Location: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, MD — 3:00 p.m. EST
Betting Line: Houston -17 according to Oddsshark
Houston’s record: 5-0, 2-0 in conference
Navy’s record: 3-1, 2-0 in conference
Common opponent: UCONN —
Navy beat UCONN 28-24 in week 3
Houston beat UCONN 42-14 in week 5
This week is a contest for sole possession of the AAC West Division and the three biggest factors in this game could be: travel distance, start time and lack of prestige.
This road trip will be the longest of the year for the Cougars — 1,446 miles.
It’s an early afternoon (Central Time) kickoff. Two of Houston’s last three games have been primetime matchups on Thursday night...
...in which the Cougars were a part of the marquee event of the evening.
The contest with the Midshipmen is an afternoon game on a small stage on a third-tier TV network. If there was ever a “trap” game or a “letdown” game on Houston’s schedule, this would be it.
And I think that’s what we’ll see for the first half. I think it will take some time for the Cougars to recognize that they’re actually playing this game. It’s a real game with real consequences against a program that can EASILY pull an upset.
Navy’s triple option is difficult to handle under the best conditions, and these conditions are less than ideal for the Cougars.
BUT, two of the biggest things in Houston’s favor are that it has a great rush defense and Navy replaced 10 of 11 starters on offense this season. And Navy’s starting QB Tago Smith went down with a knee injury in its opener, so second-string QB Will Worth has been running the show for the Midshipmen.
Houston’s rush defense is currently ranked second in the nation, giving up just 48.8 yards per game. The Cougars trail only Air Force, which gives up up 42 yards per game and coincidentally handed Navy its first loss last week.
Yes, the triple option is unlike any offense Houston has faced since it played Navy last year. We will truly see how Ed Oliver, Cameron Malveaux, Tyus Bowser and the rest of Houston’s front seven stack up against the run.
Handling the triple option is a mental battle, first and foremost. Defenders must know their assignments to the letter and they cannot — CANNOT — allow themselves to be distraction or deceived by the heavy use of misdirection.
With so many defenders near the line of scrimmage, if a Navy runner breaks through the initial wall, it could be smooth sailing, so to speak, to the end zone.
And if the Midshipmen can be consistently effective with the run, then they hit you over the top with the play-action pass.
But with all that said, here’s a key stat to keep in mind:
Navy, in its triple option attack, averages 251 rushing yards per game.
Houston, in its spread offense, averages 201 rushing yards per game.
So its not as if Navy is racking up incomparable numbers on the ground.
The bottom line is the same as its always been with Navy: if you can shut down the Midshipmen early and accumulate a two or three score lead, you have a very good chance of winning. Houston is ideally suited for such a prospect.
I think Navy will keep it close in the first half and then Tom Herman will give a fiery speech in the locker room at halftime. The Cougars will surge ahead in the second half and then maintain the lead through the final whistle.
Houston wins 31-14