Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here. Below, a unique review of last year's team, a unit-by-unit breakdown of this year's roster, the full 2016 schedule with win projections for each game, and more.
1. Taking on narratives, one at a time
People talk about us coming into the conference, and we have great respect for the programs and the head coaches, but we didn't come from NAIA football.
In some of my dealings with the media I kept being asked what it’s like to come into a conference. I felt like saying, ‘Have you not been watching who we’ve been playing.’ I just wanted people to know that we’ve been in Division I. It was just something brewing inside me and just spilled out.
"You might get some ideas on us, but we're always going to get ideas for how to attack you."
The common idea on Navy is that, once you face that offense once or twice, you figure out what to do. You can find analysts saying Navy joining a conference (the AAC) for the first time is bad for this reason.
While exposure can make you more familiar, it makes Niumatalolo and OC Ivin Jasper more familiar with you.
"Ivin and I have learned from the best, and we've seen everything. There's nothing you can throw at us that we haven't seen."
There were two main narratives regarding Navy's move to the AAC, and both were pretty patronizing. The first was that it meant a scheduling upgrade that the Midshipmen might not be able to handle. The second was that Navy would struggle once opponents adapted to the offense.
Both were transparent nonsense.
The former ignored Navy's scheduling as an independent -- in 2014, for instance, the Midshipmen played national champion Ohio State, Notre Dame, and a total of eight teams that went bowling (plus 6-6 Temple, which had an outstanding defense). In 2012, they opened with Notre Dame, Penn State, and an 11-win San Jose State.
And you get exposed to them, but they also get exposed to you. Georgia Tech's success (2015 aside) under Paul Johnson would seem to negate the argument. Tech had two top-40 offenses (per Off. S&P+) in his first two seasons, then four more in years 4-7. In 2014, his seventh in the ACC, Tech's offense ranked third in the country.
Navy's 11-2 season and top-20 S&P+ rating did its part in killing the first of the two. Against a schedule that was, if anything, a downgrade (two top-40 opponents, four opponents ranked 106th or worse), the Midshipmen rolled. They wrapped up quarterback Keenan Reynolds' wonderful career by scoring at least 44 points six times; they held opponents to 21 or fewer 10 times as well. They won only one game by single digits.
The latter narrative, however, takes a few years to officially destroy. And doing so in 2016 could be difficult. This will be a reset year.
As in 2012, when Navy had to replace a strong quarterback (the underrated Kriss Proctor, who succeeded Ricky Dobbs for one year) and Reynolds was just a freshman, there will be a drop-off in quality. Gone are Reynolds, the top two fullbacks, two of the top three slotbacks, all five starting offensive linemen, three of four defensive linemen, and three of five defensive backs.
At a service academy, where redshirts aren't a thing, you're always reliant on upperclassmen. That means you get used to replacing a lot of starters. But Navy's facing more retooling than normal, and Reynolds was special. You don't simply replace him.
Long-term, Navy will be fine. The program kept Niumatalolo despite interest from BYU, and recruiting and depth of talent probably haven't been this strong in a long while. If there is a step backward, it won't be permanent. But it might take a while before he can squash the final narrative.
|Record: 11-2 | Adj. Record: 11-2 | Final F/+ Rk: 21 | Final S&P+ Rk: 20|
|Date||Opponent||Opp. F/+ Rk||Score||W-L||Percentile
|10-Oct||at Notre Dame||7||24-41||L||27%||6%||-10.0||-2.5|
|Points Per Game||36.8||22||21.8||26|
2. The defense gave out twice
The formula was simple: frustrate opponents with death-by-a-million-cuts efficiency on offense and perfect red zone execution, eat minutes of clock, and prevent big plays on defense. Use your bend-don't-break D to punish offenses who make mistakes after spending so much desperate time on the sideline. It worked brilliantly 11 of 13 times.
