2012 Record: 8-5
Head Coach: Ken Niumataolo (40-26 at Navy)
Four Year Trend: 8 wins and 5 losses
Last Bowl Game: 2012 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl: lost to Arizona State 62-28
Stadium: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, MD (capacity = 34,000)
Home Field Advantage: ranked 3rd out of 55 mid-major teams
Armed Forces: 10/5 vs Air Force, 11/14 vs Army
Revenge: 11/2 at Notre Dame, 11/22 at SJSU
Stat to Fear: allowed opponents to convert 48.4% on third downs
Stat to Cheer: 29.1 penalty yards per game (2nd in Nation)
Advanced Stats (Football Outsiders 2012 FEI Ranking): 99th out of 124 teams
Phil Steele's Returning Starters: Offense: 5, Defense 6, Special Teams 2
Key Defensive Returnees: DB Parrish Gaines (69 tackles), LB Cody Peterson (67 tackles)
Key Offensive Returnees: QB Keenan Reynolds (898 yds pass, 9 TD, 2 INT, 649 yds rush, 10 rush TD), RB Noah Copeland (738 yds rush, 4.56 ypc, 5 TD)
Navy has had a winning record in nine out of the last ten seasons so when the Midshipmen went just 5-7 in 2011 there was some concern. Last year, the Midshipmen started out 1-3 but quickly rebounded winning five straight and seven of eight to finish the regular season. One of the big keys for Navy was winning the close ones as they went 4-0 in games decided by seven or less points.
On offense, Navy actually scored four less points per game and gained less yards in total offense then they did in their five win 2011 season. The good news is that QB Keenan Reynolds is now a sophomore and has some experience under his belt. Reynolds got better as the season went on and will be a handful in 2013. Navy will lose it's leading rusher, Gee Gee Greene, but do return some good production in FB Noah Copeland (644 yds, 4.6 ypc) and SB Trey Miller (358 yds, 4.5 ypc). The offensive line will lose two starters (LG and LT) but does return three starters that had more than ten career starts.
Navy's defense will have a bit of a challenge in 2013 as they have to replace their top four tacklers (which represents 35% of the team total tackles), three of which were linebackers. The defensive line returns five of their top seven players but they struggled to stop the run last year giving up 191 yards per game on the ground at a clip of 4.81 ypc. They also gave up 23 rushing TDs. Cody Peterson, Jordan Drake and Josh Tate will need to step up in the middle of the defense to replace the production we talked about earlier. In the secondary, the Midshipmen return four of their top six but lose their leading tackler of the secondary group (Tra'ves Bush). The defense struggled to get off the field on third down but was pretty good in the red zone (18 in the Nation). Bend but don't break is risky but it helped Navy turn their record around last season. If they can have their young players step up at LB this group will be similar to the group that the Midshipmen fielded last season.
There aren't any big name teams on this schedule besides Notre Dame but there are a bunch of teams that will be tough to beat. The key will be how Navy gets out of the gate. They start with Indiana (a team they beat by just one point at home last season), in week three they play at Bobby Petrino and WKU (will they have the offense rolling by Sept 28th?) and then they play an Air Force squad they beat by one TD last season. Not a killer schedule but those are three games that will be tough for the Midshipmen. Then they travel to Duke who will be tough under David Cutcliffe despite the loss of Sean Renfree and then they travel to play a talented Toledo squad. After that it's a Pitt team that will be more hard-nosed this year under Paul Cryst. Then they have two very winnable games at home (Hawaii and South Alabama) before traveling out to play a San Jose State team that won eleven games last season. And of course they finish against Army. Navy will need to maintain their penchant for close wins to navigate this schedule. This looks like a 6-6 season to me with the possibility to go two wins/losses in either direction depending on how the defense plays and how Keenan Reynolds progresses.