The 2009 season begins September 5, with one of the headliners being an interesting matchup: Ohio State vs Navy in Columbus, Ohio.
But for myself, this matchup means more than just a game. This is a game that has truly a special meaning.
Me a student at one school, my older brother, Lt. Matthew Bielik, USN stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, a 2004 graduate of the latter institution.
I have grown a place in my heart for Navy football—I'd consider them to be almost my second favorite team—and I have grown fondness for a team that no one should ever boo at.
A team made up of kids who will defend our country in the years to come; a team that plays with so much heart every week.
And I for one am very excited to see the two teams I root for going up against each other.
Though one team is more athletic and more talented than the other, the other is brought together by a special bond: duty to country.
And not to mention that they play some pretty good football in Annapolis also.
Though because of their school's limitations—Navy does not have high-caliber athletes—they run the triple option offense very effectively.
Very rarely do you see a team outrun the Midshipmen in a season. Their game is predicated on precision and football IQ.
Truly, 11 guys playing as one; a band of brothers who will fight together on the football field and on the battlefield one day.
For these young men, the game of football means more than just a fat paycheck years down the road. Because of required service commitments, Midshipmen football players are very rarely NFL prospects.
These men join the Academy to serve America, but they still hold a special place in their hearts for football.
On September 5th, these men will play a football game in Columbus against one of college football's elite programs, and will more than likely create many fond memories they will carry with them wherever duty and military commitment takes them.
And all 105,000+ fans that come to the game should understand that even though they are the adversaries for three hours on the football field, they are what makes our country special.
As for the game itself, Navy football is, as mentioned, about the triple option, brought back to the game by current Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson.
Johnson installed the option game into Navy's playbook and it has been a staple of the program for most of this decade.
Currently, Ken Niumatalolo, Johnson's successor, hopes to continue the program's recent run of success which has featured six straight bowl appearances, all of them eight-win seasons.
Leading rushers TB Shun White and FB Eric Kettani have departed along with talented pitchman Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada at QB.
Eight of nine Navy offensive plays are running plays, but they have tremendous versatility and an unselfish corps of runners ready to make big plays.
This offense works to slow down the game and take time off of the clock keeping the defense fresh. When it doesn't work, the D is in for a long day.
As is the case with the Midshipmen, expect to see alot of different people run the football, as in 2008 when Navy fans saw seven different runners score a TD on the ground.
So unlike most teams where you see one feature back, don't be surprised with who gets the ball.
Ohio State brings a mostly young defense in the back seven, but a front four of talented athletes is expected to cause havoc in the Navy backfield.
Offensively, the Buckeyes have the horses led by Terrelle Pryor to pose numerous challenges for the Midshipmen defense.
Nonetheless, one thing about Navy is that they will play a very intense and spirited game. That's something that every opponent must prepare for.
With USC looming in the background, some would expect the Buckeyes to look past Navy. That would be a big mistake.
No doubt spirited football will be on display from both sidelines, Ohio State with something to prove, the Midshipmen exhibiting their full love of the game.
In the end, Ohio State's athletes will be the difference, but one has to admire the desire of these young men, who will trade their football gear for combat gear in a short time.
They are truly winners at life, as they are the leaders of tomorrow.
Prediction: Ohio State 35 - Navy 17
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