HEAD TO HEAD: NAVY VS. PITTSBURGH

Navy hosts Pittsburgh on Saturday. GoMids.com's Jim Lawler compares the two teams in several critical areas. We also make a prediction on the game's final score.

Navy hosts Pittsburgh on Saturday. GoMids.com's Jim Lawler compares the two teams in several critical areas. We also make a prediction on the game's final score.

NAVY PASSING OFFENSE
VS.
PITTSBURGH PASSING DEFENSE
EDGE: PITTSBURGH
REMARKS: Keenan Reynolds has completed 31 of 56 passes (59.1%) for 562 passing yards with three touchdowns and an interception this year. Noah Copeland caught a 20-yard touchdown pass against Toledo DeBrandon Sanders lead the team with nine receptions for 176 yards, a 19.6 average, and one touchdown. Starting wide receivers Casey Bolena (6 rec., 81 yards, 13.5 avg.) and Matt Aiken (4 rec., 56 yards, 14.0 avg.) didn't catch a pass against Toledo. The new rebuilt Mid offensive line has struggled in pass protection. They hope to get guard Thomas Stone back this week. Stone has been out since being injured against Western Kentucky.

Pitt's pass defense is ranked 74th in the nation and is allowing more than 237 passing yards per game. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald has 26.5 career sacks. This season he has eight sacks and 12.5 tackles for a loss in six games this year. Senior strong safety Jason Hendricks has recorded 40 tackles, two tackles for a loss, one interception and one forced fumble. Michigan transfer Ray Vinopal (38 tackles, INT., 3 PD) is the new starting free safety job. Cornerback K'Wuan Williams has 5 interceptions over the last two years. Williams and fellow cornerback Lafayette Pitts (22 tackles) have been starters the past two years. If forced to pass the Mids offensive line may be over matched by a Pitt defensive team that has posted 23 sacks this year.

NAVY RUSHING OFFENSE
VS.
PITTSBURGH RUSHING DEFENSE
EDGE: NAVY
REMARKS: Navy option offense is ranked sixth in the nation. They are averaging over 304 rushing yards per game. Navy ran for 419 rushing yards, a 4.5 average and scored five rushing touchdowns. Keenan Reynolds (453 rushing yards, 10 TDs) scored three touchdowns last week. Navy's fullbacks Noah Copeland, 153 yards and Chris Swain 62 yards, one touchdown, combined for 215 yards on 41 carries against Toledo. Copeland had the best game of his career as he often broke tackles with second effort and read the holes well. Geoffrey Whiteside (154 yards, 3 TDs) returned against Toledo after missing three games. He scored on a 9-yard touchdown in overtime last week. Marcus Thomas (199 yards, 13.3) ran for a career high 79 rushing yards last week.

Pitts's 4-3 defense is ranked 36th in the nation against the run. They are allowing just over 136 rushing yards a game. Junior linebacker Anthony Gonzalez lead the Panther defense with 41 tackles, three pass break-ups, 1 1/2 tackles for a loss and an interception. The converted quarterback is a very mobile and athletic defender. Senior defensive tackle Aaron Donald is a great player and an All-American candidate. Last year Donald dominated with 64 tackles with 18.5 tackles for loss. Junior Will outside linebacker Todd Thomas (59 tackles in 2012) is a good player who is from the Beaver Falls area which is the hometown of Joe Namath.

PITTSBURGH PASSING OFFENSE
VS.
NAVY PASSING DEFENSE
EDGE: NAVY
REMARKS: Pitt senior quarterback Tom Savage is a two time transfer. Savage was one of the most highly regarded quarterback recruits when he signed at Rutgers in 2009. Savage made the freshman All-American team with 14 touchdowns. He lost the job as a sophomore and transferred to Arizona. At Arizona he sat out the 2011 season but left after Rich Rodriguez was hired since he was no longer in the plans. He transferred to Pitt and sat out last year once again as a transfer. Savage has completed 88-of-155 passes (56.8%) for 1,343 passing yards for 11 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. Savage had a great arm but isn't mobile in the pocket. Senior Devin Street (73 receptions for 975 yards in 2012) missed last week's game and is listed as questionable for Navy. Street has 26 receptions for 549 yards, a 21.1 average and three touchdowns. True freshman sensation wide receiver Tyler Boyd leads the Panthers with 31 catches for 491 yards, 15.8 average and four touchdowns. Tight end Manasseh Garner (9 rec., 96 yards, 2 TDs) caught a touchdown pass against Old Dominion last week. Sophomore tight end J.P. Holtz (4 rec., 38 yards, 0 TDs) is more of a blocking tight end. Pitt has allowed 14 sacks this year.

