ESPN FPI has the Navy Midshipmen at a 4.5-7.5 projected win-loss in 2019. While a Navy fan would round that up to 5-7, even 4-8 is a generous prediction for the foundering Mids. A closer examination of ESPN’s FPI shows that Navy is actually only favored in three out of their 12 games — vs. Holy Cross (oh hey look, an FCS home opener *gasp*), vs. East Carolina, and a road trip at UConn.
Navy hit the reef hard in 2018, going 3-10 and win-less against service academy foes Army and Air Force. Even 2017 wasn’t a great season, but at least they went to a bowl game (and won) and squeezed out a 48-45 win against Air Force. But the Mids have been on a downward trend for a few seasons now, and things aren’t looking up for coach Ken Niumatalolo and company.
Although having an established (and talented) QB in Malcolm Perry provides some hope, there are reports that Navy doesn’t have an established backup, which could create some issues for the Midshipmen not just in 2019, but even into the future. Can’t fault the Mids for their confidence heading into 2019, they seem to believe that the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy will be returning to Annapolis this year. A new defensive coordinator has given fans hope for improvement, too.
So, let’s say that Navy wins all three games in which they are favored, where does this 4th win that ESPN alludes to come from? One could argue that a home field against service academy rival Air Force might be it. Service academy match-ups are almost always close games, and having a home field advantage doesn’t hurt. Plus, the Falcons are struggling to find their mojo as well and having some key receivers now ineligible to play could further benefit Navy.
However, as an unbiased Army fan, I wouldn’t bank on Navy winning all three of their favored games. They play at UConn in 2019, and the last time they played in 2016 (at Navy and when Navy was actually a good team) the Midshipmen only won by four points. Plus, that game is sandwiched in between a tough game against Tulane and a virtual firing squad in Notre Dame. One thing is for certain, the Commander-in-Chief trophy won’t be going to Navy in 2019.
3-9 seems like a realistic expectation for Navy in 2019, with 4-8 being generous. However, the Mids could go 11-1 just as long as they lose on Dec. 14. That would just make Army’s win all the more sweet. I can only imagine it gets old after awhile beating a 2-10 or 3-9 team year in and year out (you’d have to ask a Navy fan to confirm). At the very least, Navy should have things well in hand as they take on Holy Cross at home this Saturday. If they lose that game, well then, who knows?