The Birddog Mailbag

OK, let’s open it up and see what we have.

What would a position-by-position comparison of the Georgia Tech vs. Navy offenses show?

I don’t know if I’ve paid enough attention to Georgia Tech to be able to say. I know that people are down on the Yellow Jackets, and they’re having a bad year, but they did just win the Orange Bowl. Sometimes teams just have a bad year. I wouldn’t read too much into it.

I doubt that Coach Johnson would trade any of Georgia Tech’s players for Navy’s. But I wouldn’t trade any of Navy’s for Georgia Tech’s, either.

How is Buddy Green’s health?

I’m not in a position to know.

Navy talked about opening up the passing game this year, (or am I wrong?) Please discuss the passing game: Is it opponent dependent only? Is there or is there not a concerted effort to add a passing dimension to the offense? Is Navy (thus far in the season) relying on passing only in a 3rd and long situation as you see it, or stepping up passing on 1st and 2nd down? Your take on passing appreciated and what difference you see in passing ability of Keenan and Tago.

Was there talk of more passing this year? Maybe there was, but I don’t remember it.

Everything in the Navy offense is based on how defenses line up against the triple option. That includes the passing game. Many of the routes that the receivers run on passing plays (like the wheel-post, for example) are designed to mimic those players’ blocking assignments on option plays. The more a play looks like a running play, the more effective play action will be. Not that the Navy passing game is limited to play action, but those are the most successful plays in the arsenal.

I haven’t looked to see if there’s any pattern in terms of what down passes have been thrown on this season, but if it’s mostly on third down, that isn’t by design. Play calling is an art, and coaches have a feel for the best time to pull the trigger on certain plays based on the defense, game situation, personnel, etc.

As for Tago, you’ve seen as much of him as I have. I haven’t seen anything that would make me concerned, at least.

What are Navy’s chances against Memphis and Houston?
Which game will you think is tougher Memphis or Houston. Both are road games and they look like the two best remaining teams on the schedule.

Navy’s American Athletic Conference competition was a popular question. How exciting is it to get two more shots at ranked teams left on the schedule? And to be right in the thick of the conference race with these guys? Conference membership is paying dividends right away.

Of course, the flip side of this is that both of those will be tough games. Of the two, I think Memphis is the more complete team, although I don’t know if that means much. Both games will be difficult. I think in terms of scheme, Navy matches up well. The Mids can slow the game down and limit possessions, and a low-possession game favors the team with the most efficient offense. That is Navy’s strength, although it’s not exactly a weakness for Memphis or Houston, either.

That’s a long-winded way of saying I don’t know.

In all likelihood, Navy will end up in the Military Bowl in Annapolis.  What are your honest thoughts on this relative to other bowl game locations Navy has played in since ’03?

I like it, although I understand why some people would prefer to play somewhere new. I live in Florida, though, so to me it’s an excuse to visit Annapolis. I’ll take as many of those that I can get. Besides, for every season ticket holder that wants to hit the road, there’s another that isn’t able to travel over Christmas. This gives those people an opportunity to share in the Navy bowl experience. Something else to consider is that with Navy’s conference schedule, this is probably the only way we’ll get an ACC team into Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium again.

Looking into your crystal ball, do you ever see the AAC being invited into the current P5, or is that way too optimistic?  I won’t include the MWC in this, since from my perspective their deal is so rotten right now, it doesn’t appear their lot will change much without some significant restructuring and a drastic increase in national attention.

The so-called “Power 5” is an artificial construct. The only thing that is codified is that these 5 have autonomy within the NCAA when it comes to making rules. I suppose it’s possible that eventually the American could be included as one of the autonomous leagues, although there is no incentive for the current P5 to add anyone. I’m not sure it matters that much anyway, since the American has already stated that they intend to adopt the P5’s rules themselves.

The two biggest issues are bowl access and television revenue, and the only thing that can be done about that is for the American to keep winning games. That is what drives fan interest, which is what can lead to the conference getting better bowl and television deals of their own. The more the conference wins, any system that doesn’t include it appears less legitimate. It will take years of sustained success to reach that point, though, so don’t put anything on your calendar just yet.

Also, big picture, what will it take for Army to become relevant again?  Would joining the AAC help?

That depends on what you mean by “relevant.” The Army name is still recognizable, at least until their re-branding confuses the hell out of everyone. The reason why the Big Ten counts Army as a Power 5 school for scheduling purposes is that they are name-brand enough that the league’s television partners feel that a Big Ten-Army matchup is more appealing to viewers than the average game against Akron. I would argue that they are relevant now.

