This can be a momentous occasion for the United States Naval Academy, as for the first time in the football program’s history, Navy is playing for a conference title. The Midshipmen make their title debut in the AAC Championship Game, serving as the host squad against the Temple Owls. This is Temple’s second consecutive year playing in this game, in which they played Houston for last year’s conference title. Will that experience pay off for the Owls, or will the Midshipmen’s make that final push for consideration for a spot in the New Year’s Six (and possibly create chaos for all bowl games in general)?
Here are three things to watch:
1. Which Quarterback Steps Up More
Navy quarterback Will Worth has been running the Midshipmen’s signature option offense with superb precision. He has scored 19 touchdowns and rushing for no fewer than 122 yards in a game since the middle of October. He is the cog that will run the machine for Navy’s offense, which ranks first in the AAC by a landslide in rushing. Worth is the AAC’s fourth-leading rusher with 1,181 yards and leads the AAC with 25 touchdowns.
On the other side, Temple’s Phillip Walker is no slouch himself. He will throw the ball more and can be streaky at times with his arm. Walker finished the regular season with 18 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions. Although those are not great numbers, his decision making leading up to the title game has improved, and it is that continue correct decision making that may make the difference here.
2. A Stout Defense To Stop The Midshipmen’s Option
When playing an option based team, a defense needs to play smart and controlled, and not let the option take its toll on you both in the physical and mental sense. If a defense does that, and can get off the field only after three to six plays, then the chances of winning are better and better.
The Owls’ defense has held opponents to a third down conversion rate of just 33.14 percent, with only Central Florid being better in the AAC. If the Owls can slow the Midshipmen down, and keep it sustained, this game could get interesting really quick.
3. Temple’s Running Game Is Solid Too
Owls’ running backs Jahad Thomas and Ryquell Armstead form a solid duo in the backfield. Thomas has rushed for 856 yards and 12 touchdowns in ten games, while Armstead has rushed for 842 yards and 13 touchdowns. If Thomas and Arnstead get going, Temple will try and do what Navy does to their opposition: control the clock and churn out chunks of yards.
This is a great matchup to get Championship Saturday kicked off. The Midshipmen need this game to be considered for the Group Of Five slot (and possibly cause chaos amongst the college football world), and Temple is looking to erase the memory of last year’s defeat and use that experience as the difference in this game. I believe Navy is just way too hot right now, and that offense has been humming like a well-oiled machine. Navy 35, Temple 21
Kickoff: Saturday, December 3 at 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ABC
Live Stream: Watch ESPN