Start time: Friday, September 1st at 8:00 pm ET
Location: Boca Raton, Florida, FAU Stadium
Series history: Navy leads the all-time series 1-0, last was meeting 2012 where Navy won 24-17.
Betting line: FAU +9.5, O/U 68
It’s the moment Owl fans have been waiting for all summer: Lane Kiffin’s debut. The hype for Kiffin has been immense. When the line for this game was announced FAU was a 21 point underdog. Navy are now just 9.5 point favorites.
The Owls have yet to announce a starting quarterback and when Kiffin released the depth chart it was clear that Jason Driskel, Daniel Parr, or De’Andre Johnson could see the field Friday.
My guess is two of those three will play but I honestly don’t know who. What I do know is that Devin Singletary and Greg Howell should be the main focal points for the Owls offense Friday night.
Navy’s 3-4 defense was tough against the run last year but horrible against the pass as they ranked 121st in Passing S&P+ and 118th in Passing Downs S&P+. Their secondary is likely to get better as five of their top eight defensive backs return. Their d-line however, will have to replace three of their top four linemen.
With the amount of experience returning at the offensive line combined with Navy’s inexperienced d-line, this should be a recipe for a run-oriented offense Friday night no matter who the starting quarterback is for the Owls.
We all know about Navy’s triple-option offense. It’s been plug-and-go for Ken Niumatalolo since he’s been there. After replacing all-world quarterback Keenan Reynolds Navy still won nine games and the AAC West in 2016.
This year there’s even more turnover for Navy on offense. Zach Abey is the starter after being primarily used as a backup last year before starting the last two games of Navy’s season. Even though they lost both games, Abbey played well, especially in the bowl game agains La Tech, but he did put the ball on the ground three times.
Navy has no returning running backs and return only their fullback in Chris High (6.4 YPC). A game breaker at slot back in Darryl Bonner will see a larger role this season. The offensive line is mostly in tack but for the most part, there will be new guys stepping into larger roles for Navy.
Based on Niumatalolo’s history, the offense will be fine, but we could see some glitches opening night.
I really want to choose FAU. The atmosphere should be amazing as FAU Stadium should be at least near 70 percent capacity. But I just think the Owls have too many question marks right now. Quarterback is still in flux, defensive line is a major question mark, and I just don’t know how this team will respond to adversity under Kiffin. I don’t think FAU will have any problems moving the ball but finishing drives might be an issue as we could see costly procedural penalties due to the new staff. Stopping Navy’s option attack will be an even bigger one though.
Navy 34 FAU 24