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2020 college football preseason preview: Navy Midshipmen

Malcolm Perry is gone, but the Middies have been down the new QB road before. Can Ken Niumatalolo keep it rolling in Annapolis?

Navy Midshipmen quarterback Perry Olsen carries the ball during the game as the Navy Midshipmen take on the UConn Huskies on November 1, 2019, at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut. Photo by Williams Paul/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Navy went 11-2 last year, 7-1 in the American Conference, won the Liberty Bowl, and most importantly beat Army for the first time after losing three in a row to their eternal rival. The Middies had one pass against Army, and it went a one-yard touchdown. Otherwise, it was a 55-carry, 395-yard opus led by senior quarterback Malcolm Perry.

As valedictory as it was impressive, Perry finally got the win he sought before heading off to the NFL. But he’s gone now, and just as the Midshipmen had to do when Keenan Reynolds left Annapolis after the 2015 season, they’re forced to reset and find how their talent can play into the triple-option system that is the basis for everything the program does.

Navy Midshipmen Stats Breakdown

Full VIC breakdown
VIC Sheet explanation

Preseason Win Total From DraftKings

Over/under: 7.5 wins
Over -121
Under +100

Key Stats

  • Quarterback Perry Olson did see limited action in 2019: 80 yards rushing on 34 attempts, and 2/8 passing with 1 TD and 1 INT.
  • Academy recruiting is unlike other FBS schools in that there are no scholarships and no recruiting caps, so Navy will often have 50+ players in a single freshmen class instead of the NCAA-imposed limit of 25. The 2020 one grades out at 126th out of 130 schools, and Navy has yet to break triple-digits in their last three classes. But just went 11-2 and finished the season ranked #20, so remember recruiting data does not apply here.
  • 58% of players return in 2020, with the entire coaching staff left intact except for a new cornerbacks coach.
  • SP+ Preseason Rank: Overall 55, Offense 42, Defense 69


Team (2020 Preseason SP+ ranking)
* AAC Conference Game

@ Notre Dame (12) (Dublin, Ireland)
vs. Lafayette (FBS)
@ Tulane* (73)
vs. Temple* (72)
@ Air Force (65)
@ ECU* (96)
vs. Houston* (63)
@ SMU* (56)
vs. Tulsa* (88)
@ Memphis* (22)
@ USF* (83)
vs. Army (104) (Philadelphia)

Analysis, Prediction

Losing Perry is a huge blow, but the Mids return 26 offensive line starts as well as all their fullbacks and running backs except for one. Fullback Jamale Carothers should help smooth the transition as his need to be accounted for in the dive game is high. In the triple option, rhythm and consistency are key, and having that much experience should help ease what was lost in the elite athleticism of Perry.

Defensively a unit that made huge strides in finishing 53rd by SP+ last year with new coordinator Brian Newberry from Kennesaw State returns, and the consistency of system should help on that side. But Navy, who wins the time of possession war almost every game thanks to the triple option and frequent 10-minute drives, needs a team that can control the clock.

The win of this bet is likely to come down to if Navy can beat Army again, and that seems to align with yes for now. They’ll need to grind out a few more possessions without Perry’s explosiveness on the ground, but it’s a schedule that should see them favored more often than not. We vote yes here.

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