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Navy Preview: By the Numbers, How to Watch, Key Matchups

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Everything you need to be fully informed heading into Saturday afternoon’s game in Annapolis.

Ian Bethune

KICKOFF: 3:30 p.m.

TV: CBS Sports Network

ANNOUNCERS: John Sadak (play-by-play), Randy Cross (color analyst), Sheehan Stanwick Burch (sideline)

RADIO: UConn IMG Radio Network (WTIC 1080 AM, WILI 1400 AM, WAVZ 1300 AM, WGCH 1490 AM), SIRIUS 134, XM 201, XM 973 (Internet)

ANNOUNCERS: Joe D'Ambrosio (play-by-play), Wayne Norman (color analyst), Ken Sweitzer (sideline)

POINT SPREAD: Navy -3.5

SERIES HISTORY: This will be the ninth meeting between these two teams, with Navy holding a 7-1 edge. The first game took place in 1975 and the lone UConn win came in 2002 thanks to exceptional efforts from running back Terry Caulley (157 yards, 2 TD) and star quarterback Dan Orlovsky (272 yards, 3 TD) in a 38-0 win.

DEPTH CHART FOR NAVY GAME

Fun with Numbers

9 - Receptions for senior wide receiver Noel Thomas in UConn’s opener against Maine. The Huskies did a good job of getting Thomas involved but need to be looking at him downfield more often.

2008 - The last time UConn started consecutive seasons with two wins in a row. Navy is favored and looked dominant in a 28-18 win last year, but there are a lot of reasons to like UConn’s chances.

3 - The number of players who made their first start for the Huskies in the season opener (OT Matthew Peart, TE Chris Lee, and SS Anthony Watkins), a huge drop from previous seasons.

200 - Rushing yards for the Huskies against Maine, a mark which they only reached once in 2015, against East Carolina, and once in 2014, in the season finale against SMU.

11 - Consecutive home wins for Navy dating back to the 2014 season.

96.7% - Navy’s exceptional red-zone efficiency across the past two seasons. In two years, they only failed to score on three red-zone visits, one was a kneeldown at the end of a game and another was in the final minute at UConn last year.

LISTEN: Conversation with Navy writer Mike James

Projections

Football Study Hall’s metrics believe in the Huskies slightly less than the oddsmakers, projecting a 7.1-point margin of victory and a 66% win probability for the Midshipmen. Right now the S&P rankings have Navy as the 54th-best team in the country with UConn at 80th.

*This section will have more information in the future, but for now with just one game, the team performance data does not really mean a whole lot right now.

Key Matchups

UConn passing attack vs. Navy secondary

Any defense facing UConn this year will want to keep defenders in the box in the interest of stuffing the running game and daring the Huskies to pass. For Navy, this approach may cause problems as the Midshipmen secondary is relatively untested with three new starters. Fordham was able to move the ball last week against this defense, so there’s hope for the Huskies.

Bob Diaco vs. Spread option

Diaco has faced this offense many times now, and while many UConn fans assume he has a checkered history with it, he had mastered it by the time he left Notre Dame, but had to slightly alter the strategy at UConn.

At Notre Dame, Diaco discovered that he needed to force individual battles and let his talented players win them. At UConn, he doesn’t have as strong of an advantage. Still, Diaco put a solid gameplan in place last year to help keep the game close, unfortunately Keenan Reynolds led an experienced offense which adjusted appropriately and got Navy the win.

Despite his preparation, part of what makes this offense so difficult to face is the stress it puts on defenders to constantly make decisions, and the precision with which Navy runs it. Hailed as a defensive mastermind, Diaco will need to cook up something special to keep this attack in check.

UConn O-line vs. Navy D-line

The line is always going to be a key component to a successful game, or season honestly, for the UConn offense, but particularly against another team which it should have a size advantage against. Navy’s D-line is not very big and, though the linebackers are larger than average, UConn should be able to move around the front seven so Ron Johnson and Arkeel Newsome can succeed in the running game.

Referees vs. The Rulebook

Diaco noted in his Tuesday press conference how some of the rules have changed in a way which may be beneficial to his defense, as certain types of blocking is no longer allowed. He mentioned how he hardly ever leaves a game like this without a few injured players but hopes that things will be better.

“I could show a half dozen clips of our Mike linebacker being chopped at his knee by a front side slot who pre-snap was tied to the box but then extended outside, came back in and cut a scrapping linebacker, you can't do that any longer.”

Prediction: L 24-20

I think UConn is a lot better than the score of its season opener would indicate, but Saturday will present a tough contest against a very good team, even if they are using backup quarterback Will Worth.

There are few coaches as well-positioned to face Navy’s unique offense as Diaco, but at the end of the day it’s the players on the field who will need to execute. I think the Huskies can keep it close, with a shot to win at the end, just the way Diaco likes it, but will ultimately fall short as the offense struggles to put points on the board and give the defense a rest after the long, sustained drives we know to expect from Navy.