After a 3-7 campaign in 2020 — in which the Midshipmen lost to both Army and Air Force — Navy is ready for a fresh start in football.
But the 2021 slate won’t be easy.
Navy released its schedule for the upcoming season on Thursday, and eight of its opponents qualified for bowl games last year. Two of its opponents, Notre Dame and Cincinnati, finished the year ranked in the top 10 in both the AP Poll and the College Football Playoff Rankings.
“Our staff is full speed ahead in our planning to host our alumni, friends and fans at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium this fall,” Naval Academy Director of Athletics Chet Gladchuk said in a statement. “Every home game in 2021 is a big-time matchup and our opponents project to not only be highly competitive, but are all of national stature. A family atmosphere, fly-overs, march-ons, tailgating and great Navy football will bring us together again to enjoy one of the most special environments in all of college sports.”
Navy will play six games in 2021 at home at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
It all starts on Sept. 4 against Marshall. The Thundering Herd were ranked as high as No. 15 in the AP Poll last year, but finished the year 7-3. This game will mark the head coaching debut of Charles Huff, who grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and attended North Caroline High School. Huff was previously the assistant head coach and running backs coach at Alabama. He takes the reins of the Thundering Herd from Doc Holliday, who led Marshall to eight bowl appearances in 11 seasons.
Marshall and Navy have never met in football before.
Navy remains at home in week two, hosting rival Air Force on the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. While the Mids lost to the Falcons last season, they have won two straight against their rivals in Annapolis.
After a bye week, Navy will open its American Athletic Conference slate on the road at Houston on Sept. 25. A week later, Navy will host UCF and new head coach Gus Malzahn. Since joining the AAC in 2015, UCF is the only school in the conference the Mids haven’t beaten.
Other highlights in the schedule include a Oct. 23 bout against reigning conference champs Cincinnati in Annapolis, and a trip to South Bend, Indiana to resume Navy’s long rivalry with Notre Dame on Nov. 6. Aside from last year, Navy and Notre Dame have played every season since 1927.
The AAC Championship Game is set for Dec. 4, and Navy will meet Army at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. on Dec. 11.
This upcoming season will be Ken Niumatalolo’s 15th year at the helm of Navy’s football team. Last year was just the third time ever that Navy has missed out on a bowl game under the guidance of Niumatalolo.
Here’s the full schedule...
- Sept. 4 vs. Marshall
- Sept. 11 vs. Air Force
- Sept. 25 at Houston
- Oct. 2 vs. UCF
- Oct. 9 vs. SMU
- Oct. 14 at Memphis (Thursday night game)
- Oct. 23 vs. Cincinnati
- Oct. 29 at Tulsa (Friday night game)
- Nov. 6 at Notre Dame
- Nov. 20 vs. East Carolina
- Nov. 27 at Temple
- Dec. 4 AAC Championship
- Dec. 11 vs. Army (in New Jersey)