The loss to the Air Force Falcons (4-0) last Saturday means that the Navy Midshipmen (3-1) are in a tricky spot. One of the goals every year is to win the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy and while Army is good enough this year to surprise the Falcons and open the door for Navy, it is out of the Mids hands. Now all Navy has to do is turn around from an emotional loss to face the No. 6 team in the entire country, the Houston Cougars (5-0).
Season so far
Many thought that the Cougars had peaked after a 2015 season that saw the school go 13-1, winning the American Athletic Conference and beating No. 9 Florida State in the Peach Bowl. If the first month or so of the season is any indication, however, then these Cougars are looking to fight their way into one of the four College Football playoff spots this fall.
The Cougars started the season with the biggest bang of any team in the country when they defeated No. 3 Oklahoma on the opening weekend. It was a stunning upset as the AAC squad took down the favorites for the Big XII Championship. Houston put up 33 points in beating the Sooners, proving that the offense led by Greg Ward Jr. can work against any school in the country.
Houston followed up that marquee victory with a run of the mill 42-0 win over Lamar (FCS) in a potential letdown game. With that out of the way the Cougars have picked up a couple of conferences wins over Cincinnati (40-16) and UConn (42-14), along with a thumping of Texas State (64-3). With a huge matchup to come on the penultimate weekend of the season against Louisville, it is safe to say that the season has gone perfectly for Houston so far.
Injuries and Suspensions
Navy knows just how far you can go with a quarterback that is playing at a higher level than anyone else on the field. That is why the big news for Houston fans is that Ward does not appear anywhere on the injury report. As long as he stays healthy and can be the dynamic dual-threat that he has become at the college level the Cougars are going to be a match for anyone.
There are a number of question marks about the status of Houston players for Saturday however. One of the biggest names on the list is Houston's cornerback/return specialist Brandon Wilson. Wilson has been limited in practice after missing the last two weeks with a lower leg injury and as the veteran leader of the Cougars secondary they would like to get him back in the game.
This game is a massive test on every front for Navy. The Mids passing defense has been torched so far this season and they have yet to face anyone near the quality of Ward at the quarterback position. He has thrown for eight touchdowns (in limited time) and it is hard to see Navy effectively stopping the Heisman candidate.
In truth though the biggest challenge is going to be getting the running game going again. The performance on the ground against Air Force was so bad that it was shocking. Navy is down to averaging just over 250 yards per game rushing, down a full 75 yards on the average per game from 2015. It is not like Houston are bringing a porous defense to Annapolis either. The Cougars are one of the best teams in the nation defensively, it just doesn't get mentioned that much because the offense is the star of the show. For Navy to have any chance in this one head coach Ken Niumatalolo will have to challenge every player on the squad to have their best game of the season so far.