Navy makes its first trip to Big Ten country Saturday since 2009, when it nearly knocked off Ohio State to open the season.
Given the struggles Penn State has had as a program, it would come as no shock if the Midshipmen make things interesting in their trip to Happy Valley.
As for what to watch for in Navy’s first trip to Beaver Stadium since 1974, here are five predictions …
1. Graham Vickers will become the first Navy offensive lineman since at least 2004 to start at three different positions.
This one’s a gimme, largely because Vickers has worked at right tackle over the last two weeks of practice. As detailed in Friday’s dead-tree edition, the junior moved to center specifically for Navy’s opening date with Notre Dame, and will now flip back to right tackle as Tanner Fleming takes over at center.
2. Navy will not have 20 pass attempts.
Mids players and coaches made it a point to emphasize some of the added reliance (by Navy’s standards) on the passing game against Notre Dame was planned. And it was. It’s worth making clear Trey Miller is a more capable passer than predecessor Kriss Proctor. But in a perfect world —- one where the Mids don’t trail 27-0 in the first half —- Navy will throw less. Maybe not much less, but don’t expect another 20-pass day.
3. Navy’s fullbacks will account for more than eight carries.
This ties in with the last prediction. Notre Dame was not about to be done in by the fullback dive two weeks ago, and the Mids only went that route six times until the final minute of the game. That prong of the triple option won’t necessarily be highlighted, but it will be more pronounced in Game Two.
4. Penn State will set a season-low in passing attempts.
The Nittany Lions have thrown 48 and 43 times, respectively, against Ohio and Virginia to open the season. Notre Dame ran with such ease against Navy that Penn State will have to turn to its running game a little bit more … right?
5. Penn State will win, but not handily.
Navy’s had two weeks to regroup from its opening loss, and should be sufficiently healed to give Penn State a solid game. This is far from a vintage Nittany Lions bunch, but there is still talent scattered across the roster. Look for an entertaining game, with Penn State pulling away by a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
—- Patrick Stevens