The Thanksgiving Holiday is one of the best weekends of the season for college football, and 2019 is no different. There are playoff implications all weekend long, and teams from the American Athletic Conference are no different, as they are attempting to earn a spot in a New Years Six Bowl Game. If you are a Navy Football fan, the first matchup you should care about is on Friday afternoon when #18 Memphis hosts #19 Cincinnati. The Midshipmen need the Tigers to lose to have a shot at the AAC West title. Should Memphis fall on Friday, a Navy win on Saturday will send the Mids back to the AAC Championship game for the second time in four years.
Houston has had Navy’s number as division foes. The Cougars are 3-1 against Navy since they joined the AAC. Navy’s only victory came in 2016 when the Mids shocked then #6 Houston on a rainy fall afternoon in Annapolis. Navy would go on to win the AAC West that year.
How To Watch:
Time: 7:00 p.m. (EST) on Saturday, 30 Nov 2019
Watch: ESPN 2
Listen: WNAV; or online here
Location: TDECU Stadium, Houston, TX
Rankings: Navy enters week 14 on the Massey Rankings at 23; Houston is at 83
Betting Lines: Navy is favored by 8.5 points.
The Cougars are in a “rebuilding” year. Star Quarterback D’Eriq King and Wide Receiver Keith Corbin both elected to sit out the rest of the 2019 season in order to preserve their red shirt status. The move was significant as King and Corbin have not seen a snap since week 4 of the season and they are still the 4th leading rusher and 4th leading receiver respectively. This left the Cougars with Clayton Tune as the man under center who wasn’t exactly a one for one swap; especially when you account for King’s abilities as a dual threat QB. Tune has as many carries as King and about half has many rushing yards. The Cougars do have a dominant rusher in Kyle Porter who averages nearly 5 yards a carry, and receiver Marquez Stevenson, who has 7 touchdowns on the year and is closing in on 800 receiving yards. Houston is 90th in total offense with 379 yards a game and 66th in scoring offense, just shy of 30 points a game.
The Houston defense hasn’t been particularly effective either, as they are 99th in scoring defense allowing 32 points a game, and 116th in total defense giving up 460 yards a game. They have a pretty stout secondary, however, which is led by Safety Grant Stuard and Cornerback Damarion Williams.
The Mids continued their incredible bounce back season when they defeated #25 SMU last weekend, keeping their AAC Championship hopes alive. Navy is in the middle of one of their best seasons in recent memory. There has only been one game this season where they really struggled, and that was against Notre Dame in South Bend two weeks ago. It was important to not let the Irish beat them twice, and Navy was not about to let that happen on Senior Day.
Malcolm Perry’s improved ability to throw has been instrumental to the team’s success this year. Navy currently ranks 24th in total offense with 455 yards a game, and more than 100 yards of that have come through the air. It seems as though his passing has only improved as the season goes on, which is something option fiends expect from the ground game. This is typically the point of the season where the option is hitting on all cylinders and last weeks stellar performance gave no signs of slowing down.
The defense. You really cannot say enough about this defense and the unbelievable turn around it has made sense last year. Defensive Coordinator Brian Newberry is deservedly a semifinalist for the Frank Broyles Award, which is given to the best assistant coach in the country. Any coach will tell you however that they can only do the coaching and call the plays, its up to the guys in the uniform to buy in and execute during a game. This defensive squad is led by an incredible group of senior captains in Paul Carothers and Nizaire Cromartie. Navy’s defense was among the worst in the NCAA last season, and this season they are among the top 25 in almost every single defensive category. No doubt that drastic shift has been a significant factor in Navy’s big turn around this season.
Keys to Success
Hang on to the Rock. Navy’s two loses have come when they lose the turnover battle. This isn’t a hot take on winning football games; not turning the ball over generally results in victories. If Navy doesn’t put the ball on the ground there is no reason they shouldn’t be successful on offense and be able to keep up with Houston.
Contain the Run Game. Houston has been much more successful on the ground than through the air. If Navy is able to contain Porter and prevent Tune from effective scrambles, then the defense should be able to keep the game in reach.
As our own Gavin Jernigan said “it really sucks seeing your classmates go home to see their families when you’re on your way to practice.” That is to say, Navy is their own worst enemy this weekend. If they remain focused on what the have to gain still have to gain this season then they have a great shot for at least a share of the division title.
I expect the offense to be status quo on Saturday, with another 300+ yards rushing and close to 100 yards passing and we’ll get at least one big Magic Malcolm play. With any luck the defense will keep the Cougars out of the end zone and the back ups can get some reps in the 4th quarter to give the starters some rest before Army in two weeks.