Really, only three teams were able to throw Navy off-script: the two best teams on the schedule (Notre Dame, Houston) and the rival that runs a variation of the same offense (Army). Navy survived the rivalry game, but against the Irish and Cougars, the defense couldn't get off the field.
|Navy's 2 losses||Navy's 11 wins|
|Plays per game||Opp 75.5, Navy 55.5 (-20.0)||Navy 69.0, Opp 62.5 (+6.5)|
|Yards per play||Navy 7.2, Opp 6.7 (+0.5)||Navy 6.2, Opp 5.4 (+0.8)|
|Points per game||Opp 47, Navy 28 (-19)||Navy 38, Opp 17 (+21)|
|Turnover margin||Navy -1.5/game||Navy +2/game|
Navy benefited from turnovers luck over the course of the season, though with only one win by one possession, that didn't affect the Midshipmen's record much. In their two losses, though, they couldn't find the mistake that got them off the field. Notre Dame scored on seven of 10 possessions and moved the ball well on an eighth. Houston out-Navy'd Navy, using turnovers and nearly perfect red zone execution to score on eight of nine possessions and eat up at least three minutes of clock six times.
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||48.1%||14||Succ. Rt. +||115.5||15|
|FIELD POSITION||Def. Avg. FP||27.4||20||Def. FP+||28.5||46|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity||5.5||2||Redzone S&P+||118.4||12|
|Q1 Rk||31||1st Down Rk||46|
|Q2 Rk||12||2nd Down Rk||50|
|Q3 Rk||71||3rd Down Rk||60|
3. Why, oh why, doesn't Ivin Jasper have a head coaching job yet?
It's a mystery we've discussed a few times on Podcast Ain't Played Nobody: Why aren't more option guys getting head coaching jobs? You might not be able to win a national title with the option (at least, not without a ton of help), but there aren't a lot of national title-caliber programs in the world anyway.
With the option, you can gain yards and score points. Indeed, Georgia Tech has ranked in the Off. S&P+ top 40 six times in eight years and in the top 16 three times despite barely recruiting at a top-50 level. Air Force's offense (which, under Troy Calhoun, has been a combination of option and more pro-style blocking) has ranked in the top 70 nine times in 11 seasons. Navy has ranked in the top 40 seven times in 11 years and hasn't ranked worse than 66th in that span.
Like any other offense, it takes the right players and proper practice and execution. But it's a great way to overachieve compared to your recruiting rankings. And a lot of teams could stand to do that.
I got excited when Jasper was rumored to interview for the Hawaii job this past offseason. The Rainbow Warriors ended up hiring Nick Rolovich, and it was unclear if Jasper was ever a serious candidate (or if Hawaii was a candidate for him). And when Niumatalolo didn't take the BYU job -- Jasper is the assumed successor in Annapolis, if there's ever actually an opportunity for succession -- that meant the Niu-Jasper tag team survived for another year. That's good news for Navy, bad news for the proliferation of the option.
Note: players in bold below are 2016 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Tago Smith||5'10, 201||Sr.||NR||NR||2||3||30||1||1||66.7%||0||0.0%||10.0|
|Will Worth||6'1, 205||Sr.||NR||NR|
|Garret Lewis||6'1, 200||So.||NR||0.7000|
|Cole Euverard||6'0, 195||So.||NR||0.7700|
|Zach Abey||6'2, 218||So.||NR||0.7600|
|Brandon Coleman||5'10, 175||So.||NR||0.7533|
|Jacob Harrison||6'1, 185||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8106|
|Ramar Williams||6'0, 170||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8000|
4. All about the QB
You need more than just a quarterback to run any offense, obviously. We over-simplify sometimes (and I'm about to), but it should go without saying that everybody has to play their role. If the offensive line stinks, the QB doesn't matter much. If the fullback or slotbacks stink, the QB keeps the ball more and takes more punishment. If there's not a deep threat to punish distracted defenses with in play-action, your offense won't be fully weaponized.
That said, quarterback is still the most important position on the field, and Navy is now tasked with replacing its best QB since Roger Staubach. That's scary.
