Date: Saturday, November 11
Kickoff: 3:30pm EST
Location: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, Maryland
Line: -4.5 Navy
Series Record: Navy leads the series, 11-7 (Navy on a seven-game winning streak)
Last Meeting: Navy won in a blowout victory, 75-31, on November 26, 2016
Last week’s AAC game of the week was exceptional. SMU and UCF battled tightly throughout the contest, with SMU coming up just short on their final possession. SMU needs to take this as a confidence booster, instead of a hangover, and get ready for a tough game against the Naval Academy. While SMU played in a close game, Navy had a close one of their own. Sadly for them, the comeback was too late, and Temple was able to close out the game.
Last week, we learned the true identity of Navy. They are not the same team as last year, but can still have a good season with a win on Saturday.
Offensively, Navy has struggled with continuity at quarterback. Zach Abey is clearly not as good as Will Worth was, but is serviceable. Although Abey is a top rushing quarterback, large in part because of Navy’s offensive style, he is not a very good passer. His backup Garrett Lewis has come in a few times this year and has proven he can pass the ball. I’m not quite sold on either quarterback as the future of Navy’s program, but they are serviceable for now. The other main back to watch for is Chris High, a monster of a fullback. If he gets those legs churning, its very tough for a smaller defensive back to bring him down. Their top receiver is Tyler Carmona. When Navy passes the ball, they’re almost guaranteed to find him for a large gain. He has 12 catches on the year for 333 yards and four touchdowns. I would expect Navy to start passing the ball, as running up the middle with dive plays might not work against a veteran defensive line.
Defensively, Navy is going to have to contain a very good SMU offense. SMU will likely be angry after all the miscues that led to a defeat. Believe it or not, these teams are pretty equal defensively in the stat book. To prove that these defenses are pretty even, let’s look at common opponent: UCF. Both Navy and SMU allowed 31 points in their respective home fields to the same opponent. SMU allows 293 passing yards per game to Navy’s 242, and SMU allows one more yard than Navy in rushing yards per game at 166. The defense is going to have to contain SMU’s star receivers, and staple of multi-purposed running backs. This defense will have all it can handle this weekend.
Last week was a fun, but exhausting and devastating week for the Mustangs. Offensively, you could not do much better. Ben Hicks through for 283 yards and a passing touchdown on 27-for-51 attempts. He clearly was the leader offensively and continues to prove he is the future for the Mustangs at quarterback. The tough game proved that he can step up and play with the best of them. The rushing attack was also good, minus the Ke’Mon Freeman fumble at the UCF goal line. Xavier Jones, Braeden West, and Hicks (yes, the pocket passing quarterback!) each had over 50 yards rushing this game. Jones really led the way with 84 yards rushing on 19 carries with a rushing touchdown.
Defensively, SMU looked so much better. The intensity was high and the defense looked like solid unit (almost a strength). SMU’s defense had two sacks, seven tackles for loss, two interceptions (one was a pick-six), and threequarterback hurries. They did have some moments of weaknesses, but overall put together a solid effort. Their only mistakes were not intercepting another pass that would have gone for a pick-six, and letting Adrian Killins run straight up the gut for two rushing touchdowns. We expected UCF to get a ton of yardage (615 total yards), but the number is deceiving. UCF, to me, look like they played their worst game of the year offensively. They struggled much of the night against a normally weak pass defense team.
This week, SMU’s offense will have to try to duplicate what they did last week. They play a Navy team that just got shredded by Frank Nutile. Navy has always proven they can be a good team, but maybe the fact that Navy plays as a triple-option team really hurts the defense in both practice and the game. Navy, now on a new low, has to go play against an offense that totaled 489 yards of offense against one of the best teams in the conference. I am expecting Ben Hicks to dismantle this team.
On defense, SMU could struggle. They might have had a good game against UCF, but I am not as confident this game against Navy. That UCF game was draining for this defense, and now they have to go play disciplined defense against a triple-option team? I do not think this schedule is a formula for success. Whoever starts at quarterback, Zach Abey or Garrett Lewis, the SMU defense is going to have to prepare for a heavy rushing attacks. The goal for the SMU defense will be to cause fumbles, as Navy will not be throwing much.
- Start getting some kind of scores. Too many times did SMU’s drives stall out between the 40’s. That cannot continue to be a trend. SMU needs to find some way to score when they’re driving. If they kicked a couple field goals instead of the drive stalling out, UCF might have fallen and we see a whole new SMU team.
- The drops have to stop. On the two final drive, SMU was more focused on thinking where to go next with the ball. Trey Quinn, the leader in receptions in the FBS, has to come up with the ball to give his team a first down. He knows that though, and I am sure will continue to improve. On a related note, Sutton and Quinn are going to have to help more. James Proche did all the heavy lifting while the dynamic duo accounted for less than 100 yards on 16 catches.
- Freeman had an awful game. He turned the ball over at UCF’s end zone, and only rushed for 13 yards. SMU needs a lot more from him moving forward.
- The defense needs the same intensity as the UCF game. They were exceptiona all over. They had some lapses, but overall, allowing 31 points to a dynamic UCF offense that could have put 50 on them is quite good.
- SMU gave the formula for winning their games, and beating UCF. SMU figured out against explosive offenses, to take the ball away and give the opposing offense as little time as possible. They have to play keep away, and not run their #ponyuptempo offense. In many cases, the up tempo offense stalled, and gave the ball back without taking any time off the clock. Not only did they expose UCF, but found a formula that works, when playing a top offense.
While title dreams may be gone after the UCF game, they can still play spoiler to many great teams with a chance of a national ranking at the end of the year. There is a lot on the line this game for SMU, and they have to take advantage now. Navy may be a shell of itself, from last year, but they are still a sneaky good team destined for a bowl game. Plus the triple-option is very difficult to defend against. I feel less confident about the Mustangs in this game, than I did for the UCF game. I think the UCF game exhausted SMU out, and they will have a tough week against Navy. I’m picking Navy outright to win.
Final Score: Navy 31, SMU 27