Two of the top offenses in the American Athletic Conference are ready to go head-to-head in Annapolis this weekend. The Navy Midshipmen look to rebound from a road loss in division play by doing a better job of securing the football. They will play host to one of the top surprises this season with the UCF Knights showing no signs of slowing down for anybody in their way.
UCF is looking for its second win of the season in the state of Maryland. Earlier in the season, UCF walked away with a 38-10 victory at Maryland of the Big Ten. One of the last undefeated teams in the conference and the nation, a win for UCF would put the Knights on a clear path to a possible 12-0 regular season and in front of the competition in the Group of 5 race to a coveted berth in one of the New Year's Six bowls.
UCF at Navy
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 21 at 3:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS Sports Network
Spread: UCF -7.5
Three Things to Watch
1. UCF's high-powered offense scoring at will
Scott Frost has certainly made a name for himself with the work he's done with the Knights on offense. UCF has scored no fewer than 38 points in a game and has seen its output on the scoreboard increase in each of the team's three most recent games (40 vs. Memphis, 51 at Cincinnati, 63 vs. East Carolina). Keeping that trend going this week should not be expected, but quarterback McKenzie Milton (15 TD passes) and the rest of the Knights' offense should have enough firepower to give Navy some trouble.
2. Top offensive lines leading the way
The top two offensive lines in the AAC will be featured in this game. The two programs have allowed a total of seven sacks this season, with Navy allowing four and UCF allowing three. The next best team in the conference is Houston with seven sacks allowed. It is worth noting that Navy typically will have fewer sacks than most of the conference due to its option offense, but the offensive line and run blocking is still a major reason why the Midshipmen's attack works as well as it does.
3. How Navy keeps UCF's offense off the field
When going up against a high-powered offense playing as well as UCF's, the challenge is to keep that team off the field as much as possible. This may go without saying, but it just so happens to be Navy's bread and butter. The option offense employed by head coach Ken Niumatalolo (above, right) tends to gobble up a lot of time, which is why Navy leads the AAC in time of possession. Navy brings the conference's top third-down conversion rate (UCF is fourth in the AAC converting its own third downs and second in preventing opponents), but the Midshipmen must do a better job getting off the field against UCF when given the opportunity. Navy is sixth in the AAC in opponent third-down conversions (38 percent).
Much like last week's game on the road against Memphis, Navy simply may not have enough to keep up the scoring pace with UCF unless the defense turns in a shutdown performance against the Knights. Zach Abbey and the Midshipmen will get their offensive drives, but Navy cannot afford to make mistakes like the five turnovers committed against the Tigers. It hurt the Midshipmen last week in what ended up being a three-point game. If Navy gets sloppy with the ball control, this one will be much more decisive.
Prediction: UCF 34, Navy 27
— 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.
(Top photo courtesy of @UCFKnights)