There is no shortage of candidates, however. Longtime backup Tago Smith is the most likely successor -- Reynolds actually told him, "The offense is now yours" at the football banquet in February -- but he will be pushed. Senior Will Worth has been around a while, too, and between four sophomores and, potentially, two incoming three-star freshmen, there will be upside lower down on the depth chart. But if Smith indeed pulls a Kriss Proctor and does well for a year, that buys time to find a long-term successor among these freshman and sophomores.
Smith has rushed for 294 yards and five touchdowns in spot duty over three years. He's also completed a healthy 12 of 17 passes for 245 yards, four touchdowns, and two picks. Granted, that's a pretty high INT rate, but when given the opportunity, he's shown he can run he offense. Now he has to do it over 12-14 games. If he succeeds, Navy might not fall too much overall.
|Dishan Romine||SB||5'11, 178||Sr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7811||36||378||0||10.5||9.0||61.1%||1||1|
|Tago Smith||QB||5'10, 201||Sr.||NR||NR||27||126||1||4.7||3.7||37.0%||1||0|
|Shawn White||FB||6'1, 255||Sr.||2 stars (5.2)||NR||19||84||1||4.4||2.2||52.6%||1||0|
|Calvin Cass Jr.||SB||5'10, 206||Sr.||NR||NR||16||140||1||8.8||5.5||68.8%||1||1|
|Toneo Gulley||SB||5'8, 196||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8100||12||189||3||15.8||15.4||66.7%||1||0|
|Chris High||FB||6'0, 231||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||NR||5||31||0||6.2||2.1||80.0%||0||0|
|Kendrick Mouton||SB||6'0, 200||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7842|
|Myles Swain||FB||5'11, 223||Sr.||NR||NR|
|Josh Brown||SB||5'9, 189||Jr.||NR||0.8342|
|Joshua Walker||SB||5'11, 210||Jr.||NR||NR|
|Darryl Bonner||SB||5'7, 171||Jr.||NR||NR|
|Bryan Hammond||FB||5'10, 190||So.||NR||0.7300|
|Anthony Gargiulo||FB||6'2, 230||So.||2 stars (5.2)||NR|
|Jonathan Lee||SB||5'11, 190||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8409|
|Justin Smith||SB||5'11, 180||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8154|
|Gregori McCrae||SB||5'10, 173||Fr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8135|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Targets||Catches||Yards||Catch Rate||Target
|Jamir Tillman||WR-Z||6'4, 206||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8078||45||29||597||64.4%||39.1%||13.3||53.3%||46.7%||2.73|
|Tyler Carmona||WR-X||6'4, 205||Jr.||NR||NR||6||3||64||50.0%||5.2%||10.7||66.7%||50.0%||1.93|
|Dishan Romine||SB||5'11, 178||Sr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7811||6||2||42||33.3%||5.2%||7.0||50.0%||33.3%||2.22|
|Craig Scott||WR-X||6'2, 184||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7685||6||2||38||33.3%||5.2%||6.3||66.7%||16.7%||3.10|
|Calvin Cass Jr.||SB||5'10, 206||Sr.||NR||NR||6||3||34||50.0%||5.2%||5.7||16.7%||33.3%||1.82|
|Chad Lewellyn||WR-Z||6'4, 195||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||NR||3||1||16||33.3%||2.6%||5.3||66.7%||33.3%||1.32|
|Toneo Gulley||SB||5'8, 196||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8100||2||2||30||100.0%||1.7%||15.0||0.0%||50.0%||2.74|
|Shawn White||FB||6'1, 255||Sr.||2 stars (5.2)||NR||2||2||16||100.0%||1.7%||8.0||0.0%||0.0%||0.00|
|Brandon Colon||WR-Z||6'4, 218||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7889||1||1||5||100.0%||0.9%||5.0||0.0%||0.0%||0.00|
|Julian Turner||WR||6'2, 190||Sr.||NR||NR|
|Eli Dawson||WR-X||6'5, 235||Jr.||NR||NR|
|Taylor Jackson||WR||6'3, 205||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7200|
|Kerrick Jones||WR||6'1, 160||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8015|
5. The big plays are covered
Efficiency is the name of the option game, and with a new quarterback, two new fullbacks, and a brand new line -- three players with starting experience do return, and again, Navy is always loaded with juniors and seniors, but replacing five guys who accounted for 58 of last year's 65 starts is still scary -- it's likely that Navy's efficiency will suffer, at least compared to last year's dominant averages.
