At first look, Navy appears to be a weak opponent, one that struggled through their schedule and nearly lost in a shootout to a 1-win North Texas team. Yet beyond their up and down play lies a pretty damn good offensive football team that has rarely been shut down this season.
Navy's 39 points per game ranks 8th in the nation and only twice have they failed to score 30 or more points in a game. Those games were against Rutgers and Wake Forest, both losses. They've hit the 40 mark four times this season and even managed to score 74 points in their 74-62 win over North Texas last month.
So why is Navy's offense so successful? Well a lot of it has to do with the system head coach Paul Johnson employs. One that relies heavily on the triple option and the ground game. Navy is currently the only team in the nation that has rushed for over 4,000 yards on the season. On average, they run 62 times per game. The success of their ground game, 351 yards per game, has created an explosive offense that rarely has trouble working its way down field.
Leading that offense is quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada (holy hell, what a name). And while he has only passed for 830 yards on the season, he's the team's leading rusher with 782 yards. That's an average of 71 yards per game on the ground, a number that rivals many backs. In fact, Navy has 4 players averaging 50 or more rushing yards a game.
Navy's offense will probably give Utah some struggles. For whatever reason, Utah has struggled with this type of offense, especially the one Air Force used back in Fisher DeBerry's days. Those games were often high scoring and I expect the same thing this year against Navy. Mostly because while Navy's offense is really good, their defense is probably the worst Utah will face this season.
The Midshipmen, on average, give up 36 points per game, a stat that puts them toward the bottom in the nation in points allowed. They also give up 438 yards per game, 265 through the air and 173 on the ground. On paper, Utah's offense should have no problem with this defense. With Brian Johnson getting rest over the next month, he should be the healthiest he's been since the first game. That will give him a chance to exploit the Navy secondary, which ranks as one of the worst in the country. However, Utah also needs to find a ground game, something they should be able to do with Darrell Mack and the fact Navy's defensive line will be severely outmatched by Utah's offensive line. But I thought the same against Air Force and our line was absolutely dominated by theirs. So we'll see on that one.
I feel good about this game, but Utah's offense will need to perform far better than it did against BYU, because I do have a feeling Navy will score at least 21 points. If Utah holds Navy in the 20s, they should win, however, if they give up 30 or more, they're either going to lose or it will turn into a shootout. And in shootouts, Navy seems to have the advantage, as they've done well in most. Either way, they should offer Utah a pretty good test and even though I ragged on playing Navy in the past, I do believe this will be Utah's toughest bowl opponent since playing Wisconsin in the 1996 Copper Bowl.