by Daniel Olsen | It’s Navy week as the Cougars are preparing to be the only college football team in the state to take the field this fall. The “Sailor Cougs” will be taking on the Navy Midshipmen in Annapolis on Labor Day. Two Polynesian coaches with a history of friendship go at it and will hopefully be a great way for football fans around the state to enjoy a good game while they fire up the barbecue for the last summer holiday of the year. Let’s take a look at both teams to get a better understanding of this matchup:
Fast Forward to this year:
With a devastating season-ending Achilles injury from star tight end Matt Bushman, how will the Cougars match up with the Midshipmen? Let’s break it down by position:
Quarterback: Edge BYU
Zach Wilson is back and healthier than ever. He has had two seasons of starting experience while the Navy senior QB Dalen Morris will be making his first start vs BYU. Wilson will get the ball down the field but the red zone is where the improvement is expected to happen this year. That’s on the offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes to draw well-thought plays for the Cougar offense to convert touchdowns instead of just field goals. Even though it will be the first start for Morris, he knows the offense. Zach will have to lead a balanced attack for the Cougars to have a chance to win.
Running back: Edge Navy
While BYU has some guys that can run, Navy’s offense is predicated on the triple option. The offensive lineman are talented fit athletes that our protecting not only our country but these running backs. If the blocking is good and the triple option is executed to perfection, the BYU defense will be on their heels more often with these running backs than Navy will be with theirs. One running back on Navy to look out for is a senior named Nelson Smith. He has put in almost 1000 rushing yards during his time at the Naval Academy and should get an opportunity for at least ten carries in this game.
Wide Receivers: Edge Navy
BYU analyst for SI affiliate Casey Lundquist had a lot to say about BYU’s wide receivers in this article. There is some talent but they are losing some talent as well. While Navy will be running the ball a lot more, their wide receivers are capable of catching the ball when needed. BYU’s wide receivers will get more yards but it will have to be a lot more yards to get the win. It’s expected that the Navy running game will be much stronger than BYU’s so either the BYU Defense has to play out of their minds to limit the Navy run game or the passing game will have to be spot on.
Tight Ends: Edge Navy
If that guy named Matt Bushman was playing then this would be a different story. Since he isn’t, the Midshipmen are likely more talented here. Look for Isaac Rex and Masen Wake to put up a fight though. The Navy offense doesn’t utilize the tight end as much so this could end up being an irrelevant advantage for Navy.
Defense: Edge BYU
Navy Coach Ken Niumatalolo has expressed his concern with the size and strength of the BYU defense. If they do their job on assignments they could give Navy some trouble. Navy isn’t an SEC caliber team so they won’t run it down anyone’s throat. The misdirection of the triple option is what gets undisciplined teams off guard and this is what has helped the Midshipmen win so many games.
Offensive line: Tie
While BYU is big, Navy is athletic and quick. It will be a classic size vs speed matchup and in this case Goliath BYU might get slayed by a David like Navy in the trenches if they don’t come out with a high level of toughness. This won’t be the hottest topic of the game but it will play a big part in who will come out victorious.
Mascot: Edge BYU
Is this even a question? It’s Cosmo every day and twice on Sunday. After all, he was the mascot Twitter poll champion earlier this year. Of course he’d beat some Billy Goat named Bill. However, the uniforms the Navy cadets wear will be top notch if a limited amount are allowed in the stadium.
Special Teams: Edge BYU
Navy isn’t known for their special teams but they are good so they will be disciplined. BYU always has good kickers so we expect plenty of field goals especially if they struggle again in the red zone. Look for more yards in kick returns from Navy though.
Coaching: Edge Navy
Coach Sitake has had a few nice wins but he hasn’t yet proven to be a consistent head coach. Navy has. They beat the teams they should and sometimes beat teams they shouldn’t. They usually play an easier schedule than the Cougars but are still winning at a high level like BYU did back in their WAC days. We will go with the coach who was featured on the Meet the Mormons documentary: Coach Ken Niumatalolo.
Final Prediction: Our heart says BYU but our head says that’s unlikely. Before Bushman was hurt, BYU had only a 24% chance to win this game according to ESPN. Of course they could win this game and then lose to Western Kentucky and that shouldn’t surprise anyone who has watched BYU play up (or down) to the level of their opponents in the Sitake area. We are going with a classic OT shootout here. Make it two overtimes.
Final Score: Navy 48 BYU 41