Midshipmen and the Tigers hook up for what figures to be a high-scoring AAC West matchup
After witnessing Memphis put 70 points on the scoreboard last week, Navy knows it will have its work cut out for it if it wants to slow down the Tigers. Navy heads to Memphis this week for a pivotal matchup in the American Athletic Conference West Division, and it should be quite entertaining.
Midshipmen head coach Ken Niumatalolo continues to coach one of the steadiest programs in college football and the AAC, while Mike Norvell continues to build a program that was given new life under Justin Fuente. Both coaches should be on the radar for potential job opportunities elsewhere later on, but the focus right now is on a game that could carry plenty of weight in how the AAC championship picture plays out.
Navy at Memphis
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 14 at 3:45 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPNU
Spread: Memphis -3.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Expect plenty of points
Memphis and Navy may not be the highest-scoring offenses in the AAC, but they are more than capable of putting up points. The Tigers are one of four teams in the conference averaging over 40 points per game (42.4 ppg), and the Midshipmen enter this game averaging 37.2 ppg.
2. Navy is 2-0 vs. Memphis
Navy and Memphis had never faced each other before the Midshipmen joined the American Athletic Conference two seasons ago. And so far, Navy has owned Memphis in the young series between division foes. Navy won last year’s meeting 42-28 after previously dispatching Houston to fuel a run to the AAC Championship Game. Navy also won in Memphis in 2015, 45-20. Look for the Tigers to keep this one closer at the very least.
3. Memphis QB Riley Ferguson has been up and down
The last two weeks have been quite the roller-coaster ride for the Memphis quarterback, the AAC’s leading passer. Ferguson (above, right) is coming off a monster performance last week against UConn, with 431 passing yards and a conference-record seven touchdown passes. But the previous week against UCF, Ferguson was picked off three times in one of his shakiest starts. Which Ferguson shows up this week? The one who passed for six touchdowns against UCLA or the one who had only two touchdown passes against Southern Illinois?
As far as talent is concerned, Memphis should have the advantage in this matchup. Ferguson can target one of the top wide receivers in the nation in Anthony Miller. But Navy has a way of leveling the playing field with its option offense, which has caused conference opponents plenty of trouble since the Midshipmen joined the AAC. Few teams know that as well as Memphis. That could easily be the case once again this week, but look for Memphis to use that Ferguson-to-Miller combo to pick up a few big plays on its way to a key win in division play.
Prediction: Memphis 39, Navy 32
— 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.