Offense: Navy has arguably the best triple option offense in the nation. It all starts under center with QB Ricky Dobbs. Dobbs is entering his third season and last season as the starter for the Midshipmen and makes the right read almost all the time. He is a threat to run or pass any play keeping defenses off balance. FB Vince Murray is a huge part of Navy’s offense, he is content with just 2 or 3 yards every run but wears out the defense and lulls them to sleep. Marcus Curry started at slot back last year and will again this year along with Gee Gee Greene to provide good outside running options. WR Greg Jones and Mike Schupp both return and are both good pass catchers as well as run blockers which is very important in this offense. Tackles Jeff Battipaglia and Matt Molloy are the only returning starters on the line which is important in blocking schemes but has plenty of depth.
Defense: Navy runs a 3-4 defense and has plenty of athletes to take advantage of it. DE Jabaree Tuani causes havoc for offenses whether they run or pass, with big NG Chase Burge stuffing up the middle. LB is the area of most concern on the defense with four all new starters. Tyler Simmons and Caleb King have the most experience at LB and will have to lead the new group. The secondary returns three starters led by SS Wyatt Middleton.
Special Teams: The kicking game will not be an issue for the Midshipmen this year with K Joe Buckley and P Kyle Delahooke returning. A host of players will battle for the return job.
Overall: The schedule sets up very nicely for Navy. The offense should be tough to stop once again being led by Dobbs and Murray. The defense will be good once again, the LB core will have to answer some early questions by early October for the big match up vs. Air Force in probably the battle for the commander in chiefs trophy.
Notre Dame: 8-4
Offense: New head coach Brian Kelly brings in his up tempo spread offense to help regroup the Fighting Irish. QB Dayne Crist has little experience but looks to be a good fit for Kelly’s offense. Crist top targets will be WR Michael Floyd and TE Kyle Rudolph. Armando Allen will be the starting RB. The line returns two starters led by Trevor Robinson.
Defense: The defense is going from a 4-3 base to a 3-4. This switch is made in an effort to stop the run this year. The line has starters back at all positions led by DE Ethan Johnson and NT Ian Williams. The LB core is led by Manti Te’o who had a phenomenal freshman year. The secondary returns only one starter in CB Gary Gray, but had plenty of depth last year and should be fine this year.
Special Teams: There is a three player race for the kicking job between Nick Tausch, David Ruffer, and Brandon Walker, no matter who wins the Irish have plenty of options to kick. P Ben Turk had the punting job all to himself. Notre Dame will use a combination of WR to return punts and kicks this year.
Overall: Notre Dame has a favorable schedule this year and should succeed under new coach Brian Kelly. The offense may have some bumps at times but will be able to wear out opposing defenses. The defense is where Notre Dame has stumbled the last few years but has some pieces to build around to succeed.
Offense: QB Trent Steelman did a good job in his first year as the starter in Army’s triple option offense. He should improve now with a season of the offense under his belt and get help from new FB Jared Hassin, who transferred from Air Force. Both slot backs return this year in Jameson Carter and Patrick Mealy to provide speed on the outside. WR Davyd Brooks can provide a big play in the pass game when the Black Knights decide to go to the air. The line has good experience with three starters back this year.
Defense: The defensive lines top returning starter DE Josh McNary missed spring practice due to injury but is set to be 100% for the season. He will provide plenty of pressure on opposing QB. All three LB return this year including defensive leader Stephen Anderson. The secondary ranked third in the nation in passing yards allowed per game last year and has three starters returning this year led by S Donovan Travis.
Special Teams: Kickers Alex Carlton and Matt Campbell could split duties this year depending on if the other is struggling. P Jonathan Bulls returns this year. The return game needs to improve and has plenty of options with depth at SB and WR.
Overall: In his first season head coach Rich Ellerson did a good job of getting Army one game shy of a bowl appearance. Army looks to take it one step forward and get to a bowl game for the first time since 1996. The offense is in good hands under Steelman and the defense did a good job last year. With a favorable early schedule Army should be able to make it to that bowl game.