Navy could offset some efficiency problems, however, with big plays. Indeed Smith has averaged more than 20 yards per completion in his small sample, and of the three returning wideouts with more than one catch in 2015*, each averaged at least 19 yards a catch. Jamir Tillman was one of the most effective receivers in the country last year and could thrive again with Smith. He averaged 20.6 yards per catch while nabbing nearly two-thirds of his targets. Yes, he benefited from distracted defenses, but that doesn't make him less of a threat.
Plus, there are the requisite burners at slotback. Losing DeBrandon Sanders and Demond Brown hurts, but the trio of seniors Dishan Romine, Calvin Cass Jr., and Toneo Gulley combined for 64 carries, 707 yards, and four touchdowns last year. Those averages will slide with more carries, but slotback is the least of Navy's worries this year.
* That was pretty impressive spin on my part. Tillman caught 29 passes, and the only other two guys who qualify had three catches (Tyler Carmona) and two (Craig Scott).
|Rivals||247 Comp.||2015 Starts||Career Starts||Honors/Notes|
|E.K. Binns||LG||12||34||2015 1st All-AAC|
|Robert Lindsey||RT||6'4, 267||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7700||4||4|
|Blake Copeland||RT||6'4, 258||Sr.||NR||NR||2||3|
|Adam West||LG||6'3, 297||Sr.||NR||NR||1||1|
|Jeremiah Robbins||RG||6'2, 295||Sr.||NR||NR||0||0|
|Maurice Morris||C||6'2, 315||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7794||0||0|
|Parker Wade||C||6'2, 265||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7987||0||0|
|Evan Martin||RG||6'3, 294||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||NR||0||0|
|Seth White||LT||6'3, 274||Jr.||NR||NR||0||0|
|Andrew Wood||LT||6'4, 300||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8569||0||0|
|Chris Gesell||LG||6'4, 295||So.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7478||0||0|
|Jake Hawk||RT||6'6, 312||So.||2 stars (5.2)||NR||0||0|
|FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||42.1%||71||Succ. Rt. +||97.7||71|
|FIELD POSITION||Off. Avg. FP||32.9||14||Off. FP+||31.9||26|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity||4.0||31||Redzone S&P+||97.2||80|
|Q1 Rk||55||1st Down Rk||63|
|Q2 Rk||73||2nd Down Rk||45|
|Q3 Rk||92||3rd Down Rk||73|
6. The Navy-brand bend-don't-break
In writing these previews for going on six years now, I've kind of run out of things to say about the Navy defense. It is exactly what it is: a patented bend-don't-break that limits big plays, attempts to stiffen in the redzone and looks to pounce on whatever mistake you make, be it a missed assignment or wayward pass.
Last year's version was partciularly effective, at least against everybody not named Notre Dame or Houston. And the Midshipmen's Def. S&P+ rating has actually improved for four straight years, from 104th in 2011, to 101st in 2012, to 97th in 2013, to 74th in 2014, to 49th in 2015.
Navy is still not awash in play-makers, but recruiting does seem to be improving the overall athleticism, and in the secondary especially, Niumatalolo seems to be signing some disruptive guys. And when defensive coordinator Buddy Green went on sabbatical last August (he ended up retiring after the season), line coach Dale Pehrson stepped in and thrived. He's now the full-time DC.
