NAVY AT SMU: HEAD TO HEAD

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NAVY PASSING OFFENSE VS. SMU PASSING DEFENSE
EDGE: SMU
The Navy passing offense continues to go from strength to strength under quarterback Will Worth. Worth is 66 of 108 attempts for 1,259 yards, seven touchdowns, and three interceptions. Worth is the only quarterback Navy has used since Tago Smith went down for the year. Worth completes his passes at a 61.1% clip, benefiting from the passes out of the option look. Against ECU, Worth completed just three passes, but all were for big gains as he passed for 113 yards. Two of those passes were to favorite target Jamir Tillman.

Last time out SMU was defeated 35-27 in a close contest by USF and Bulls quarterback Quinton Flowers passed for 195 yards and three touchdowns (with one pick). Teams average 255.1 yards passing against SMU and have scored 21 touchdowns through the air. The Mustangs defense is very good when the ball is in the air, ranking fourth in the country with 18 interceptions, four of which have been returned for touchdowns. Getting pressure on the quarterback has also proven to be an area SMU is proficient in and the Mustangs have 29 sacks on the season and the school is tied for 27th in the country in that area.

NAVY RUSHING OFFENSE VS. SMU RUSHING DEFENSE
EDGE: NAVY

We all know that Navy wants to run the ball all day long and the Mids average an obscene 326.6 yards per game on the ground. The Mids leading rusher on the year is quarterback Will Worth who has 1,074 yards and 22 touchdowns on 243 carries. Worth rushed for 159 yards and four scores against ECU as he again did his best Keenan Reynolds impression and he is looking to take some of Reynolds single season records over the next few weeks. Chris High is still the leading rusher among backs with 473 yards and five of the Mids 44 rushing touchdowns. Navy rushed for nine touchdowns last weekend.

The Mustangs rushing defense, like the SMU defense, in general, has suffered from the rate at which their offense scores. SMU ranks 78th in the nation in rushing defense and they give up 184.5 yards per game on the ground. SMU has also allowed 21 touchdowns rushing, something that will be music to the ears of Worth and company given that Navy has averaged over 40 points per game over its last six outings.

SMU PASSING OFFENSE VS. NAVY PASSING DEFENSE
EDGE: SMU

SMU has passed for 2,837 yards this season on 217 receptions and has 20 passing touchdowns. Most of those passes have come from impressive freshman QB Ben Hicks who has attempted 378 passes, and 203 have been completed sitting at roughly 54% on the season. This is a dangerous but mistake-prone passing attack that has seen Hicks throw for 20 scores and 15 picks. The major factor in this passing attack is WR Courtland Sutton. Sutton has 70 receptions for 1,186 yards and nine touchdowns on the season and the sophomore has exploded late in the year with 25 receptions in his last two games. Sutton had 252 yards and two touchdowns receiving last weekend.

The Navy passing defense has been an issue all year long as Navy has had to outscore opponents to win. The Mids now rank 104th in the nation in passing yards allowed per game at 258.3. Navy has also given up a number of touchdowns in the air over the course of wins against Notre Dame, Tulsa, and ECU and has now given up 21 passing touchdowns on the season. Navy has been awful when it comes to taking the ball away from the opposition in the passing game. No picks last weekend means Navy is still stuck on four for the season, meaning that it now ranks 121st in that category with a number of other schools.

SMU RUSHING OFFENSE VS. NAVY RUSHING DEFENSE
EDGE: NAVY

The SMU rushing attack is serviceable and their lead back is capable of having very big days. Running back Braeden West ran the ball for 120 yards on 29 carries against USF, but he was unable to find the end zone. On the season West has carried the ball 190 times for 988 yards and six touchdowns. Backup Ke’Mon Freeman has carried 136 times for 593 yards and three scores. As a team, SMU is the 71st ranked rushing team in the country at 169.4 yards per game.

The Navy defense did a decent job last weekend against ECU. The Pirates rushed for 175 yards and one touchdown on the day, with lead back James Summers going for 134 yards on 14 carries. That doesn’t appear to be all that great, but 81 of those yards came on on long touchdown run that should have been stopped before it got going. Navy ranks 77th in the nation in rushing defense, giving up 183 yards per game on the ground. Navy has a rushing defense that does clamp down in the red zone and the Mids have given up just 14 touchdowns on the ground.

SPECIAL TEAMS
EDGE: TIE

Navy’s Bennett Moehring was perfect on the day against ECU and has now connected on 5-of-7 field goals with a long of 40 yards on the year. Moehring has missed one extra point (47-of-48) and both his field goal misses were in the 30-39 yard bracket. The Navy return game is strong and punter Alex Batra booted his one kick 45 yards (with no return) against the Pirates.

The Mustangs have Josh Williams doing most of their kicking this season, and he has been better than average for SMU. Williams is 80% for the season on field goals as he has hit 16-of-20 on an offense that has a tendency to stall out in field goal range. An incredible 13 of Williams’ 16 made field goals this year have come in the 2-29 yard range, further enforcing the fact that SMU struggles to score when in the red zone. Williams has not even attempted a kick from longer than 50 yards and he is just 1-of-3 in the 40-49 yard bracket.

COACHING
EDGE: NAVY

Second-year SMU head coach Chad Morris is 7-16 with the Mustangs. Morris is another of the Texas college head coaches who was plucked from the high school ranks, a trait that seems to be unique to that part of the country. Morris served for 16 years as a head coach in various high schools, compiling a 169-38 record in the process. Morris spent one year at Tulsa before becoming (at the time) the highest paid assistant in college football as the offensive coordinator at Tulsa.

Ninth-year Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo is 75-39 at Navy. He previously was the offensive line coach at Navy under Paul Johnson and took the head coaching role for the Mids’ bowl game at the end of the 2007 season. Niumatalolo previously coached on staffs ate Hawaii and UNLV and with a win last weekend Navy clinches the first division title (AAC West) of Niumatalolo’s career.

INTANGIBLES
EDGE: NAVY

SMU knows it has to win to get a bowl bid and complete their turnaround from a 2-10 team in Morris’ first year to being a viable program in his second year. Navy knows a win, along with results going their way, would bring the AAC Title Game to Annapolis next weekend. The big unknown here though is how distracted Morris and his team will be by the head coach’s flirtation with the open position at Baylor. It seems to be a matter of when as opposed to if Morris will take that gig and at some level that has to work against the Mustangs here.

Prediction:  Navy 52, SMU 28. Both teams will score, but Navy will not stop scoring until the clock runs out and the Mids will wear down SMU with the option and move to 9-2.

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