Navy has moved to No. 15 in the College Playoff rankings, but a season’s worth of hard work would be undone with a loss in south Texas. A win puts Navy in the AAC Championship game (at home) next weekend, but as the Group of Five rep in a New Year’s Six bowl game has to be a conference champion, a loss knocks Navy out of the running.
Here are the three keys to defeating the Cougars:
1) Rushing domination
After two weeks against awful rushing defenses the Mids are about to come up against a team that has stonewalled the opposition this year on the ground. Houston ranks first in the conference, and 11th nationally, against the run and allows just 114.8 yards per game. Navy, of course, has been just dominant on the ground in 2015 and averages almost 350 yards per game, which is good for second nationally in the statistic. Interestingly, the Houston run defense has been a little off the last two weeks as they have allowed back to back 100 yard rushers after not allowing any back to gain over 100 yards during their first nine games of the season. Navy has to commit to the run and not alter the game plan if the Cougars are able to stop the dive early.
2) Get a body on Elandon Roberts
Houston linebacker Elandon Roberts is a tacking machine. Roberts leads the American with 120 total tackle, is fourth in the nation with 7.1 solo tackles per game and seventh in total tackles with 10.9 per game. Getting second level blocking on Roberts is going to be huge on Friday. If he is left to roam the second level of the defense then Roberts will use his high level instincts to be in the right place at the right time to stop potentially game breaking runs for four or five yard gains. If, however, the center and guards can get to Roberts and nullify his lateral movement then the Mids will have taken a huge part of the Houston defense out of the picture. Watching this battle within the game will be fun as it will have a huge impact on the outcome.
3) Prove this Navy defense is for real
The Navy offense has always been a headache for the opposition to deal with. The difference this year is that the Navy defense has been better than any in recent memory, by a lot. Only Notre Dame has been able to score more than 21 points on a Navy defense that has faced its fair share of potent units in the AAC. Navy has been good against both the run and the pass and, critically, the defense has stood up time and time again in the red zone. The Mids have won each of the last five games by no less than a dozen points and the team is on a roll. Houston, on the other hand, has injury questions and has to try to pick up their game after last week’s crushing loss. If the defense can stand up and cause a turnover or two then Navy should win.