A little shine was taken off of this game when Houston lost to Connecticut in strange fashion last Saturday, but the winner of this game will win the American Athletic Conference West title and have home field advantage in the conference championship next weekend.
Season so far
Houston runs a smash mouth spread offense as well as anyone in the country and had been rising solidly up the rankings until the aforementioned loss to the Huskies. The opening ten wins included a 34-31 victory over Louisville and a 34-0 demolition of a Vanderbilt squad that has been one of the most improved defensive teams in the country in 2015. Until the UConn game, the Houston offense had been sensational all year and the Cougars had not been held to less than 33 points all season. There were some close calls in the victories such as a 35-34 win over Memphis and a 33-30 win over Cincinnati, but this team is the best (other than Notre Dame) that the Mids have faced all year.
Injuries and Suspensions
The big injury here is to quarterback Greg Ward Jr., a player who is a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender. Ward Jr. was unable to play against UConn, only coming in on the final drive when his backup was injured. Ward Jr. then threw an interception to seal the game for the Huskies as he tried to play on a rolled ankle. The injury is still severe enough for him to be on the injury report and this is a situation that deserves monitoring especially with the game coming up on Friday.
Houston, as with most teams, has a large number of players on the injury report at this point in the season. The offensive line has been particularly hard hit with three linemen out for the season and a fourth questionable for the Navy game with a stinger suffered last weekend.
It is all about the offense with the Cougars. Prior to the UConn game, or with a healthy first string quarterback, Houston has averaged 521 yards and 43.5 points per game. If Ward is good to go then the Navy defense is going to have to stand up yet again and play its best game of the season. Memphis presented a similar challenge to Houston in terms of points scoring and the Mids shut down that particular attack. Houston brings a different scheme to the table, but if the Mids can get the option rolling and control tempo then Houston will have a hard time doing everything it wants to on the offensive side of the ball.