Navy's pass defense is ranked 27th in the nation allowing just 207 passing yards per game. The Mids did a great job limiting Toledo quarterback Terrance Owens to just 11-of-20 passes for only 105 yards and a touchdown with an interception in the last game. Cornerback Parrish Gaines (30 tackles, INT, 2 PD ) knocked down a pass on third down to force a punt before the game tying drive last week. Rover Wave Ryder (20 tackles, INT) was beat by Bernard Reedy for a 20-yard touchdown pass in overtime last week. Safety Chris Ferguson (25 tackles) missed last week but is listed as probable to play. The Mids have done a solid job in pass coverage this year.

PITTSBURGH RUSHING OFFENSE
VS.
NAVY RUSHING DEFENSE
EDGE: PITTSBURGH
REMARKS: Isaac Bennett had a huge game last week against Old Dominion. Bennett had 30 carries for 240 yards and three touchdowns. On the season Bennett leads the team with 450 rushing yards and averaged 5.8 rushing yards and five touchdowns. Freshman James Conner also rotates in with Bennett. Conner has rushed for 354 rushing yards, a 5.5 average and four touchdowns. Pitt is averaging over 141 rushing yards and twelve touchdowns this year. Quarterback Tom Savage (2 TDs) is strictly a drop back passer without much mobility.

The Mids allowed 321 rushing yards, 7.0 yards a carry and four rushing touchdowns last week to the Rockets in a poor performance. The Mids defensive captain Cody Peterson (60 tackles) knocked Toledo running back David Fluellen out of the game last week. Peterson is 20th in the nation in total tackles averaging 10 tackles per game. Fellow inside linebacker D.J. Sargenti is 31st in the country in solo tackles averaging 5.5 per game. Navy's defensive backs had a miserable day attempting to make tackles in the open field against Toledo. The Mids are now ranked 98th in the nation and allowing over 196 rushing yards per game. To win this game Navy has to go a better job against the run.

SPECIAL TEAMS
EDGE: PITTSBURGH
REMARKS: The Pitt kicker is true freshman Chris Blewitt. He has hit 4-of-6 field goals and 22-of-23 PATs. Senior punter Matt Yoklic is averaging 43.9 yards on 32 punts to rank third in the ACC and 17th nationally. Kevin Weatherspoon is a top punt returner. Last week he had a 56 yard punt return. Weatherspoon has seven punt returns for 81 yards, an average of 11.6 yards per return. Tyler Boyd is averaging 20.9 yards on kickoff returns. The Pitt coverage teams have allowed a punt return for a touchdown and has troubling covering both punts and kick offs this year.

Navy kicker Nick Sloan had a rough game last week. Sloan missed a 38-yard field goal in the first half that hooked left. Sloan hit a clutch 40-yard field goal to force overtime. Sloan went from hero to goat when he missed an extra point which contributed to the Mids losing the game. Sloan has hit 4-of-7 field goal attempts this year. Punter Pablo Beltran is having a great season. He is averaging 44.3 yards per punt on his 19 punts with eight downed inside the 20-yard line. Marcus Thomas is averaging 21.0 yards per kickoff return and nearly broke a return against Toledo. Punt returner Shawn Lynch is averaging 7.0 per punt return. The coverage teams have been played well this season.

INTANGIBLES
EDGE: NAVY
REMARKS: Navy needs this game. The Mids, since the 2003 season, has won 20 games against schools from a BCS conference. The 20 wins against BCS schools during that time period, which have come against 10 different teams, are the most in the country by a non-BCS school. The Mids have lost 5 of their last 7 homecoming games. The big crowd should be pumped up and provide a lot of energy.

COACHING
EDGE: NAVY
REMARKS: Paul Chryst has a 10-9 career record at Pitt. Chryst was the former offensive coordinator at Oregon State and Wisconsin. During his six seasons with Wisconsin with Chryst as offensive coordinator the Badgers won at least 10 games four times from 2006-11. Chryst's final year at Wisconsin his offense set a school record with 618 points.

Ken Niumatalolo has a 43-29 record as head coach at Navy. He needs a big effort from his team after last week's disappointing loss. Offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper had his running game rolling last week. The hurry-up look on offense worked well on short yardage plays. The Mids rebuilt offensive line continues to struggle in pass protection but may get guard Thomas Stone back this week. Buddy Green's defense had Toledo confused most of the day with his coverages. Poor tackling, not the game plan, cost the Mids the Toledo game even more than the kicking struggles.

PREDICTION: Navy, 31-28. Both offenses have scored a lot of points in three games while their offenses have struggled in the other two. Pitt is the favorite but I believe the Mids are primed for a huge effort in front of a Homecoming day crowd to pull the upset.

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