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TODAY at No. 39: NAVY Coach: Ken Niumatalolo (57-35, entering eighth season; 57-35 overall) 2014 record: 8-5; entering first season AAC Look back: Led...

college football winning lockTODAY at No. 39: NAVY

Coach: Ken Niumatalolo (57-35, entering eighth season; 57-35 overall)

2014 record: 8-5; entering first season AAC

Look back: Led by the Ken Niumatalolo, the winningest coach in school history, Navy has become the most dominant service-academy football team, winning 22 of the past 25 meetings against Army and Air Force. The school has experienced a good stretch of stability under Niumatalolo, amassing 39 wins during the past five seasons. A chunk of that success can be attributed to veteran quarterback Keenan Reynolds. Since Reynolds took over the offense 2012 in place of injured quarterback Trey Miller, Navy has gone 25-14. The Midshipmen went 5-7 in 2011 before Reynolds was named the starting quarterback. The team defeated San Diego State 17-16 in the Poinsettia Bowl to cap last season, marking just the second time in the school’s history Navy won back-to-back bowl games.

Offensive starters returning: 4

Offensive starters lost: 7

Defensive starters returning: 6

Defensive starters lost: 5

Key losses: RB Ryan Williams-Jenkins, WR Brendan Dudek, OL Bradyn Heap, OL Tanner Fleming, OL Jake Zuzek, LB Obi Uzoma, DB Parrish Gaines

Top returnees: QB Keenan Reynolds, OL E.K. Binns, FB Chris Swain, DL Bernard Sarra, DB Quincy Adams

Strengths: Reynolds, a dual-threat quarterback, enters his senior season with 64 career rushing touchdowns, which is tied with Anthony Thompson (Indiana, 1986-89) and Cedric Benson (Texas, 2001-04) for the fourth-most in NCAA history. The record is 77 set by Montee Ball (Wisconsin, 2009-12). Navy ranked No.2 nationally among FBS schools in rushing offense last season, sticking to a ground attack that has long helped fuel the program’s success.

Navy also showed last season it has the ability to rally from deficits. Four of the team’s wins last season came after trailing at the end of the first quarter. Coaches attribute it to the character of the players they’re able to recruit.

Weaknesses: Navy is hoping to see improvement out of its defense, which returns six starters. Last season the defense ranked near the bottom of college football in sacks (No.124) and team tackles for a loss (No.125).

Navy lost three starters on the offensive line and three starters from the linebacker unit, key areas where the Midshipmen will need new starters to adapt quickly to their important roles.

Outlook: After 134 years of independence, Navy football will get the opportunity to compete for a conference championship. The Midshipmen are favored to make a smooth transition to the American Athletic Conference and immediately contend for the league title.

2015 SCHEDULE

Sept. 5 Colgate

Sept. 19 East Carolina

Sept. 26 at UConn

Oct. 3 Air Force

Oct. 10 at Notre Dame

Oct. 24 Tulane

Oct. 31 USF

Nov. 7 at Memphis

Nov. 14 SMU

Nov. 21 at Tulsa

Nov. 27 at Houston

Dec. 12 Army

Vincent Rizzo

College Football / College Basketball Handicapper. 2011 won 74%, 2012 won 72% 2015 SPECIAL. CALL, 877.WIN.ATS9 EMAIL,V@VincentRizzoSports.com

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