Playing the three best teams in the AAC in a four-week span is what Navy has had to deal with in 2016 and so far the Mids are 2-0 in those games. After taking down Houston and Memphis, it is now time to head down to Tampa to take on the South Florida Bulls.
Season so far
The South Florida season has been a very successful one to this point. The Bulls shot out of the games with a 56-20 win over Towson of the FCS, showing the high-octane offense that has seen them score at least 38 points in all their wins so far. The next two weeks of the season saw more non-conference wins as Northern Illinois and Syracuse fell in lopsided losses. One of the more impressive performances of the season then came in a loss as South Florida went toe-to-toe with No. 13 Florida State for long stretches before falling 55-35. Only Louisville and North Carolina has scored more points against the Seminoles in 2016.
The mark of a good team is leaving disappointing defeats behind them and USF proved to be a good team by beating Cincinnati 45-20 on the road in their first AAC game of the season. Conference wins over ECU and UConn saw the Bulls with a record of 6-1 and 3-0 in the conference before they were taken down 46-30 by Temple in Philadelphia last weekend. That loss means that Navy faces a wounded USF team that knows it cannot afford more conference losses now that Temple owns the tie-breaker between the two schools.
Injuries and Suspensions
South Florida has faced a brutal schedule so far this year. While Navy has enjoyed two bye weeks (thanks to the ECU postponement) the Bulls have yet to take a week off and this will be the ninth week in a row that the team has played. That would help explain why the USF injury list is one of the biggest in the sport with at least ten players of note being question marks at best for the matchup with Navy.
The biggest question hovers over quarterback Quinton Flowers. Flowers might be the best player in the history of the program, so his health is vital if the Bulls are going to beat the Mids. The quarterback hobbled off of Lincoln Financial Field with a tweaked hamstring late in the loss against Temple, but as of Monday his head coach Willie Taggart had said Flowers would be good to go against Navy.
The simple question here is can Navy get up to play against one of the best teams in the conference for the third game in a row?
If anyone can get that energy out of his players it is head coach Ken Niumatalolo who has proven beyond all doubt this season that he should be talked about in the same breath as the Nick Sabans and the Jim Harbaughs of the college football world. If Flowers can do then Navy will have to prove that the defense can stop a quarterback that is just as adept with his legs as his arm in a game that features a massive clash of styles. South Florida can score the ball at a pace equal or better to anyone Navy has faced in 2016, so slowing down Flowers and his receivers are going to be a huge challenge on Friday night.