This year's linebacking corps should be one of Niu's best, but turnover at the front and back is an obvious concern.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Amos Mason||DE||6'1, 250||Sr.||NR||NR||13||35.5||5.1%||5.0||2.0||0||4||1||0|
|Patrick Forrestal||NG||6'4, 296||Sr.||NR||NR||13||7.0||1.0%||0.5||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Jarvis Polu||DE||6'3, 270||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8414||13||5.0||0.7%||1.0||1.0||0||1||0||0|
|Michael Raiford||DE||6'6, 294||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||NR||11||2.5||0.4%||0.5||0.5||0||0||0||0|
|Nnamdi Uzoma||DE||6'3, 245||Sr.||NR||NR||5||2.0||0.3%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Rob Dusz||NG||6'0, 287||Sr.||NR||NR|
|Trenton Noller||NG||6'4, 325||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.8176|
|Tyler Sayles||DE||6'2, 240||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7433|
|Dylan Fischer||NG||6'2, 290||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||NR|
|Anthony Villalobos||DE||6'2, 260||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8040|
|Joe Goff||NG||6'5, 265||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8563|
|Mack Nash||NG||6'5, 255||Fr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8379|
|Tobe Okafor||DE||6'4, 270||Fr.||2 stars||0.8079|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Micah Thomas||ILB||6'1, 249||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7893||13||56.5||8.1%||4.5||2.5||0||2||0||0|
|Daniel Gonzales||ILB||6'2, 240||Sr.||NR||NR||11||52.5||7.5%||4.0||0.0||1||1||1||0|
|D.J. Palmore||OLB||6'3, 227||Jr.||NR||0.7600||13||28.5||4.1%||5.0||2.0||0||1||0||0|
|Josiah Powell||OLB||6'3, 215||Sr.||NR||NR||13||23.5||3.4%||4.0||1.0||0||3||0||0|
|Ted Colburn||OLB||6'3, 223||Sr.||NR||NR||12||20.5||2.9%||2.0||1.0||0||2||1||0|
|Mike Kelly||ILB||6'1, 220||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||NR||13||18.0||2.6%||0.5||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Kevin McCoy||OLB||6'4, 205||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7694||13||13.5||1.9%||3.5||2.5||0||0||3||1|
|Ryan Harris||LB||5'11, 213||Sr.||NR||NR||13||13.0||1.9%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Brandon Jones||OLB||6'4, 205||Jr.||NR||NR||11||13.0||1.9%||2.0||0.5||0||0||0||0|
|Myles Davenport||OLB||6'2, 233||Jr.||NR||NR||13||3.5||0.5%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Winn Howard||ILB||6'2, 216||Jr.||NR||NR|
|Trey Olsen||OLB||6'4, 226||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||NR|
|Hudson Sullivan||ILB||6'2, 240||So.||NR||NR|
|Jake Schwarzer||OLB||6'2, 205||Fr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8106|
|Delonte Berry||OLB||6'2, 212||Fr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.8083|
|Tanner Matthews||OLB||6'3, 222||Fr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8039|
7. Anthony was a unique weapon
Navy's havoc ratings aren't particularly special in any given year, but the Midshipmen were strong in short-yardage situations, and in Will Anthony they had a uniquely solid pass rusher. He had 7.5 sacks, five more than anybody else on the team, and he added four non-sack TFLs, batted two passes down, and forced three fumbles. Without him, Navy's havoc rate would have been even worse.
The loss of nose guard Bernard Sarra also hurts considering Navy basically played three linemen all year, and he was the man in the middle in those short-yardage scenarios. Niumatalolo and Pehrson will be forced to expand the depth chart a bit, especially if the offense isn't generating as many time-consuming drives because of efficiency issues. While depth is not even slightly a concern at linebacker -- 10 guys recorded at least 13 tackles in 2015, and nine return -- we'll find out how well Niumatalolo has recruited up front this year. Former star recruits like sophomore ends Jarvis Polu and Anthony Villalobos and junior tackle Trenton Noller might be asked to play larger roles. Will they succeed?
