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Houston Cougars vs. Navy Midshipmen Preview and Prediction

Greg Ward Jr.

Greg Ward Jr.

Houston looks to keep its College Football Playoff dreams alive in addition to an undefeated season. Houston has been unstoppable through the first month of the season and shows no signs of slowing down, even as they go on the road this weekend against Navy.

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This may not be the same Navy football team we saw last season, but the Midshipmen will make you work for a win, even if you have superior talent and skill to offer, which Houston does. Will Houston continue to march right through the American Athletic Conference or will Navy have enough to give the Cougars a scare in Annapolis?

Houston at Navy

Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 8 at 3 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS Sports Network

Spread: Houston -17.0

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Three Things to Watch

1. Greg Ward Jr. looks to remain on the Heisman radar
He may be floating on the outside of the Heisman Trophy conversation for now, but Houston’s quarterback is worthy of consideration if he keeps performing the way he has to start the season. Sure, the award may still be Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson’s to lose after one month, but Ward has performed well with a completion percentage just over 70 percent, 1,325 yards and eight touchdowns in four games played. He also has five rushing touchdowns, and don’t forget he has had a chance to rest early in a few games already too. Leading Houston to a win over Navy should keep him in the running for at least a trip to New York City at the end of the season.

Ward passed for 308 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 83 and a score in Houston’s win against Navy last season.

2. Navy’s home winning streak goes for a baker’s dozen
Navy has been enjoying a good run at home with 12 consecutive wins at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium dating back to 2014. That winning streak also includes a win against Pittsburgh in last season’s Military Bowl, which is now played in Navy’s home stadium. This week, however, Navy will face its best opponent to make its way to Annapolis since hosting No. 23 Pittsburgh during the 2008 season.

It’s not very often a ranked team makes its way to Navy’s home stadium. Since 2000, Houston will be just the fifth ranked opponent to play at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

3. Can Will North keep Navy’s offense from turning south?
Nobody was ever going to replace Keenan Reynolds as Navy’s quarterback, but Navy was put in the unfortunate position of having to replace Reynolds’ successor one game into the season. Tago Smith suffered a season-ending injury in the opening game, leaving Ken Niumatalolo to throw North in charge of the offense. The good news is North can throw the football a little bit, although he is coming off a rough showing against Air Force with two interceptions. The key will be to simply avoid making costly mistakes, because Houston will make Navy pay for any extra opportunities the Cougars receive.

Final Analysis

Houston’s offense tends to get all the glory with head coach Tom Herman having the Cougars rolling on that side of the football, but the defense has proven it is worth watching too. True freshman Ed Oliver has lived up to the hype so far and should be a monster for Navy’s offensive line to slow down. The Midshipmen won’t, not enough at least. Houston can take control of this game on either side of the football, and the Cougars might just do it on both.

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Prediction: Houston 34, Navy 13

— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook