The Navy Midshipmen (3-0) come off of the bye this weekend to travel out to Colorado Springs and take on the Air Force Falcons (3-0). This is, of course, the first game of the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy series, a series that Navy are the defending champions. It is fair to say that after four weeks of the season it appears that the service academies as a unit are playing their best football in decades, so Navy will have to have used the bye wisely to prepare for this contest.
Here are the three keys to beating the Falcons:
1) Win the rushing battle
It is always going to be important for Navy to win the rushing battle and control time of possession, but that need is magnified against the other service academies as they all run versions of the same basic offensive concept. Navy is currently the third ranked academy in rushing yards per game (fifth overall in the nation) with 316 yards per game on the ground. That is an impressive number, but it is far behind first placed Army (375 ypg) and second placed Air Force (359 ypg) units. Navy does, however, score more touchdowns on the ground than the Falcons, outpacing them by 12 touchdowns to nine so far in 2016.
2) Handling the altitude
There is nothing like playing a game at altitude. You can prepare and try to minimize the effects that the altitude will have, but trying to get your breath back after sprinting when playing at such a high level is almost impossible. To make preparation even more difficult, everyone feels the effects of playing at altitude in a different way. Some players will tire early, making Navy vulnerable in the fourth quarter, while others will never be able to play at their maximum level due to the conditions. If Navy is sluggish and tired looking then the Falcons will be quick to take advantage.
3) Continue the success on third down
Army lost at Buffalo last weekend in large part because the Black Knights failed to convert so many of their third down opportunities. Navy is currently third in the nation when it comes to third down conversions, getting the first down on almost 56% of their opportunities. The way the triple-option works, Navy should be seeing more third and short chances than anyone else in the country, but the ability to convert those is what will make this Navy team stand out. As an aside, the Mids are only 33.3% for the year on fourth down, a stat that needs to be picked up as the defenses that Navy faces will only get tougher, starting with Air Force on Saturday.null