The real question is how long that will last. We just saw Army play their second Patriot League team of the season, and most of their future schedules feature at least two FCS teams on them as well. They play Notre Dame next year and have a few other high-profile games in subsequent years, but the rest of those schedules aren’t exactly stacked with the Monsters of the Midway. How long will CBS be interested in showing week after week of Army playing North Texas and Dartmouth? If you’re trying to attract recruits who want to play at a high level, will they want to play that schedule, with the added knock of being ineligible for the G5 New Year’s Six bowl slot?

Every move that Army makes doesn’t necessarily have to be contrasted with Navy, but in this case it’s impossible not to notice the differences. This summer was spent debating how Navy fits into the Group of Five bowl picture. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen Navy talked about during other teams’ games due to their success and the success of the American. If relevance simply means getting noticed on the national radar, then there’s no comparison. If Army managed to put together a dream season, I’m sure they’d grab plenty of headlines. Against those schedules, though, any sustained success will soon be dismissed by national observers, and that assumes Army will be able to attract enough good players to win those games in the first place.

Joining the American would help in that regard, but that ship has probably sailed. The conference wouldn’t add only one school; someone else would have to join along with Army. There just aren’t many realistic options that would add any value to the league. There are really only two. BYU would be the biggest prize, but calling them “realistic” is a Gumby-caliber stretch. The other would be Air Force. The Falcons don’t add much value on their own, but together with Army they would give the league the ability to sell all three service academies as a single television package. That’s marketable. Neither of those scenarios are going to happen anytime soon, though, which puts Army in a tough spot.

Of course, they don’t see it that way, and after their C-USA experience they aren’t in any rush to change. I think they’ll regret it in the long run.

Now the Notre Dame has “solved the option,” is it likely we’ll see teams trying to copy what they did? Will it work? If you were Coach Jasper, how would you adjust to the ND scheme, or is it unnecessary? Did Navy just get outplayed by superior athletes and it’s unlikely we’ll see anyone else on the schedule able to achieve similar results with a similar scheme?

After Navy looked pretty bad against Western Kentucky in 2013, Hawaii and South Alabama both tried to use the Hilltoppers’ game plan later that season. Navy scored 42 points in both games. It’s possible that other teams will try to do the same thing that Notre Dame did, but the Mids ran for 318 yards against the Irish and scored 24 points. I don’t know if that’s enough to convince anyone.

As for adjusting, I wrote a whole post on the game! You can judge for yourself if they worked but the adjustments looked pretty good to me.

Are we better off that Coach Kelly thinks his plan stopped the offense and not Navy mistakes?

Come on, now. Knowing what to plan for always helps, but I don’t think you’re giving Notre Dame enough credit. There isn’t a magic defense to solve the Navy offense, but that doesn’t mean that Notre Dame just got lucky. The Irish put a lot of time and effort into preparing for Navy’s offense, and it showed. A big reason for that, though, was that they played Georgia Tech and Navy in the same season. I don’t know if they will put that much effort into the Navy game if they only see the spread option once in a season.

They do play Army the week after facing Navy in 2016.

It seems to me that they’ve just about retired calls for holding by the offense in college football. I’m pretty sure that on at least one of Notre Dame’s sweeps last Saturday, one of the blockers had a fistful of Navy jersey in each hand.

Any thoughts?

Refs miss calls in every game. Sometimes Navy benefits too. It happens.

I’m new to the site and trying to learn more about the triple option. Can you talk some about how the triple option works or suggest other resources where I can learn more about it?  Blocking assignments is something I don’t understand at this point. Thanks!

This is a bit more in-depth then I was really shooting for here, but if there’s one thing you should know it’s probably how the count works. A few years ago, I wrote about that here.

How do you think Troy Calhoun will do at USC?

I know it’s a joke, but I can’t imagine a worse fit between coach and school.

In the style of Jack Black’s rock history chart from The School of Rock, could you develop a triple option history chart, and an accompanying chart for the history of defense of the triple option chart?

Probably not.

In what you’ve seen over the past two seasons, how much does Coach Jasper’s play calling actually change when Tago is in the game?

I’m not sure that it does, although it’s difficult to say. It’s a lot easier to see what is called then to guess at what might have been called. Against Texas State, Tago ran a lot of midline. VMI is VMI. I don’t know if either game is much of a measuring stick, and the sample size this year is pretty small. The coaches say that they’re comfortable with Tago running the offense, though, and I believe them.

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