Start Time: 12:00 P.M. ET, Saturday, Sept. 5
Location: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium Annapolis, MD
TV: CBS Sports Network
Radio: Navy: WBAL 1090 AM (Baltimore), WNAV 1430 AM, 99.9 FM (Annapolis); also Sirius/XM Channel 83
Colgate: Try here
Records: It's week 1, so yeah
Live Stats: Gametracker on Navysports.com
When Navy has the ball:
Quarterback Keenan Reynolds leads the Navy offense into their first game of the season Saturday afternoon in what should be a great opportunity to put their best foot forward during this 2015 campaign.
I expect that Navy will be able to move the ball up and down the field pretty well against the Colgate defense.
The Colgate defense was vastly improved on defense last year, but they must replace three of their top four tacklers heading into this season. They bring back several key players including preseason All-Patriot League selection and defensive team captain John Weber and another preseason All-Patriot League selection in junior linebacker Kyle Diener.
There are two areas I will be watching intently when Navy has the ball.
First, I will be keeping a close eye on the offensive line. How do new starters Ben Tamburello (RG), Brandon Greene (C), and Blake Copeland (RT) handle their new roles and gel with returning starters Joey Gaston (LT) and E.K. Binns (LG). I will be keeping a close eye on Copeland who has only in the last week earned back his starting role at right tackle over sophomore Robert Lindsey. I will also be curious to see how many players rotate in and get playing time along the offensive line.
The second thing I will be watching for is the tempo at which Navy looks to run their offense and the amount of "chances" they take opening up the playbook in week one. While they have been constantly pushing the tempo throughout fall camp and working hard to become more efficient in the passing game, I am curious to see how much of this shows up on gameday.
When Colgate has the ball:
Those who think this game is going to be a cakewalk for Navy simply because of the fact that the Midshipmen are playing an FCS foe need only look at Colgate's offense to see why this game may be closer than they anticipate.
Jake Melville is set to return at quarterback for the Raiders, and when he played last year, the team was very successful. Colgate was 5-2 with Melville as the starting quarterback last year and 0-5 without him. Melville is a very effective runner and true dual-threat quarterback. Colgate runs a lot of zone read and read option in their offensive system, and Melville is the perfect quarterback for that.
In only seven games last year, he threw for over 1,000 yards with six touchdowns and added nearly 500 yards on the ground with another 4 TD's. He has a legitimate chance to be a 2000/1000 guy with double digit touchdowns through the air and on the ground if he stays healthy this season.
Colgate also returns the majority of their skill positions, including running backs John Wilkins and Demetrius Russell and preseason All-Patriot League TE John Quazza. Add in the fact that sophomore running back James Holland has now supplanted Wilkins and is listed as co-starter with Russell and this offense could be a force to be reckoned with in the Patriot League this season.
Navy brings back the majority of their starters in the secondary and on the defensive line, but with cornerback Quincy Adams still nursing a hamstring injury and a young linebacker corps with little game experience heading into the season, this will provide a solid test for the Mids on Saturday.
Colgate's offensive line comes in with their starters all weighing at least 285 pounds and will challenge Navy's defensive line, but I believe they will rise to that challenge.
There are two things I will be watching closely on the defensive side of the ball as well. The first thing I want to see is the linebacker play. I want to see how Micah Thomas (MIKE), Tyler Goble (MIKE), D.J. Palmore (Raider), and Josiah Powell (Striker) perform in their first game as starters.
The second thing I will be paying attention to is the play-calling of Coach Pehrson. With Buddy Green on sabbatical for the season as he recovers from neck surgery, this will be our first real look at what differences Coach Pehrson will mix in as he puts his own stamp on the Navy defense this year. Will he bring more pressure in an attempt to increase the sack total and help put the defense in better situations to get off the field on third down? .
Advantage: Slight to Navy
Every time Navy has worked on special teams in practice during fall camp, it seems like Coach Niumatalolo is keeping an eye on what is taking place. Even though they return an excellent kicker in Austin Grebe who came on mid-season last year and was perfect in field goals and extra points, they will have to replace all-time greats in punter Pablo Beltran and long snapper Joe Cardona.
Cardona has moved on to the NFL after being drafted in the fifth round by the Patriots.
The punter situation has been an on-going battle throughout camp with Alex Barta and Gavin Jernigan going back and forth with who has the lead to claim that role. Coach Niumatalolo said yesterday that this battle will continue into the season, and I would expect both players will get a chance to prove themselves.
Josh Antol has the task of replacing the nearly perfect Joe Cardona as the team's long snapper. Starting slotbacks DeBrandon Sanders and Demond Brown will get their turn as the starting punt returner and kickoff returner, and both guys have what it takes to be solid in that role.
Colgate brings back a special teams unit that might be the best in the entire Patriot League. They bring back All-Patriot League kicker Jonah Bowman this year and he should prove to be a not so secret weapon for the Raiders this fall. Also returning is punter Nick Armiento and All-Patriot League returner John Maddaluna III.
The special teams battle should be pretty even on Saturday with neither team really holding an edge in that department.
While I think Navy ultimately wins this game by three touchdowns, that doesn't mean it will be the blowout that I think most people expect. Colgate's offense will put points on the board and force Navy's offense to be on top of their game for this one to turn into a rout. I expect a battle that lasts into the third quarter with Navy finally pulling away in the second half.
Navy 41-Colgate 20