The Navy Midshipmen (3-1) will meet the Houston Cougars (5-0) at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, this Saturday. This is the second week in a row that Navy will be facing an undefeated team and this week the competition os even better than the Air Force team that beat Navy 28-14 last Saturday. The No. 6 ranked Cougars are the highest ranked road team to visit the Mids in over 30 years and the Navy team that steps onto the field on Saturday will have to be prepared for once of the best offenses in the country.
NAVY PASSING OFFENSE
HOUSTON PASSING DEFENSE
REMARKS: The passing game is not Navy's strength, but it had an important role to play last week against Air Force. Will Worth is completing 58.5% of his passes on the season as he is 31 of 53 for 527 yards. Worth does, however, need more end product from the passing game as he has just one touchdown, with two interceptions, at this point in the season. The Houston defense has proven to be almost impossible to score on as the Cougars give up just 11.5 points per game. One of the main reasons for this is the play of linebacker Steven Taylor who has 5.5 sacks on the season along with countless hurries and disrupted plays.
NAVY RUSHING OFFENSE
HOUSTON RUSHING DEFENSE
REMARKS: If the Houston defense as a whole has been good, then the rushing defense has been particularly great. The Cougars lead the nation in rushing defense and are giving up just 42 yards per game on the ground. Granted, Houston has played the likes of Texas State and UConn (not great rushing attacks) but giving up just over four first downs worth of rushing yardage per game is impressive. Navy struggled mightily last weekend against Air Force and it's high ranked rushing defense and the team needs more from Chris high in particular to open up the Houston defense.
HOUSTON PASSING OFFENSE
NAVY PASSING DEFENSE
REMARKS: This is the area of the game where the alarms should be ringing for Ken Niumatalolo and his staff. Houston has not been stopped yet all season and that includes the athletes that Oklahoma has in their back seven defensively. Quarterback Greg Ward Jr. is a legitimate star and he leads an offense that ranks 19th in the FBS in total offense with 506 yards per game and 12th in scoring at 44.2 points per game. Ward passes for an average of 304.5 yards per game, using the spread offense created by head coach Tom Herman that gives him matchup issues all over the field.
HOUSTON RUSHING OFFENSE
NAVY RUSHING DEFENSE
REMARKS: Houston may do plenty of damage through the air, but their rushing game isn't something teams can just forget about. Much of this is because Ward has the running ability to keep plays alive with his scrambling and also because he is so dangerous on designed quarterback runs. He has five touchdowns rushing on the season so far and his backup Kyle Postma has four touchdowns rushing on just 11 carries in relief. The rushing attack on an every down basis is paced by the quietly effective Duke Catalon who averaged 4.7 yards per rush. With Anthony Gonzales lost for the season at linebacker, it will be a tough matchup to contain all these threats.
REMARKS: Navy is going to need another serious effective punting game from the leg of sophomore punter Erik Harris. Harris averaged 50 yards per punt against Air Force (admittedly in Colorado) and forcing Houston to travel the length of the field to score has to be a priority. Houston gets the nod on special teams however as their kick return unit has the second best average in return yards in the nation.
REMARKS: Ken Niumatalolois really, really good, but Tom Herman has been a revelation in Houston. This is the second season Herman has been with the Cougars after working with Urban Meyer as the Ohio State offensive coordinator for three years. Herman is 18-1 with Houston after his Buckeyes teams went a combined 38-3 while he was in charge of their offense. That 56-4 record over the last four seasons and counting is nothing short of incredible.
REMARKS:After losing in such a disappointing way last week you may figure this would be a bounce back game for Navy. In many weeks it would be, but on Saturday they face one of the best four or five teams in the country. As Houston are a Group of 5 team as opposed to a Power 5 team it is inbuilt into their psyche that they have to go out and dominate every week to get an invite to the College Football Playoff party. In addition, the team is still looking for a Big XII invite (perhaps even with Navy) and so the intangibles are such that the Cougars have an extra chip on their shoulder.
PREDICTION: Houston 48, Navy 24. I think Navy will find a way to score against Houston, the problem is it is hard to see Navy shutting down an offense that is just on fire. An upset would be sweet revenge after last year, but Herman isn't going to let Houston fall into any traps before they take on Louisville later in the year.