Two teams with eyes on division titles will meet at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on Friday night as the AAC West leading Navy Midshipmen (5-1, 4-0) visit the AAC East leading USF Bulls (6-2, 3-1). Navy is the only AAC member unbeaten in conference play and a win here would make it very difficult for either Houston or Memphis to run down the Mids when you look at the future schedules of the three schools.
Here are the three keys to beating the Bulls:
1) Keep Will Worth hot
There are times in football when a player gets hot and you just have to run with that hot hand. Against a Memphis defense last weekend that had been working on the option specifically since spring camp, Navy quarterback Will Worth just tore down the house. Worth carried the ball an incredible 31 times, gaining 201 yards and scoring three touchdowns as the Mids won at home for the 14th straight game.
Worth wasn't expected to see the field in anything other than mop-up duty until Tago Smith went down for the year. Against Memphis he averaged over six yards per carry and, in addition to his rushing stats, he also passed for a couple of touchdowns while going 3-of-4 through the air. Worth has made more plays with his arm than Navy has seen in a while, but it is his ability to avoid mistakes and run the option effectively that has been so important for the Mids.
2) Run the ball all day
Navy is going to bring the triple-option out in a big way against the Bulls. This will mark the ninth week in a row where the Bulls have had a game as the team has not had a single bye week yet this season. This means that the South Florida defense is beaten up, short on healthy bodies and that their players will tire in the second half as Navy pounds the ball. This is exactly what happened last week when Temple rushed the ball for 319 yards against South Florida, putting up 46 points and winning by more than two touchdowns. In the game between the two schools last season, Navy ran for 428 yards and three touchdowns against this defensive scheme. Finally, USF ranks 100th against the run in the FBS and that is music to the ears of Ken Niumatalolo and company.
3) Stop Quinton Flowers
USF quarterback Quinton Flowers left the Bulls game against Temple in the fourth quarter with a tweaked hamstring. No one outside of the team really knows how healthy Flowers is, but if he is anything like his best then he is a player that can change games. In 2016 Flowers has passed for 1,722 yards (58.5% completion) with 15 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. He has also carried the ball at least 10 times in all but one of the Bulls games, rushing for eight touchdowns and carrying for over 100 yards three times. Flowers is the very definition of a dual-threat quarterback, so the Navy defense will have to stop both his arm and his legs if the Mids are going to take a win back to Annapolis.