The Navy Midshipmen (3-0) will meet the Air Force Falcons (3-0) at Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, this Saturday. There is a lot going on in the game between the Mids and the Falcons this year. Both are undefeated heading into the contest and the winner will likely be getting some Top 25 buzz on the reverse side. Also either Navy or Air Force has won the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy for the last 20 years, so the winner of this is going to have one hand on that prize.
NAVY PASSING OFFENSE
AIR FORCE PASSING DEFENSE
EDGE: AIR FORCE
REMARKS: Will Worth is doing a solid job replacing Tago Smith at quarterback, but this is not a great matchup for the Mids through the air. Worth has thrown 23 passes and completed 14 of them this season for over 260 yards and a touchdown. The Air Force defence is ranked at No. 27 in the country in scoring defense and they have allowed just 54 points to this point in the season. Passing could be an important key to opening up the Air Force defense, but it has to be passing done at the right time for Navy to be effective
NAVY RUSHING OFFENSE
AIR FORCE RUSHING DEFENSE
REMARKS: What happens when an unstoppable force hits an unmovable object will help determine the outcome of this game. The Navy offense has rushed for over 316 yards per game, good for fifth in the nation, and it is an attack that is only going to get better as Worth becomes more comfortable with the scheme. The Air Force rushing defense has been lights out though through the first three games. The Falcons allow just 2.01 yards per carry and under 52 yards per game rushing, albeit to some challenged, lower-level offenses. Navy has to find a way to take over on the ground.
AIR FORCE PASSING OFFENSE
NAVY PASSING DEFENSE
REMARKS: The Navy passing defense has been probably the Mids weakest unit so far this season, but with Air Force being very much a run first offense it is hard to tell how much they will be tested on Saturday. Air Force ranks at No. 123 (out of 128) in the country in passing yards per game at just 127 yards per contest. Falcons quarterback Nate Romine has thrown for three touchdowns and taken three sacks, but he has yet to make a mistake and throw an interception on the season. If Navy can harass Romine and force him into a mistake then this is a battle the Mids can win.
AIR FORCE RUSHING OFFENSE
NAVY RUSHING DEFENSE
EDGE: AIR FORCE
REMARKS: The Falcons rushing offense is their strength on that side of the ball as they use simple principles, albeit in a very different style, to the Mids own triple-option attack. Air Force boasts the No. 2 rushing attack in the nation and they have six guys who have carried the ball for over 100 yards on the season through just three games. The leader here is fullback Jacobi Owens who leads the team with 203 yards, but it is an offensive system that spreads the ball around to unbalance a defense. The Navy rushing defense has not been great, though the Mids did do a number on Fordham running back Chase Edmonds earlier in the year.
EDGE: AIR FORCE
REMARKS: In a game that looks to be balanced on paper, it could well be special teams that provide an edge one way or the other. Navy is blessed with a number of good return guys, but so is Air Force. One worry when looking at special teams stats is that Falcons kicker Luke Strebel is a perfect 5-for-5 on field goal attempts this season, while Bennett Moehring of Navy is just 1-for-2 and has also missed an extra point. It will be interesting to see if kicking at altitude is something the Navy kick and punt teams can adjust to.
REMARKS: Ken Niumatalolo is one of the best coaches in the country and it just feels like he will have to do one of his best gameday coaching jobs in a while for Navy to have a chance in this one. Niumatalolo is especially good at getting his team fired up against adversity and he loves the role of the underdog. This is the first time in 2016 that Navy will not be favored at kickoff, giving Niumatalolo that extra bit of fire to light under his squad.
REMARKS:The biggest intangible for Saturday is that this game means more than football to both sets of players. Navy is currently holding the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy, and you can bet your house that Niumatalolo will have them in the right frame of mind to go out and defend it. On the other hand, Air Force will be determined to win the trophy back and with a resurgent Army waiting in the wings neither team will want to face being swept by the other academies. Controlling the ball and controlling the clock, something both teams are good at, will be crucial as the game wears on.
PREDICTION: Air Force 24, Navy 20. Ths game is about as close as it gets on paper and in those situations the lean is always on the home side. Whichever team is able to run the ball more effectively will win this game.null