The Navy Midshipmen (2-0) will meet the Tulane Green Wave (1-1) at Yulman Stadium in New Orleans, Louisiana, this Saturday. This is the AAC opener for Tulane, while the Mids are already 1-0 in conference play having beaten UConn last week. Navy has not had the best of times in new Orleans in recent visits, so let's look at the head to head and see if that run of bad luck will change.
NAVY PASSING OFFENSE
TULANE PASSING DEFENSE
REMARKS: Navy still doesn't want to pass the ball all that much, but with Will Worth at quarterback, it seems that Ken Niumatalolo might open the playbook a little more. Worth has passed for 208 yards in a game and a half, throwing for 130 yards on six completions against UConn a week ago. The Tulane pass defense did fine against an anemic Wake Forst offense (that passed for just 79 yards), but it did give up 269 yards through the air to Southern quarterback Austin Howard in week 2.
NAVY RUSHING OFFENSE
TULANE RUSHING DEFENSE
REMARKS: The Navy rushing offense was great in week 1 and just ok win week 2. Much of this was due to a very underrated Connecticut defensive front that has all the size needed to stop the option blocking scheme. Tulane does not have that same size up front, though the Green Wave did do an outstanding job against the Navy attack last season when the Mids rushed for just 133 yards as a team. That mark was almost 200 yards below the Mids season average, but it will be interesting to see how a coaching change has impacted Tulane's ability to stop Navy. The nod goes to the Mids here, but it is tight.
TULANE PASSING OFFENSE
NAVY PASSING DEFENSE
REMARKS: The Tulane offense is going to look more like the Georgia Southern offense head coach Willie Fritz ran last year as the season evolves. That means that the Green Wave will marry themselves to the rushing concepts of the spread option and the pass will be something of an afterthought. That will certainly be the case on Saturday as true freshman quarterback Johnathan Brantley gets the start. Brantley is an exhilirating runner, but he was just 1-for-4 passing for seven yards against Southern. The Navy pass defense is a weakness, but they won't be tested this week.
TULANE RUSHING OFFENSE
NAVY RUSHING DEFENSE
REMARKS: The Green Wave come into this game on the back of their first 60+ point performance since 1998. The 66-21 win over Southern also featured the school's third-highest rushing total for a single game with 427 yards on the ground. That Fritz has been able to install this rushing scheme so quickly is stunningly impressive. The Navy defense, led by Daniel Gonzales at the second level, will not allow the big gains Southern did, but Fritz has a solid plan that will allow Tulane to move the ball.
REMARKS: The Navy return game has been very good so far in 2016 and the punt returners, in particular, have been a single broken tackle away from a couple of scores. The other huge asset for Navy is punter Erik Harris who has a cannon of a leg. Harris had two punts against UConn after replacing Alex Barta after he shanked a punt. Harris had two punts, one of which went for 63-yards and that ultimately led to the Mids go ahead score. It will be very interesting to see if Harris keeps the job on Saturday.
REMARKS: Ken Niumatalolo is able to keep Navy winning even in games like last week where it looked like the Mids would crumble after forgoing a 21-0 lead. Niumatalolo is not afraid of the difficult decisions, as evidenced by the Harris for Barta swap. he also continually gets the most out of his players. Fritz is taking a bit of a gamble in starting Brantley as he was the Green Wave's third stringer on opening day. How he handles Brantley if he struggles will be very interesting to watch.
REMARKS:Bothe Navy and Tulane come into the game on the back of wins. Tulane, in particular, is on a high as their win was of the dominant sort that this team hasn't seen in almost two decades. Tulane is also at home, in a city where Navy is winless in their last four visits. Having said all that it is just difficult to beat Navy right now. The team is disciplined (two penalties per game) and even when the Mids are down, as they were last week, there is a calmness about the squad that allows them to get back into games. Tulane has to prove it can win big contests and an upset of Navy would be a good start.
PREDICTION: Navy 35, Tulane 21. This will be high scoring as Tulane has figured out how to make its offense work. Both teams want to run the ball and the clock will keep running as the ball will rarely be put in the air. The Navy offense is getting more comfortable under Worth and the Mids will win a game that is decided in the trenches.