The college football weekend gets started a little early with a Thursday night battle in the American Athletic Conference between the Memphis Tigers and Navy Midshipmen.
Both teams have gotten off to a poor start in conference play, making this game critical for both sides. At home, the Tigers are favored by 10.5 points over Navy, with the over/under for the same set at 55 points.
Navy is just 1-4 and could be in the midst of one of its worst seasons in recent memory. Not only did they lose to Marshall and Air Force to start the season, but they lost in lopsided fashion. However, things have slowly improved in recent weeks with a win over Central Florida and a competitive loss against SMU.
Meanwhile, the Tigers have seen their 3-0 start to the season turn into a three-game losing streak. Memphis appeared to be poised for a big year after knocking off Mississippi State. But they’ve dropped three in a row, including losses in their first two conference games against Temple and Tulsa.
Only Hurting Yourself
If it’s any consolation, the Tigers have lost all three of those games by six points or less, so they’ve been in every game. Unfortunately, the difference in those games has been Memphis turning it over seven times during that stretch. They’ve proven to be the better team in those games but shot themselves in the foot and ended up beating themselves.
Freshman quarterback Seth Henigan is turning in a fine season, averaging nine yards per pass while throwing 14 touchdown passes and just three interceptions.
However, throwing for over 300 yards in three straight games has been canceled out by turnovers. Those turnovers are also hurting a lackluster Memphis defense, which has allowed 35.8 points per game against FBS opponents this year.
The Right Option
The Midshipmen struggled early in the season at the quarterback position with Tai Lavatai getting hurt. However, Lavatai has returned in the team’s last two games and has started to figure out how to make good decisions in the triple-option offense.
After scoring 30 total points in their first three games, the Midshipmen have averaged 29 points per game over their last two games.
That being said, the Navy offense is more functional than dynamic and still isn’t much of a threat through the air. Naturally, that puts a lot of pressure on the Navy defense, which has looked sluggish early in the season.
The Midshipmen are giving up 32.2 points per game and look particularly vulnerable against teams with a strong passing attack.
Bring the Fleet
On paper, Memphis is the type of team that should be able to give the Navy defense problems, although their propensity for turning the ball over makes the Tigers a bad bet in this game. If nothing else, the Midshipmen will be able to take advantage of a team that makes careless mistakes and turns the ball over.
Perhaps more importantly, the Memphis defense could struggle to defend the Navy triple-option, so bet on the Midshipmen to beat the 10.5-point spread on Thursday night.
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