Perhaps it’s only fitting that as Underdog Dynasty’s newest writer, I am responsible for covering the American Athletic Conference’s newest member. After 134 years as an independent, the Navy Midshipmen are set to join the AAC as a football-only member in 2015. I thought it appropriate that my first article center around trying to show the American fans out there that frequent Underdog Dynasty just what they are getting in their newest addition.
A consistent winner over the last decade
Over the last decade, Navy has experienced a period of sustained success unlike any other in program history. Averaging 8.2 wins a season over the last ten seasons and going to nine bowl games in that span, this level of success is on par with any program currently in the AAC. Only Cincinnati has averaged more wins per season (8.7) in that timeframe and no team from the American has been to more bowl games in that span.
In adding Navy, the AAC gets an instant boost with another quality program that should provide a sustained level of success in the coming years. Hopefully, this will help the AAC in its attempt to establish itself as the most successful conference in the Group of 5.
An immediate contender for the inaugural AAC Championship Game
I know what you are thinking though. This "sustained" success can be attributed to the fact that Navy has been an independent forever and has always been able to pick and choose its schedule without worrying about playing a conference slate. While Navy has had success against its every year opponents (7 out of the last 10 Commander-in-Chief’s trophies won, 13 straight wins against Army, and 3 more wins than they had in their previous 40+ years against Notre Dame), it has also had success against those teams it was able to "select".
In fact, no other Group of 5 team in FBS has more wins (21) since 2003 against Power 5 programs than Navy. It is also interesting to note that in the last decade, Navy owns a 14-3 record against current AAC teams. None of this is to say that I believe Navy should be the favorite to win the AAC in its first season. On the contrary, I believe that the AAC will be an extremely competitive conference in its first season with a Championship Game, but I believe Navy has as good of a chance as anybody to be right in the mix come December.
The best Heisman hopeful for the AAC and Group of 5 as a whole
Quarterback Keenan Reynolds is a one-man record breaking machine and the four year leader of the Navy triple option offense. While he may only surface every now and then as a fringe Heisman dark horse, he is the only Group of 5 player I have seen mentioned anywhere and his numbers back it up. Reynolds currently holds the record for most rushing TD’s ever for a QB with 64. Those 64 rushing TD’s currently have him 4th all time for any position and he has a great chance of breaking Montee Ball’s all-time record of 77 this season. He also holds the #1 and #4 season record for rushing TD’s for a QB (31, 23). He owns the record for most points scored by a QB in a career and has a legitimate shot at owning that record for any position other than a kicker.
I could go on and on with the records he already holds or has the potential to break this season. The point is that he has already established himself as one of the most prolific rushers and TD scorers in NCAA history, and that coupled with a successful senior campaign could potentially allow him to creep into the Heisman race down the stretch. While his chance at winning the Heisman may be a long shot (article to follow), Keenan Reynolds is my early favorite to take home AAC player of the year.
The American Athletic Conference and its current members should be excited about the prospects of what 2015 holds. By adding Navy, not only do they get to have an inaugural Conference Championship Game, but they are adding a program with recent sustained success, a contender from day one, and potentially the best shot they will have at making any Heisman noise.
Besides, what team could possibly be more right for the "American" conference than Navy.