Before every college football season, there are projections, prognostications and opinions, and inevitably, most are wrong. Whether those inaccuracies come because of bias, injury or something that’s just downright weird, the reason college football is so endearing is the fundamental and romantic concept that anything can happen on a Saturday in the fall — even for our team.
With that in mind, we turn to the computer — the soulless, loveless computer — to guide us into the 2014 college football season. Through a series of algorithms, a pile of analysis and plenty of voodoo, the fine folks at PredictionMachine.com have predicted the future, and for the Service Academies, it looks like this (rounded projected record in parentheses):
Navy Midshipmen (8-4, Poinsettia Bowl)
Human Prediction: There is a lot to be said for continuity in any team, but especially for Navy, who everyone knows as the team that absolutely shoves the triple option down your throat, and usually does it well enough to outlast you in the end. This season they will likely rely on that a little bit more, and they should do well at it, with Keenan Reynolds and the entire starting offensive line (plus some depth) returning.
That said, they return a whole bunch of talent, but they are arguably losing their best defenders from last year, so there could be some regression from their recent year-over-year success. I would not be surprised to see a repeat of their record from last season, but that may be as much a factor of who they are playing as it is how well they play.
Army Black Knights (4-8)
Human Prediction: For all the good will that Rich Ellerson created by reaching a bowl game in only his second season, it covered a number of problems. Like the fact that, as much improvement as he made with the offense, they were never better than average offensively (they peaked at an F/+ of 60th in 2012). When you factor in that their defensive F/+ of 111 from last season was actually an improvement from the year before, it should come as no surprise that Ellerson's squads compiled a 13-35 record outside of their lone bowl season.
Jeff Monken comes directly from Paul Johnson's triple option offense, which should mean that he is more likely to have success running the ball, as well as more able to have success passing the ball when he needs to - Rich Ellerson was a good guy, but running the ball more will not close the scoreboard gap faster. Navy is projected to finish the season with an F/+ of 67, which makes them, on paper, Army's second hardest opponent (and probably the team they will be most closely modeled after). There's no reason Army can't win as many as 8 games, but they aren't played on paper.