Zach Abey and the Midshipmen head to Tulsa to take on the Golden Hurricane in their AAC opener
Already off to a quick 2-0 start in conference play, Navy looks to make it 3-0 with a road contest against American Athletic Conference West Division opponent Tulsa. While Navy may already have a couple of conferences games (and wins) under its belt, Tulsa looks to take advantage of its conference opener on home soil after a disappointing non-conference schedule to open the year.
Tulsa couldn't manage to find its offensive touch last week in a low-scoring home loss to New Mexico, so the Golden Hurricane will be eager to get the running game off on the right foot to open things up for quarterback Chad President. Is this the week Tulsa gets its passing game in gear? The Hurricane need it in a big way now that conference play has arrived.
Navy at Tulsa
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 30 at 3:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPNU
Spread: Navy -6
Three Things to Watch
1. Efficiency on third down — from both teams
There are just two teams in the AAC that have been turning third downs into first downs more often than not, and they are going head-to-head in this one. Tulsa has converted 37 third downs out of 70 (52.86 percent), and Navy has converted 21 of 40 (52.5 percent). They lead the AAC by a wide margin (Houston is third in the AAC with a 43.75 percent success rate on third down). But which team has been the more successful of the two in stopping opponents on third down? That would be Navy, having allowed just 13 conversions on 41 third-down situations on defense. Tulsa has allowed a conversion on 21 of 43 attempts; however, it is fair to point out that Tulsa has faced tougher competition, with games against Oklahoma State and Toledo, two teams with high-powered offenses.
2. Zach Abey and Navy's signature option offense
If we're talking about Navy football, then odds are we are focusing on the quarterback being the team's leading rusher. Such is the case so far this season with Zach Abey. The junior from Pasadena, Maryland, has already rushed for a team-high 471 yards and four touchdowns on 81 rushing attempts. Navy is rarely known for success through the air, and Abey's low completion rate — he's hit on just 36 percent of his 25 pass attempts so far — is not shocking. He does, however, have a trio of touchdown passes with two interceptions. Navy likes to pick the perfect time to throw to catch the defense off guard. It can be a risky move for Navy, as the numbers have shown.
3. Can Navy slow down D'Angelo Brewer?
Tulsa's senior running back leads the conference with 548 rushing yards and is tied for second in the conference with five rushing touchdowns. Aside from the season opener at Oklahoma State, Brewer has been running wild on opponents the last three weeks with at least 130 yards in each game. Navy managed to keep Brewer from doing much damage when these teams met last season, holding him to 81 yards on 15 carries without a touchdown. Running behind a stable offensive line, Brewer could have a larger impact on the game this weekend.
Tulsa still appears to be maturing and coming together as its conference schedule gets underway, but Navy looks to be pretty stable in all areas as the Midshipmen prepare for their third conference game already. Navy's option offense can wear down Tulsa enough to make establishing any rhythm for the Golden Hurricane difficult, and the Midshipmen can work the clock to their advantage. Tulsa can keep things close with Navy, but the clock management will give the Midshipmen the advantage in the end. Look for Navy to improve to 4-0 with a clean September.
Prediction: Navy 37, Tulsa 33
— 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.
(Zach Abey photo courtesy of Navy Athletics, D'Angelo Brewer photo courtesy of @TulsaFootball)