Will Navy Sink Ohio State's 2009 Home Opener?

Chip MinnichCorrespondent ISeptember 3, 2009

BALTIMORE - NOVEMBER 15:  Ricky Dobbs #4 and Mike Von Bargen #64 of the Navy Midshipmen walk off the field after their final play came up short against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on November 15, 2008 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland. Notre Dame defeated Navy 27-21.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Location: Ohio Stadium (Columbus, OH) 12pm EST on ESPN

Head Coach: Ken Niumatalolo
Navy Players Who Were Recruited By Ohio State: N/A. Navy has a few players from Ohio on its roster (LB Josh Dowling-Fitzpatrick, RB Bobby Doyle, C Mike McCarthy, DE Matthew Kelley, C Brady DeMell, WR Doug Furman, K Scott Blasinsky, and NT Chase Burge), but none were actively recruited by Ohio State.

Navy Rushing Offense vs Ohio State Defense
Navy's triple option offense led the nation in rushing with an average of 292.4 yards per game. Navy's offensive line averages about 265 lbs per man, which is much lighter than the typical offensive linemen Ohio State's defense is used to facing.
Even with the weight discrepancy, I look for Navy's rushing attack to confuse Ohio State's defense well into the second half of this contest.

Edge: Navy

Navy Passing Offense vs Ohio State Defense:
As Navy concentrates almost exclusively on rushing the ball—last season, Navy averaged 7.2 pass attempts per game. Most teams will have those types of statistics midway through the first quarter.
Navy QB Ricky Dobbs is supposedly a much better passer than previous Navy quarterbacks, but I still look for Navy to focus their efforts on their option ground game. Ohio State's cornerbacks will be in man-to-man coverage on the Navy wideouts, in an effort to help with shutting down Navy's ground game.
It will be important for Ohio State's safeties to not bite on play-action, lest they give up a big play or a touchdown.

Edge: Ohio State

Ohio State Rushing Offense vs Navy Defense
Ohio State enters 2009 without the services of RB Chris Wells and will depend on the skills of RB Boom Herron, RB Brandon Saine, and QB Terrelle Pryor.
Navy's defensive front struggled last season against opponents such as Pittsburgh and Notre Dame, who averaged more than five yards a carry against the Midshipmen. Compounding Navy's difficulties is the loss of DL Nate Frazier, who was kicked off the team as the fall camp was just beginning.
I look for Ohio State to run early and often against Navy, to develop a rhythm with its offensive line, led by sophomore C Michael Brewster and LG Justin Boren.
Edge: Ohio State

Ohio State Passing Offense vs Navy Defense
While Navy struggles to slow down teams running the ball, Navy's pass defense may be even more of a challenge for the team. Navy ranked 103rd in pass defense efficiency last season, and has lost three starters from last year's unit.
Considering Ohio State lost both of its top wide receivers to the NFL, Ohio State may look to use this game as an opportunity to further chemistry between QB Terrelle Pryor and his new receiving corps.

Edge: Ohio State

Special Teams
Ohio State returns PK Aaron Pettrey, as well as returner Ray Small from last year's team. Navy has a new kicker, and its special teams units ranked 107th last season. Ohio State may look to involve WR Lamaar Thomas and RB Brandon Saine on kickoff returns or punt returns for their added speed possibilities.

Big Edge: Ohio State

Navy is 0-3 against Ohio State, with its last meeting in the 1981 Liberty Bowl. Navy has won six of its last seven season openers—Ohio State has not lost a home opener since the 1978 season.
While Navy does not have the talent or speed of Ohio State, its triple option offense is such a departure from what Ohio State usually sees from the opposition that it will make this game interesting until the second half.

Edge: Navy

In recent years, Ohio State has started out slowly against its opponents, waiting until the second half to put the game away. Navy's triple option attack will challenge Ohio State from the onset, and I will be anxious to see how disciplined Ohio State's defenders are at shutting down Navy's rushing attack.

I look for this game to be close until the mid-3rd quarter, when Ohio State's talent and speed help the Buckeyes to pull away. Make no mistake—Navy will play hard every down until the whistle is blown, and the clock has expired.
This is arguably the best home opener opponent for Ohio State since the 2002 season when the Buckeyes played against Texas Tech.

Ohio State 31, Navy 17