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South Florida (2-2 SU, 2-2 ATS) takes to the road to Annapolis to meet Navy (1-2 SU, 1-2 ATS) in an AAC matchup on Saturday at 3:30 pmET from Navy-Marine Corps Stadium.
USF and Navy have not played since 2019 when the Mids won 35-3 at home.
Bulls open conference play with a win
USF started the season with a loss to Western Kentucky (41-24) on the road and beat Florida A&M, an FCS squad, 38-24 at home. They followed that win with a predictable 17-3 defeat at home against Alabama, where they did cover the 34.5. Last week, they were a 3-point dog against AAC opponent Rice at home and took the victory, 42-29. This was a good win for a team that finished 1-11 last season and 2-6 in the American. New coach Alex Goelsh has his work cut out for him, especially on the defensive end, where his team allowed 516.6 yards per contest last season.
In their win over Rice, they did allow 491 yards of offense (just one-yard rushing), but offensively were fantastic. They were able to record five big plays of 40 yards or more from quarterback Byrum Brown to wide receiver Naiem Simmons. Brown completed 22 passes for 435 yards with two TDs. That amounts to 19.8 yards per pass play. Brown also ran for 82 yards and a score. Simmons, a 5-10 freshman, caught eight passes for 272 yards with a TD and is now averaging 23.8 yards per catch this season.
Brown has done a nice job this season with 885 yards passing, six TDs and three picks (56.8%). Veteran Gerry Bohannon, the former Baylor transfer, who threw for 1,070 yards last season with the Bulls, has not played yet this season after missing parts of last season and this spring with a shoulder injury.
Defensively, the Bulls have made some strides thus far and are allowing 415 yards per game overall (107th). The most important number against Navy is the run defense, which allows just 88 yards per game (20th). Offensively, they are putting up 440.3 yards per game overall and 209.8 yards on the ground (21st).
A long break
Navy will have three byes this season because they opened up the season in Week 0 against Notre Dame in Dublin (42-3 loss). They followed that with a 24-0 home win over FCS Wagner on Sept. 9. They have not played since Sept. 14 when they opened up the American part of their schedule with a 28-24 loss (+11 dog) at Memphis. The interesting part of that game was that new head coach Brian Newberry had his quarterback throw 20 times, which almost never happens at Navy and that he also used freshman QB Blake Horvath down the stretch (he fumbled twice
All things considered, this wasn’t a bad showing by the Mids, who took a 14-7 lead early in the game against a strong Memphis squad. Navy is still an option team and they did run for 299 yards on 50 carries, but starting QB Tai Lavatai threw for 133. Last season in eight games, Lavatai threw for 787 yards, completing just 46.2% of his passes for five TDs and three INTs. This season, he already has 337 yards passing in three games with 118 yards rushing. Horvath is the speedier quarterback and should see some time in this game. Nayy also has some fullbacks and slotbacks that can run led by Alex Tecza, who has 209 yards rushing and one TD (8ypc).
On defense, Navy should be solid under Newberry, a former defensive coordinator. They are just going to have problems with teams that overpower them up front or have too much speed and size at receiver. They allow 204.7 yards per game in the air (50th) and 155 rushing yards (99th) per game. That’s from playing two excellent offense (ND, Memphis) and one FCS team (Wagner).
The Mids have the big advantage of having over two weeks off. They last played that Memphis game on a Thursday night so they should be plenty refreshed and prepared for this game. It’s not like Navy athletes are just eating pizza every night or partying. Once they hit the field on Saturday at home, they’ll be looking to grab their first conference win, knowing that they nearly stole one from Memphis. Horvath could play some depending on if he learns about ball security after the last game. USF still has issues on defense and while there are some improvements to the run defense, Navy is not your normal rushing team in the triple option. Now that they are throwing some, it will make it even tougher to stop.
Prediction: Navy -3.5
Written By Ben Hayes , “Ben the Pen”
Ben has been a sports writer for over 35 years, dabbling in college and pro basketball, college and pro football, baseball, college lacrosse, minor league baseball and even college gymnastics. He’s also been involved in the gaming industry for nearly 30 years and has been looking to beat the books since he was 13! Ben has had great success in handicapping college football, the NFL, college basketball, the NBA and MLB for 27+ years. His Twitter handle is @BenHayesWAW