Navy faces off against the Bulls of South Florida this Saturday in Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. This will be the first time the opposite division foes have played each other since 2016. The series is tied at 1-1 with the home team taking the “W” in each instance.
South Florida is 3-3 on the season, but they are better than their .500 record would indicate, for two of those losses came at the hands of ranked opponents: Wisconsin and SMU. The Bulls upset BYU last weekend and will be riding that wave into Annapolis this weekend.
The Bulls are averaging 32.2 points, 181.8 passing yards, 157.7 rushing yards per game, and rank 109th in total offense. The defense allows 26.7 points per game and ranks 62nd in total defense.
Jordan McCloud is the starting QB after Blake Barnett went down with an ankle injury. McCloud has proven to be a solid passer, with above average mobility. The bulk of the Bulls’ backfield work has gone to Jordan Cronkite who is averaging 4.8 yards per carry. South Florida’s, Mitchell Wilcox and Johnny Ford, are the lead pass catchers with 12 and 13 receptions respectively.
The defense also forces several turnovers a game and is number one in the country in tackles for loss at 10.3 per game. There are six players with more than 30 total tackles halfway through the season, including linebacker, Patrick Macon, with 42 tackles on the year. The rushing defense is ranked 88th and gives up 176.2 yards per game.
The Bulls are coached by Charlie Strong, who is in his thirs year at South Florida, and owns a record of 20-11 while with the program and 73-48 overall. Strong is a proven head coach who will have his program full of Power Five transfers ready to face the triple option attack and an aggressively managed Newberry-defense on Saturday.
Malcolm Perry has the option rolling like a thing of beauty this season. The Midshipmen have kept the ball moving in almost every contest. However, the challenge has been keeping Perry out on the field. He has been dealing with a shoulder injury that he has powered through. But, if the Mids want to keep this string of success running, then he needs to be more diligent about avoiding unnecessary hits and chose running out of bounds. The extra couple of yards are just not worth it. Perry’s arm may be the nicest surprise of all on offense this year with a completion rate just shy of 65% and averaging over 13 yards per completion. This success has really opened up opportunities to be exploited by the triple option.
The defense has been even more impressive as they currently rank within the top 25 in each of the following categories: Rushing Defense, 3rd down defense, total defense, and scoring defense. Stand out linebackers, Elan Nash and Diego Fagot, and safety, Evan Fochtman, have been the leaders of the defense and can create chaos that make it difficult for the Bulls to execute their game plan.
How To Watch:
Time: 3:30 p.m. (EDT) on Saturday, Oct 19
Watch: CBSSN, AFN
Listen: WNAV; or online here
Location: Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium; Annapolis, MD
Rankings: Navy enters week 5 on the Massey Rankings at 33; Memphis is at 88
Betting Lines: Navy is favored by 14.5 points at home.
Keys to Success
Don’t get too caught up in the recent run of success. Stay focused on that 1-0 mentality.
Navy owns an average 35 minutes of time of possession on the season. They need to sustain that positive TOP. South Florida will likely help, as they had been behind on TOP all season, keeping the offense on the field just 25 minutes a game.
Contain the mobile quarterback. Navy has not yet faced a passing quarterback capable of scrambling and extending plays this season. The Mids need to prevent McCloud from getting out of the pocket and force him to throw the ball away instead.
Coach Niumatalolo said it best this week when he pointed out how hard it is to beat a team with great athletes and is also extremely well coached, which perfectly describes the Bulls. Coming off of a big win last weekend you can expect their confidence is also up.
Navy is a hefty favorite in this match up, but I wouldn’t be comfortable taking the Mids with that spread. The Bulls have too much talent for Navy to run a way with this, and, if the Mids make too many mistakes then look for an upset.
Ultimately, Navy will stay disciplined and the defense will force the Bulls to make mistakes, giving Navy the victory.