There are six independents in the world of college football. Two of them (Idaho and New Mexico State) aren’t worth discussing until they prove otherwise on the field. Two more are very worth discussing, and Notre Dame and BYU have each gotten their own separate pieces in TheSportsNotebook’s college football coverage. And right in the middle are the service academies, Navy & Army, whom we look in on here…
Navy: It’s a mark of how well Ken Niumatalolo has done in his five years at Navy that he hit his usual eight wins (the average in his tenure) and it felt like kind of a down year, because Navy did not compete well against the better teams on their schedule.
The Middies got taken apart by Notre Dame, Penn State and bowl opponent Arizona State, and also lost to Troy and San Jose State. The best win in 2012 came over Indiana and even that was by a point, 31-30. But there was a lot of youth on that team and it looks like there will be improvement in 2013.
Keenan Reynolds is a talented sophomore quarterback, who underwent trial by fire in running the triple option attack as a freshman. His fullback Noah Copeland returns, and in the triple option, an experienced fullback is invaluable, as the first man on the exchange. The defense is still young, with only one senior starter, but six of the starters are back, so we should see some upward growth.
It’s not that I think Navy will exceed its 8-4 regular season record from a year ago, but they should look better doing it, and maybe throw a scare into some of the higher profile teams on the schedule. If you’re wondering, November 2 is the trip to South Bend.
Army: In 2010, Rich Ellerson led this program into a bowl game behind what was then a talented sophomore quarterback in Trent Steelman running their own triple option attack. The high hopes of ’10 have been dashed though, as Army hasn’t returned to a bowl, still has an 11-game losing streak to Navy, only won two games in 2012 and said goodbye to Steelman.
This another academy with a young defense that has just one senior starter. The program should be looking to 2014 and I assume they are, but the big question is whether Ellerson, now in his fifth season, will be back if he doesn’t at least restore some respectability and hope.