The Navy football season is less than two months away and if you haven’t noticed, the schedule is daunting.
The AAC has turned itself into one of the most competitive conferences in NCAA football. Three teams finished in the final Top-25 of the AP Poll. Memphis, USF and the self-proclaimed (and endorsed by me) National Champions UCF. Navy also plays Notre Dame every year as if they were part of the conference, so that’s four teams. Army received 33 votes to be in the top 25, so let’s call it 4.5.
But if the teams themselves don’t give you a moment’s pause about how well Ken Niumatalolo and his staff in Annapolis will have to manage this year’s crop of Midshipmen, how about the absurd amount of traveling this team will have to do in order to reach their goals of winning the Conference and fighting for the best possible bowl game.
Navy will be traveling to Hawaii, Dallas, San Diego, Orlando and New Orleans. All told, the Mids will go 26,496 miles before the season is all said and done. This doesn’t include a potential trip to the AAC Conference game or a bowl game.
“This is obviously a very difficult schedule when you look at the quality of the opposition, the travel and where some of these games fall in the schedule,” said Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo. “I really like this team. Our entire program has to be totally committed to prepare for this very challenging schedule.”
The first week brings the most significant challenge geographically for Navy. Coach Ken goes home for just the second time during his tenure with Navy when they face Hawaii on Sept.1. In 2009, the Mids lost to the Rainbow Warriors 24-17. Even though Hawaii only won three games last year, the travel alone turns this into a trap game.
After that, Navy hosts Memphis for their home opener in Annapolis on Sept. 8. Memphis finished the season ranked #25 in the AP Poll and won the AAC West Division last year. Like Navy a year ago, Memphis played a close game against UCF before ultimately losing in the conference finals.
Navy continues at home when they host the 2017 Patriot League Champions, Lehigh on Sept. 15. After going 5-1 in conference play last season, Lehigh had a disappointing first-round exit in the FCS Tournament to Stony Brook. The Travel picks back up when Navy heads to Dallas on Sept. 22 to play the SMU Mustangs. Navy earned their spot in the NCAA Football postseason with a 43-40 victory against SMU last year in Annapolis.
Navy gets a bye week before heading to Colorado Springs on Oct. 6 to begin their quest for the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy against Air Force. Last year, Navy and Air Force played in one of the greatest games of the 2017 season after Zach Abey connected with Tyler Carmona for the game-winning TD to beat Air Force 48-45.
The next week sees Navy come home for two consecutive games. First, Navy hosts Temple on Oct. 13. Temple underachieved last season, going 7-6, after making it to the AAC championship game in 2016. One of those seven wins last year came against Navy to the tune of a 34-26 beat down that was nowhere near as close as the score would leave you to believe. Temple has had Navy’s number the last few seasons, posting a 3-1 record over the past four years. Then Navy hosts Houston, who also beat Navy (24-14) despite only winning seven games last year, on Oct. 20. This will serve as Navy’s homecoming game.
The travel becomes grueling for the next three weeks for the Midshipmen. Navy plays Notre Dame in San Diego on Oct. 27. Navy played Notre Dame down to the wire but ultimately lost to the Fighting Irish 24-17. The trip to San Diego is the first of its kind for Notre Dame. The Mids have a quick turnaround to Cincinnati when they play the Bearcats on Nov. 3. Cinci was a modest 4-8 last year and lost to Navy in Annapolis 42-32. The Mids have never played in Nippert Stadium. Finally, the tour around the country ends in Orlando when UCF plays host to Navy on Nov. 10. UCF had arguably the most memorable season last year when they went 13-0. They beat navy 31-21 in Annapolis and Auburn (who beat Alabama, so by proxy UCF beat Alabama. #NatioanlChampions) 34-27 in the Peach Bowl in Georgia.
Navy comes home for Senior Day to play Tulsa on Nov. 17. Navy is currently riding a 15 game win streak on senior day. Tulsa lost to Navy last year 21-31 and finished 2-10 on the season. The season ends with Navy heading to the Big Easy on Thanksgiving weekend to take on Tulane in New Orleans on Saturday, Nov. 24. Tulane went 5-7 last year, including a 23-21 loss to Navy.
Finally, after the AAC Conference Championship game that takes place on December 1, The Army-Navy Game will once again be held in Philly on December 8. Last year’s game took place in heavy snow and saw Army beat Navy for the second consecutive year.