this early) but I think all three of these teams could more than give the Midshipmen a run for their money. Delaware has had success against the Mids in the past and is loaded with former FBS transfers, while Duke has nowhere to go but up and is entering a point where their highly touted recruiting classes of a few years ago are starting to come into their own. And even though Air Force should struggle next season the rivalry with Navy remains as intense as ever, and this is far and away the most important statement game for Calhoun's young program. If the Midshipmen show up full of energy and execute in all of these games, there is no reason why they can't win by a comfortable margin. Unfortunately in the course of an entire college football season things happen, and I'm predicting at least one of these games will be too close for comfort, if not an incredibly disappointing loss. All that being said, I'd like to be proven wrong on this account.
The Return Streak will End: Two words. Reggie Campbell. Campbell came close to breaking several kickoff and punt returns all the way in 2006 including a kickoff return against Stanford that he just took a bad angle on and ran himself out of bounds at midfield. He has the vision to find the gap in the coverage and has the speed to take advantage of openings. Shun White and his 4.46 speed may also get a crack at returning kicks this year, and he too as the ability to take it to the house. Last year's near misses and the general fact that this team is more or less "due" to end the return drought leads me to think this year will be the year Navy returns a kickoff or a punt for a touchdown.
Clint Sovie or Jeff Deliz will lead the Team in Tackles: Consider for a moment that over the last five seasons only two players have led the Midshipmen in tackles. FS Josh Smith led the Midshipmen in tackles from 2002-2004 with over 100 stops in each of these seasons, while ILB Rob Caldwell led the Mids with over 100 tackles in both 2005 and 2006. Coach Green's defense puts a lot of pressure on both the ILB and FS positions, and considering that both Sovie and Deliz are expected to be leaders on next year's defense I don't see why one of them wouldn't lead the team in total tackles. Both are good athletes who have great football smarts and, most importantly, tackle extremely well.
Five More Things I Think I Know to to come next week.