Navy travels to Greenville to take on East Carolina on Saturday at 6pmET in an AAC battle. Last season, the Pirates were victorious 38-35 as a 3.5-point favorite on the road. Navy has won five of the last six games and covered six straight of these meetings.
The Mids have played just two games and have not played since losing to Memphis 37-13 at home on Sept. 10. The Pirates are 2-1 after beating up on FCS Campbell 49-10 last week at home.
Check out Ben's Football Picks on Experts. He was 3-2 over the last two Saturdays in college football and is 8-3 in his last 11 college football players overall. He opened up Week 4 with West Virginia as his Best Bet on Thursday. He also has a guaranteed Best Bet available on Friday night in college football as well as Saturday.
Mids need some offenseNavy has scored just 20 points in home losses to FCS Delaware (14-7) and to Memphis. The Mids will go as far as their option offense takes them. In their opening loss to Delaware, they fumbled the ball four times and lost three. In their loss to the Tigers, they also lost three fumbles so after two games, they are a -5 in turnover ratio. To make matters worse, Navy had a pick thrown by backup QB Xavier Arline and slotback Maquel Haywood on a trick play.
“I take responsibility. I don’t need to put Maquel in that situation. I should’ve called a better play,” Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo said on pressboxonline.com. “That play just changed the complexion of the game. When you’re playing a team like that, you can’t miss those opportunities.”
The starting quarterback is likely still to be Tai Lavatai (6-2, 221), who has the size to be effective in the option game. He just needs to take care of the football. Navy has 399 yards rushing and 199.5 yards per game on the ground. That's basically their only semblance of an offense because they average just 117 passing yards and are completing 8-of-24 passes.
Defensively, Navy needs the offense to take care of the ball and also own the time of possession. They controlled the time of possession against Memphis and allowed just 91 rushing yards. But also allowed 415 yards in the air as Seth Henigan went 24-of-34. The only chance the Mids have against ECU is to control the clock on offense and not turn the ball over. They are going to give up some big plays in the air most likely. A week off will help them make some adjustments on both sides of the ball.
Ahlers is on a missionSenior QB Holton Ahlers (6-4, 230) is never going to win a Heisman Trophy, but the five-year starter at ECU is putting up some pretty incredible numbers for a Group of Five quarterback this season and in his career. Ahlers completed 17 of 20 for 263 yards and three TDs against Campbell last week in an easy 49-10 win that saw the Pirates down 10-7 after one quarter. That woke the offense up as they scored the next 42 points to get the easy win over an FCS squad.
Ahlers now has 12,232 total yards to surpass Shane Carden for number one in ECU history. He needs just 86 yards to move past Desmond Ridder and become the all-time total yards leader in AAC history. He's already first in league history in passing yards with 11,019.
Ahlers has 800 passing yards this season with seven TDs and two picks. He also has 49 rushing yards and that is the underrated part of his game. That he's a big quarterback who has the ability to run the ball in Mike Houston's spread offense. Ahlers isn't the only weapon as running back Keaton Mitchell rushed for 185 yards last week and 160 in their 39-21 win over ODU. he rushed for 1,132 yards last season.
But like many teams in the AAC, the Pirates will go as far as their defense takes them. Their run defense, which is the only thing that matters against Navy, is allowing just 89.7 yards per game. Last season, they gave up 345 yards rushing against the Mids.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
I don't like this Navy team this season. They lost one of their best linebackers ever in Diego Fagot, who had a brief look with the Ravens in the NFL preseason. They still seem to lack an athlete at quarterback who can make great decisions and is twitchy. You have to be more quick than fast in that option offense and Lavatai doesn't appear to be that guy. Even if they limit the turnovers, they don't have the athletes to slow down Isaiah Winstead (17 catches for 259 yards), the Toledo transfer and a strong group of receivers. The Pirates could be a sleeper in the AAC and the Mids will be near the bottom again.
Full-Game Total Pick
ECU could go over by themselves. That's how explosive their offense can be, especially at home. Last season, the Pirates allowed 35 points, but scored 38 from Annapolis. I don't Navy scoring nearly that much, but the Pirates could easily put up 40+ points. They scored 39 at home against a pretty good ODU defense that held Virginia and Virginia Tech to a combined 33 points. They also put up 20 points at NC State on the road. This is a very tough offense to slow down. Navy, after a bye, will score some enough points to put this one over the total.