Location: Gerald J. Ford Stadium, Dallas, Texas
Game Time: 2:30 p.m. C.T.
Channel: ESPN U
Spread: Navy -7
The SMU Mustangs have been on a roller coaster season with blowout losses to Baylor, TCU, and Memphis, but also a win over Houston that put the nail in the coffin for the Cougars’ college football playoff hopes. Navy is now ranked number 25 in the college football playoff after three straight wins. Who will come out with the win in Dallas?
The Midshipmen’s season looked like it would take a bleak turn in the first game when they lost starting quarterback Tago Smith. Senior quarterback Will Worth soon stepped in and has taken Navy to an 8-2 record. Worth leads the team in passing yards (1,259), rushing yards (1,074), and has 22 of the team’s 44 rushing touchdowns (most in the FBS). Navy also averages 326.6 rushing yards per game, which is third in the nation. Fullback Shawn White had his breakout performance last week against East Carolina, having 150 yards rushing on 11 attempts (13.6 yards per carry) and three touchdowns.
The only negative for the Midshipmen is their secondary. They are 103rd in the nation averaging 258.3 passing yards allowed per game. They also allow 13.67 yards per reception. They will need to pick up their game and avoid an upset from a bowl hungry SMU squad that averages 257 yards passing per game.
The Mustangs are led by freshman quarterback Ben Hicks, who has 2,599 yards passing this season. Hicks is coming off of his best passing game in a loss to South Florida in which he had 380 yards passing and 2 touchdowns. Sophomore running back Braeden West is coming off his fifth 100-yard rushing game in six games. SMU will need to stop the Navy rushing attack with help from leading tackler Justin Lawler who has 63 total tackles. The Mustangs are 5-6 and are looking for their first bowl game since 2012.
While SMU is playing a less than impressive secondary for Navy, they will need to clean up their interceptions. SMU is currently fifth in the nation in interceptions (15). The Mustangs do have a positive on defense by being fourth in the nation in defensive touchdowns. The only downside is that all were interception returns for a touchdown and Navy runs the ball far more than they pass. SMU will need to remain focused on getting to a bowl game, even though there are looming rumors about head coach Chad Morris leaving for the Baylor head coaching spot.
Beating the Navy triple option offense is easier said than done, but the Mustangs need to find some way of slowing down one of the nation’s best rushing attacks if they want to have a chance at a bowl bid.
Prediction: Navy 35-SMU 28