Air Force vs. Navy: Game Preview, How to Watch, Odds, Prediction
It’s Sink Navy Week
Air Force and Navy Kickoff the Battle for the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy
WEEK 5: Navy Midshipmen 1-2 (0-1) vs. Air Force Falcons 3-1 (1-1)
WHEN: Saturday, October 1st — 10:00 AM MT/ 9:00 AM PT
WHERE: Falcon Stadium (Colorado Springs)
WEATHER: Sunshine and clouds mixed. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. High 76F. Winds SSE at 5 to 10 mph.
RADIO: KVOR AM 740 in Colorado Springs, 104.3 the Fan in Denver; SIRIUS 388, SXM App 978
Jim Arthur (play-by-play), Jesse Kurtz (analyst)
SERIES RECORD: Air Force leads the all-time series 32-22. Last Year the Falcons Defeated Midshipmen 23-3.
LAST WEEK: Air Force defeated Nevada 48-20, while Navy beat East Carolina in double Overtime 23-20.
SP+ PROJECTION: Air Force by 19.9
FEI PROJECTION: Air Force by 14.8
PARKER FLEMMING PROJECTION: Air Force win probability 87.90% (38.95-22.80)
It’s Navy week! While Air Force grabbed their first win in Conference play last week, it won’t matter much if they stumble against their rivals from Annapolis. Saturdays game against Navy marks the first of two games that Troy Calhoun’s squad will have to navigate if they want to facilitate the long awaited return of the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy back to Colorado Springs.
With Wyoming in the drivers seat for the Mountain division, there is still a lot of football to be played that could change that landscape. Conversely, should Air Force lose to Navy this week, their season takes a very devastating blow very early, as it would eliminate them from contention for the coveted CiC Trophy. Suffice to say, there is a lot of pressure on Air Force to deliver in Saturday mornings tilt with the Mids.
Navy struggled out of the gates, losing to Delaware from the FCS, before getting pummeled by Memphis in their second game. Their third game proved to be the charm though. Navy battled to earn a very nice victory over a tough East Carolina team last week.
Both teams want their respective matchups with Army later in the schedule to be for all the marbles. Unfortunately, one of these teams will be playing for second. Here are a few critical factors that could go a long way in ensuring the Falcons are still in the hunt for the CiC.
We’ll bring the thunder ⚫️⚫️⚫️ pic.twitter.com/BdcvdXxPFM
— Air Force Football (@AF_Football) September 28, 2022
Three Keys to an Air Force Victory
1. DISABLE THE PROP
No different than Army and Air Force, Navy wants to establish an inside run game with the fullback to open up the offense. Of their running backs, three of Navy’s top four ball carriers by yards and carries are all fullbacks. Daba Fofana (2.7), Logan Point (3.3) and Anton Hall (3.4) have a cumulative average of 3.13 yards per carry, with a single touchdown between the three of them.
This is a really important point for the Falcons defense to focus, because the slot-backs and conventional “tail-back” for the Midshipmen are much more effective averaging more than five yards per carry. That said, an inability to get the ball outside can be widely contributed to an ineffective inside run game. If the Air Force front seven can clog up the inside, that Naval ship will struggle mightily to go anywhere.
2. DAMAGE THE HULL
With an offense that has underwhelmed, it’s easy to overlook a Navy defense that has played well most of this young season. The surrendering of 37 points to a very dangerous pass attack of Memphis contributes to some misleading statistics. Entering halftime, the Tigers only led by a single score, 13-7. As offense completely stalled in the second half, Memphis wore down the Navy defense pulling away with 14 fourth quarter points.
Against Delaware the Mids only surrendered 14 points, and it took a very esteemed East Carolina offense two overtimes to reach 20. So it’s not as if the defense hasn’t been doing their part. In fact, surrendering under 70 yards per game on the ground, Brian Newberry’s defense ranks 5th nationally against the run. Taking this a step further, Navy has amassed 22 tackles for loss in just three games. This is good for 20th nationally.
The Falcons have proven over the past few seasons against Navy in particular that they can wear the Mids down. Big runs may not come early and often, but persistence should pay off against a defense that will likely be spending a lot of time on the field. If the front seven from Annapolis wears or relents, the ship will quickly take on water.
3. SINK THE SHIP
We’ve spent a lot of time talking about the big play potential of Air Force. This has been largely in part due to the expectation that Haaziq Daniels could expose a defense that loads the box. Outside of an 80 yard strike to Dane Kinamon early this year, that has not been the case. Ben Brittain actually came in for a quick strike to David Cormier on his first pass attempt last week that went for 80 yards.
Other than these two passes, most of their big plays have come on the ground. And there have been plenty of that variety. If the Falcons start making gains on the ground with any regularity, look out; a big pass may loom. If these splash plays start to rear, it’s only a short time to follow that Navy’s chances at winning will rest sunken and wrecked.
— Navy Athletics (@NavyAthletics) September 25, 2022
Navy head coach, Ken Niumatalolo and his team have taken a lot of heat the past few seasons for underperforming. Aside from a memorable upset of Army last December, there’s not been a lot to celebrate in Annapolis. A win last week against East Carolina may have put some wind in their sails, but they’d need gale force gusts to really reverse fortunes.
For the Mids to return to form, they have got to rediscover an effective run game. We noted the need for an effective inside run game earlier to match the success that their military brethren have largely experienced. One big problem is that Navy doesn’t have an all conference standout like Brad Roberts, or a stable of relentless pounders like Army. Probably more notable, they simply don’t have the horses in front. As hard as it may be to believe, Navy is leagues behind at offensive line, and that is a major reason for their struggles.
Since the loss to Wyoming, Air Force has gone to a heavier three man front on the defensive line, featuring Kalawai’a Pescaia, Christopher Herrera and Payton Zdroik and it’s proven impactful. Consider the return of a starter in Jayden Thiergood and emerging depth from P.J. Ramsey, this front is starting to look formidable. Combine this unit with a loaded linebacker group, and yards will not come easy for Navy.
I expect a first half fist fight on Saturday. But the Falcons will throw more punches, have more endurance and ultimately have much heavier fists for the duration of the bout. The second half of this game might get away from the Midshipmen.
Air Force sings second.
Air Force 31, Navy 13