It will be a major test this week for the Memphis Tigers’ football team as they begin American Athletic Conference play against Navy on Thursday night at the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, with both teams coming off bye weeks with high expectations.
Memphis and Navy are back at it. Navy has won three of the last four against Memphis, and they will bring that heavy triple-option to the Liberty Bowl Thursday night. Patrick Taylor is once again out for Memphis, so Kenny Gainwell will get the bulk of the carries. He has done an excellent job with the opportunity he has been given.
This game is all about time of possession. Navy runs the ball a lot, and if the Memphis defense do not stop them on three downs, it will be a long game for the home team. The Tigers likes to go fast but needs to also control the tempo of the game.
The Memphis defense is ranked as the third best in the nation, according to NCAA statistics, and will look to lead the way against the Midshipmen and get their first conference win of the season.
Score prediction: Memphis 24-20 Navy
Although it is still only September, the Memphis football team is gearing up for one of their biggest games of the season Thursday night. Sitting at 3-0, their first conference test will come in the form of the 2-0 Navy Midshipmen, who always seem to give the Tigers trouble with their spread option attack on offense. With both teams coming off a bye week, it is certain to be a tightly contested matchup on ESPN.
For the Tigers, the approach has remained the same: get the ball to your playmakers in space and wait for the big plays to happen. Kenneth Gainwell has emerged as a dynamic force out of the backfield, and he will once again be in the spotlight with Patrick Taylor Jr., who is still sidelined with an injury.
Since joining the AAC, Navy has been the one team consistently giving the Tigers headaches on both sides of the ball. Their spread option requires opponents to play disciplined while their defense is smart and hardly ever gets gouged for the type of numbers that Mike Norvell’s team is accustomed to putting up. When they met last year on a rainy, gloomy day in Annapolis, the Midshipmen were able to grind out a tough 22-21 victory. Expect this one to be similarly close.
Score prediction: Memphis 31-28 Navy
Memphis and Navy will meet once again for an early conference game that could sway the entire hopes of the season. Last year, the Tigers were expected to win, and we all know how that ended. The Midshipmen enter this season after an abysmal 2-6 conference record last year, but they are a team that can decide they want to win whenever the time is right.
Navy has played two games and allowed 17 points from Holy Cross and East Carolina University. Navy may not boast any powerful wins, but they have certainly had plenty of time to focus on this game after playing twice in nearly a month.
The Tigers will not have Patrick Taylor Jr. or John “Pop” Williams for this game, so Kenneth Gainwell will have to bail out the offense for the majority of the rushing attack. The Memphis defense will see some similar offensive play calling from Navy as they did Southern, so it may take some time for the defense to shut down the triple option. I predict a five point win in favor of Memphis.
Score prediction: Memphis 33-28 Navy
If you are looking forward to a high scoring matchup with Memphis (3-0) going head-to-head against Navy (2-0) Thursday night, you’ll be disappointed. These two teams are coming off a week of rest with defenses in the top five in the nation. Revenge is also on the mind for the home team, as they blew a 21-9 lead in the fourth quarter to lose 22-21 at Navy last year in a rainy game. The Midshipmen defense has been stellar in the first two games, allowing opponents to score just 17 combined points.
If Brady White is able to control the game with his accuracy, which is ranked as 16th best in the nation with a 173.40 passing efficiency, and if Kenneth Gainwell, with an average of 6.4 yards per carry, can continue to show consistency as the lead back, Memphis will win in a nail-bitter of a game.
Score prediction: Memphis 21-13 Navy