SMU Mustangs (5-6) vs. (25/RV) Navy Midshipmen (8-2)
WHEN: Saturday, November 26, 2016 at 2:30 p.m. CT
WHERE: Gerald J. Ford Stadium – Dallas, TX
SERIES: 10-7 Navy
LAST MEETING: Navy won 55-14 on November 14, 2015
LINE: SMU +7
It’s SMU (5-6, 3-4) last guaranteed game of the season and its last chance to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2012. Saturday’s game is the 18th time SMU and Navy have met. The Midshipmen hold a 10-7 all-time record in the series. Since 2009, the winner of this game gets to take home the Gansz Trophy, which was created in memory of Frank Gansz, who played at Navy from 1957-59 and was an assistant coach at Navy and SMU. Gansz died in April of 2009 following complications from a knee replacement surgery. With bowl eligibility and hardware on the line, the Mustangs are hoping to duplicate last week’s offensive output (578 yards), but come away with a win.
The Midshipmen (8-2, 6-1) want to run the football and they are pretty good at it. Navy is averaging 326.6 rushing yards per game to lead the American Athletic Conference and is third in FBS. The biggest reason for Navy’s success on the ground is because of the play of senior quarterback Will Worth, who leads the conference with 22 rushing touchdowns. Behind its potent offensive attack, Navy clinched the AAC Conference West Division Title with a 66-31 victory over East Carolina last week.
Matchup to Watch
SMU’s front seven vs Will Worth: Worth has a phenomenal ability to run the ball and his dual-threat ability keeps opposing defenses off-balance. Worth began the season as Navy’s backup but stepped into the limelight after a season-ending injury to Tago Smith.Worth leads the Midshipmen with 1074 rushing yards to go with his rushing touchdowns and has also passed for 1259 yards with seven more scores.
Keys to the Game
It is very important to bottle up Worth and to force him to pass. He can pass it just as well as he can, but when push comes to serve he is going to be more likely to tuck the ball and run. Over his ten games this season Worth has attempted just 108 passes, while also tallying up 243 rushing attempts. He is completing 61.1 percent of his passes but 47 percent of his passes have been completed to Jamir Tillman. If SMU can keep Worth from finding room to run and can also lock down Tillman, SMU’s season could continue.
What to Watch For
When Navy is on Offense: All the runs. Navy is going to keep things on the ground for the most part and will go to the air sparingly and only when absolutely necessary.
When Navy is on Defense: Navy has some very good linebackers, including Micah Thomas and D.J. Palmore. Thomas has a lot of size and is a tackling machine. Palmore is quick and good at pressuring the quarterback. We can expect to hear their names a lot.
When SMU is on Offense: Hicks ranks third among all freshman quarterbacks in FBS with 2,599 yards this season. Last week, Hicks found his favorite target, Courtland Sutton, 13 times for a school-record 252 yards and two touchdowns against USF. Look for the pair to hook up multiple times Saturday night.
When SMU is on Defense: SMU needs a big game from its front seven and that means junior defensive end Justin Lawler will need to step up. He is fifth in the AAC with six sacks this season and leads SMU with 13 tackles for a loss.
Pony Stampede Predictions
Billy: SMU 3-0
Patrick: Navy 42-28
Demo: SMU 42-31
Phil: Navy 41-28
Hatts: 35-10 Navy