Lots of questions about Navy today at Maryland's media day.
The best analysis --- by far --- came from the inimitable A.J. Francis.
The gregarious sophomore nose tackle was already in midseason form this afternoon, offering a respectful and candid take on the Terrapins' season-opening opponent.
Francis will get a good look at the intricacies of Navy's offense come Sept. 6. But the Terps did some work on the Midshipmen in spring ball, and there's been more than enough film to devour in the offseason.
"The triple option offense in and of itself, you just lay out the blueprint it is so easy to stop; all you've got to do is do your job," Francis said. "But it's so hard to do your job every single play. Everybody on the field might do their job every play except for maybe five, and for those five plays, they'll break five long runs, probably score three touchdowns, set up maybe another touchdown and a field goal and now you lose 31-28. Just like that, just on five plays. You could shut them down for 80 plays and they have five plays they do well and score 31 points."
Francis, of course, is right. Navy's offense can destroy an opponent with time-eating drives. But often, there's just a handful of chunk plays that cause much of the damage.
As Francis observed, the most difficult thing to deal with is Navy's play-to-play efficiency. A team can often get away with a flub against most opponents.
Not the Mids.
"They never screw up," Francis said. "That comes with serving our country. They have it built into them from the beginning that mistakes are not possible. You're not allowed to make a mistake, ever. We come from a different [point]. We get in trouble if we make mistakes, obviously. Nobody wants mistakes. They have it driven into them that it happens so minimally. It's so hard to go up against something like that because they're a machine. They will run the ball every play and they'll tell you they're going to do it. They might throw it six passes a game and they'll still have 300 yards rushing against almost every opponent they face.
"They have about 20-something plays --- 22, 24 plays --- with minimal variations. But they run it so effectively and it's so hard to stop that that's all they need. They don't need anything else. If they wanted to, they could come out and run a new play every play for the entire year. But they don't need to."
Clearly, the respect is built in, even if it's clear Francis is more than a little wary of chasing Navy around M&T Bank Stadium in the opener.
Then another variable was mentioned --- the no-huddle look Navy used in its Texas Bowl victory over Missouri.
It's no surprise Francis, as a defensive player who might have to deal with that in less than a month, doesn't seem thrilled with the prospect of contending with that wrinkle.
"I hate the no-huddle offense and I hate the triple-option offense," Francis said. "So if they combined the no-huddle and the triple-option offense, that would easily get my vote as the worst offense ever. That would be horrible. I'll be ready for it. I'm always going to be ready for it because it's a game day. But I would not have a fun game. Most of the time I have a fun time playing football, as a lot of people who watch me know. I wouldn't have any fun playing that game. That would be like a 9-to-5. Just go in, get the job done and then leave."
After a long offseason, Francis and Maryland would happily take a 9-to-5-type game --- if, of course, the Terps wound up with a win in the end.