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Brendon Clements||CB||5'11, 188||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||NR||13||47.5||6.8%||5||0||4||6||1||0|
|Daiquan Thomasson||FS||6'0, 195||Sr.||NR||NR||12||37.0||5.3%||0||0||2||4||1||0|
|Elijah Merchant||CB||5'10, 196||Jr.||NR||NR||12||12.0||1.7%||0||0||0||1||0||0|
|Sean Williams||SS||6'1, 190||So.||2 stars (5.3)||NR||11||11.0||1.6%||0||0||0||1||0||0|
|Justin Norton||FS||6'2, 185||Jr.||NR||NR||7||6.0||0.9%||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|Kyle Battle||CB||6'1, 190||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||NR||13||3.5||0.5%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Randy Beggs||FS||6'0, 185||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7967||13||2.5||0.4%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Tyris Wooten||CB||6'1, 180||Jr.||NR||NR|
|Jerry Thompson||SS||6'0, 191||Jr.||NR||NR|
|Jarid Ryan||CB||5'11, 203||So.||NR||NR|
|Elijah Jones||CB||5'11, 186||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8344|
|Michael Onuoha||S||6'3, 200||Fr.||NR||0.8032|
8. Clements needs help
Cornerback Brandon Clements was suspended for spring practice for violation of team rules and was only recently reinstated. Assuming he now remains in good standing, he is an outstanding, active play-maker in the back. His five tackles for loss tied for second on the team, and his 10 passes defensed were first.
[Update: Clements was dismissed from the team for good in June.]
He'll need support, though. Gone are safety Lorentez Barbour and corner Quincy Adams, the two leading tacklers (and solid havoc guys) in the secondary. Clements and safety Daiquan Thomasson will be looking for help and occasional play-making from players like corners Elijah Merchant and Tyris Wooten and safeties Sean Williams, Justin Norton, and Jerry Thompson.
Size isn't much of an issue for this defense at any level, but there is definitely less experience this year than last year.
|Alex Barta||6'3, 213||Sr.||40||41.6||7||7||10||42.5%|
|Dishan Romine||KR||5'11, 178||Sr.||24||27.3||0|
|Toneo Gulley||KR||5'8, 196||Sr.||4||21.0||0|
|Calvin Cass Jr.||PR||5'10, 206||Sr.||5||4.6||0|
|Special Teams S&P+||53|
|Field Goal Efficiency||28|
|Punt Return Success Rate||3|
|Kick Return Success Rate||43|
|Punt Success Rate||112|
|Kickoff Success Rate||102|
9. Need more from the legs
In Dishan Romine, Navy has one of the best kick returners in the AAC, but legs were a bit of an issue. Alex Barta's punts were decent but returnable (opponents averaged 15.8 yards per punt return, the third-highest average in the country), and whoever takes over in kickoffs needs to improve on Austin Grebe's touchback rate of 25 percent. If the offense is less efficient, Navy will need more from special teams to prevent a field position disadvantage.
|Date||Opponent||Proj. S&P+ Rk||Proj. Margin||Win Probability|
|1-Oct||at Air Force||80||-0.4||49%|
|13-Oct||at East Carolina||78||-1.0||48%|
|28-Oct||at South Florida||41||-8.3||32%|
|5-Nov||vs. Notre Dame||11||-14.3||20%|
|Projected wins: 7.3|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||4.2% (52)|
|2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk||110 / 96|
|2015 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin*||19 / 11.0|
|2015 TO Luck/Game||+3.1|
|Returning Production (Off. / Def.)||45% (34%, 56%)|
|2015 Second-order wins (difference)||10.8 (0.2)|
10. A mulligan year
Niumatalolo has now won 68 games in eight seasons and at least eight in all but one year. Navy finished 2015 in the AP top 20 for the first time since 1963. Best of all, Niu stayed. Because of his religion, the BYU opening had a unique draw, but he chose to remain in Annapolis. And now it's hard to imagine him ever leaving.
Life is good, and eventually the Midshipmen will prove that being in a conference will not render their offense ineffective. It should be inconsistent in 2016, however. Combined with what will likely be at least a small drop on defense, I find it difficult to imagine Navy remaining in the S&P+ top 50. (S&P+ projections have the Middies 66th.)
That said, Niu has earned a mulligan year. I have to figure he's got Navy back in the AAC race within a year or two, and honestly, if they're good at home (Houston and Memphis both visit Maryland), the Midshipmen could still play a role in the AAC West race this year. But that's "could," not "should."