Date: Nov. 2, at Notre Dame
College football’s longest uninterrupted intersectional rivalry will tee up for the 87th consecutive year since 1927 with Notre Dame having re-established momentum.
Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds (19) became the spark as a freshman for an improved 8-5 season in 2012.
The Fighting Irish had recorded an NCAA record 43 consecutive victories against the Midshipmen from 1964-2006 before Navy stunningly pulled off three victories in a four-year period from 2007-10.
From there, Notre Dame has defeated Navy 56-14 (2011) and 50-10 (2012) the past two years. In 2013 the Fighting Irish will attempt to score at least 50 points in three straight meetings against one opponent for the first time ever.
Navy won the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy while eking out victories against Air Force (28-21 in overtime) and Army (17-13), defeating their top rival for the 11th consecutive year.
Top Offseason Note
Receiver Matt Aiken (seven catches, 61 yards and two touchdowns last year) and linebacker Cody Peterson (67 tackles in 2012, sixth most on the team) were named 2013 captains.
Just like Air Force, the entire coaching staff for Navy returns intact, with most of them having been with the program at least six years, many more than 10, and one as many as 18.
We have Navy just ahead of Air Force in this survey primarily because unlike the Falcons, the Midshipmen return their top quarterback and fullback. (Plus Air Force also lost its primary ball carrier and 1,000-yard rusher at halfback.)
In quarterback Keenan Reynolds, the Midshipmen hope they have found someone with the leadership/talent combination of Ricky Dobbs (2007-2010). As a freshman last season, Reynolds eventually took over as the starter and passed for 898 yards and nine scores while adding 649 yards on the ground. He propelled a 7-1 finish for Navy in the final eight regular season games after coming off the bench to lead the overtime victory against Air Force.
Junior fullback Noah Copeland provides a strong complement after rushing for 738 yards in last year’s triple option scheme that finished sixth in the country rushing.
Every year the main theme when Notre Dame plays Navy is whether the Fighting Irish can deal with the triple option attack. After an egregious hiccup against Navy during a 35-17 loss in 2010, Notre Dame has proven more than capable in that area and has won its last four games against three different military academies by an average of 33 points.
The real issue in these contests is whether the military teams have the size, strength and speed to deal with Notre Dame’s offense. The Irish moved the ball at will during the 56-14 and 50-10 victories the past two years against Navy.
Furthermore, Navy was 94th last year against the run and 97th in pass efficiency defense — and graduated its top four tacklers. Versus the four teams it played last season that were from BCS conferences (or Notre Dame), the Midshipmen yielded an average of 44 points and never less than 30. The season was capped with a 62-28 bowl loss to Arizona State, another 2013 Irish foe.
Notre Dame faces a unique situation in 2013 when it plays Air Force (Oct. 26) and Navy (Nov. 2) on back-to-back weekends. Not all triple option alignments or opponents are created the same, and the Falcons’ are different than the Mids (including a tight end in the formation), but the principles of reading the keys, discipline in staying in the right gaps, etc. remain.
Over the last decade, Navy has established itself as a consistent eight- or nine-win program (in some cases even 10) with the schedule it plays. Its lone losing season during that time was 5-7 in 2011.
Against both Air Force and Navy, though, Notre Dame is likely to be projected as a three-touchdown favorite from a preseason perspective.