Navy travels to Dallas on Saturday afternoon knowing that a win would give the Mids a shot at hosting the AAC Championship Game on December 3.
Here are the three keys to beating the Mustangs:
1) Play Better Defense
The Mids have proven over the last few weeks that they can score the ball (and run the ball) on anyone in the country. The problem has been that the Navy defense has struggled at times to keep up with the scoring power of the offense and has leaked points in a big way. Navy gives up 30 points per game, which ranks 76th in the country. SMU has a decent enough offensive attack to give the Navy defense problems, especially as quarterback Ben Hicks has been throwing the ball well over the past few weeks.
What Hicks sometimes struggles with is his decision making in tough spots as he sometimes trusts the strength of his arm more than he should. This happened last week when Hicks threw three picks against South Florida. If Hicks has another multiple interception game then it will obviously be in the favor of Navy.
2) Pound The Life Out of SMU
There are few teams in the country that can keep the ball on the ground for nearly 90% of their offensive plays and still win games at the rate Navy does under head coach Ken Niumatalolo. Quarterback Will Worth has been nothing short of a revelation in his one season under center. Worth has rushed for 1,074 yards and an incredible 22 touchdowns while adding 1,259 yards and seven more touchdowns through the air. Don’t look now, but Worth looks set to blow away the totals put up by academy legend Keenan Reynolds last season as he has four games remaining in the 2016 season.
The Navy rushing attack has slowly been moving up the rankings this season and the Mids now sit third in the country as they rush for over 326 yards per game. Navy also has five more rushing touchdowns (44) than the second highest scoring team on the ground (Michigan 39).
3) Pass Wisely
The SMU defense isn’t particularly outstanding, but the Mustangs do know how to get to the passer with a rush that is tied for 27th in the nation with 29 sacks through 11 games. Obviously this is not as much of a problem for Navy as some other teams as the Mids are much more interested in rushing the ball and passing out of that look, but Worth has proven time after time that he is one of the best passers at the quarterback position for the academy in a long time and Niumatalolo likes to give Worth some shots downfield. SMU sacks the quarterback an average of 2.64 times per game, so the Navy pass protection has to be great whenever the team is looking to move the ball through the air.