With Houston on the schedule there are very few who would have predicted this matchup between the Navy Midshipmen (4-1) and the Memphis Tigers (5-1) would be reached with both teams in such a strong position. Navy did not play last weekend after the ECU game was postponed until later in the season and as such the #24 ranked Midshipmen have had a little extra time to prepare for a game that could decide the West Division of the American Athletic Conference.
Season so far
The Mids and the Tigers are the only unbeaten teams in division play in the West, so the winner here is going to have a huge advantage when it comes to appearing in the championship game. Memphis began the era after Paxton Lynch with a 35-17 win over SE Missouri State in a gimme game to open the season. Thus was followed by a win over Kansas of the Big XII in what has become another gimme game for any team with a pulse over the last few seasons. A monstrous 77-3 blowout of Bowling Green followed to put the Tigers at 3-0 heading into their big non-conference test.
That test was one they failed, presumably after angering the football gods by running up the score against the Falcons. Memphis traveled to Oxford to take on Mississippi and managed to keep things interesting for most of the game before falling 48-28 to the #16 team in the country. A couple of close(ish) wins over AAC opponents Temple and Tulane round out the Tigers season so far.
Injuries and Suspensions
One area where injuries have hit Memphis hard has been their passing game. Second string quarterback Brady Davis was ruled out for the season a couple of months ago with a knee injury, while receivers Hunter Hill (knee) and Mechane Slade (leg) are both listed as being out indefinitely. This has opened some opportunities for the younger receivers on the roster, but there is a lack of depth at the position and a worry that defenses will start to figure out the receivers tendencies as they get more film on them.
Another big issue for the Tigers is the status of linebacker Shareef White. White tied for second in tackles on the team last year with 63 stops, but he has been limited in practice this week and will have to make giant strides to be at full health come Saturday. Other players with problems include cornerback Dontrell Nelson who is limited to riding the stationary bike and defensive tackle Michael Edwards who is dealing with a family situation.
Navy finds itself in a massively important game on Saturday, something that seemed unlikely just two weeks ago. Memphis is good in all areas, but the team does seem to have cooled off a little after the loss to ole Miss. One aspect of the game that Navy will be challenged in however is ball security. Memphis leads the nation with 18 turnovers in six games and that three turnovers a game average would be enough to split two schools that look evenly matched on paper. Memphis will also be out for revenge after the Mids upset the No.15 Tigers 45-20 in Tenessee last season. All the ingredients are in place for this one to be an outstanding contest.