Navy travels south to Oklahoma on Saturday to take on Tulsa. The 3-0 (2-0 AAC) Midshipmen will be in great shape in the division with a win here as no other team in the AAC West has played a conference game coming into the weekend. Tulsa is 1-3 on the season, but it is a record that could easily be 2-2 or 3-1 with better breaks.
Here are the three keys to this one:
Win the third down battle
Navy and Tulsa are the two best teams in the AAC on third downs by a wide margin. Tulsa is actually the better of the two teams, converting third downs at a 52.86-percent clip, while Navy is right there with the Golden Hurricane as the Mids convert at a 52.5-percent rate. For comparison’s sake, the next best team in the conference Houston and the Cougars are converting third downs into first downs 43.75-percent of the time.
It will be interesting to see if these rates keep up through this one. Interestingly the Mids have allowed just 13 conversions on third down (out of 41 attempts) this season so far. Tulsa allows conversions at a much higher rate (21 of 43 attempts) and this suggests that Navy will have the overall advantage on third down when both offense and defense is taken into account.
Stop D’Angelo Brewer
Tulsa was pretty anemic on offense last weekend against New Mexico, but that was an outlier given their season so far. Scoring 24 points on Oklahoma State to open up was just the beginning, as the offense really kicked into gear against Louisiana-Lafayette (66 points) and Toledo (54) points. The common theme here is that none of those teams were able to stop senior running back D’Angelo Brewer.
Brewer leads the entire AAC in rushing yards with 548 and he is tied for second in the conference in rushing touchdowns with five. Taking out the game against OSU, Brewer has rushed for at least 130 yards in every game this season. He is the one player that Tulsa has who can hurt Navy with a grinding performance, but the Mids did hold the running back to just 81 yards last season.
Keep running the ball
It is hard to see Tulsa stopping the Navy offensive machine. In Zach Abey the Mids have a quarterback who is a perfect fit for the running portion of the triple-option. Ideally, Abey would be better in the passing game too, but Abey has rushed for almost 500 yards and scored four touchdowns in the Mids three games so far in 2017. Tulsa has not really shown that they can stop anyone defensively – Toledo scored 51 points a couple of weeks ago – and Abey should have a field day running through the red dirt in Oklahoma.