Navy is just 1-4 on the season, but they are playing some of their best football. They are coming off a 31-24 loss to SMU at home as a 13.5-point dog.
Memphis is 3-3 and coming off a 35-29 loss at Tulsa. The Tigers have lost three straight and they are 0-2 in the AAC.
Last season, Memphis won this game on the road in a 10-7 slugfest.
Mids blow 21-7 lead against SMUNavy won their first game of the season against UCF (34-30) the week before, so they were searching for another upset against No. 24 SMU squad at home. When star linebacker Diego Fagot scooped up a fumble from 20 yards out and scored a touchdown, Navy was leading SMU 21-7 midway through the third quarter. But Navy's offense went silent and the Mustangs scored 24 of the next 27 points to carve out a 31-24 win.
They said “it’s for free!”…so we took it home https://t.co/GZ3135ewxK— Navy Football (@NavyFB) October 9, 2021
The disappointing part for Navy was their lack of a running game. They did run for 177 yards, but it took them 53 carries and they amassed just 12 first downs. Quarterback Tai Lavatai completed 4 of 7 for 64 yards and a TD and ran for 53 yards on 24 carries.
“They had a good plan on defense,” Lavatai said to the Washington Post afterwards. “But I made some misreads that affects us. They didn’t want to let us get to the edge because we had success there against UCF.”
The good news for Navy is that since Lavatai has taken over at quarterback, the Mids went from scoring around 10 points per game to now 29 over the last two weeks. The key for that option offense is to run for over 200 yards and control the clock. They average 219 rushing yards per game, which ranks 19th in the nation. The passing game is basically an afterthought though Lavatai (130 yards) has shown he can hit a few downfield per game. Isaac Ruoss leads the team with 233 yards rushing.
Defensively, Navy needs a strong ground game to keep them off the field because they are allowing 32.2 points per game. Statistically, they are not bad as they allow 360.6 yards per game and just 126.4 yards on the ground. The pass defense, which allows 234.2 yards per game, will be tested in this one.
Turnovers and Defense are big problemsMemphis amassed over 600 yards of offense against Tulsa last week and still lost the game. Wide receiver Calvin Austin continues his incredible season with 13 catches for 200 yards and a TD. Quarterback Seth Henigan played unevenly, tossing for 463 yards with two TDs, but also had two picks and a fumble. That included an interception late in the game as the Tigers had a chance to win with a TD. They were hurt by Tulsa's 234 yards on the ground, including 126 yards from Shamari Brooks.
After another loss, the Tigers have now had three straight defeats for the first time since 2015. Turnovers have been an issue along with giving up big plays.
“Not owning the football,” coach Ryan Silverfield said in the Daily Memphian. “That seems to be the sentiment. The last three games now we’re looking at seven turnovers. It’s hard to compete against anybody, especially where we’re at right now, turning the ball over three times in a game.”
On the bright side, the passing game is elite. Austin leads the nation with 837 yards receiving with 48 catches with eight TDs. Sean Dykes adds 26 catches for 438 yards and four TDs. RB Brandon Thomas leads with 586 rushing yards (6.4ypc) and six TDs. Henigan is completing 60.5% of his passes for 1,938 yards with 14 TDs and three picks.
Defensively, the Tigers are allowing a whopping 457.5 yards per game (116th) and 141.2 yards against the run (60th). Their leaky pass defense (316.3ypg) won't matter against Navy, who rarely throws the ball.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
I really like Navy in this spot even though it's a short turnaround for them. It's not like the Navy kids are not in shape. They will be fine and their running game should flourish against a lesser defense. Lavatai has added size and juice to the offense. They also may throw a little more knowing how poor Memphis' pass defense is. Memphis will probably put up at least 400 yards of offense, but their confidence has to be waning after losing three straight. That's when you start to press and turn the ball over. Navy certainly has some opportunistic defensive players led by Diego Fagot, who will be attempting to take advantage.
Full-Game Total Pick
I know this game shockingly went way under last year. But I just don't see how either team is going to stop each other in nice warm weather in Memphis. The Tigers throw the ball for 323 yards per game and they have one of the nation's top receivers in Austin. Navy will have to play a lot of zone, which means the underneath will be open. But Navy also has issues against speed, especially in the return game. So whether it's by air, kick returns or turnovers, there will be many big plays in this game. Memphis has allowed 29 or more points in five straight games. Navy has given up 29 or more points in three straight.