FACTS & STATS: Site: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium (34,000) -- Annapolis, Maryland. Television: CBSCSN. Home Record: SMU 3-1, Navy 1-0. Away Record: SMU 1-1, Navy 2-1. Neutral Record: SMU 0-0, Navy 0-1. Conference Record: SMU 3-0, Navy 0-0. Series Record: Series is tied, 7-7.
GAME NOTES: Navy will host just its second home contest of the season, when the Midshipmen invite the SMU Mustangs to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium this Saturday afternoon.
The Mustangs come storming into Annapolis, riding a two-game winning streak. The most recent win was a 21-18 victory over Tulsa, the fourth win on the year for SMU, and the team's third conference victory on the season. After this matchup the Mustangs will return home to battle Houston.
Navy fell to .500 on the season with its first loss to a follow service academy since 2002, when the Air Force Falcons defeated the Midshipmen, 14-6. However, coach Ken Niumatalolo's men bounced back this past weekend with a thrilling, 28-27 victory over Wake Forest.
The Midshipmen have taken control of this series, winning the last three matchups, including a thrilling, 38-35 overtime victory a year ago. Due to the three-game winning streak Navy has now tied the all-time series at seven games apiece.
It was not an overwhelming victory this past weekend for SMU, but the Mustangs used their dangerous passing attack to slip past Tulsa. Kyle Padron had a tremendous outing, throwing for 381 yards and three scores on 27-of-40 efficiency.
Padron has been sensational for the most part this season, as the sophomore gunslinger has completed 58 percent of his passes and comes into this weekend with 16 touchdowns against just five interceptions.
Padron's success is largely due to the team's trio of receivers in Darius Johnson, Cole Beasley and Alrick Robinson. Johnson, who has scored four touchdowns, leads the team with 33 receptions, while Beasley is averaging 14.4 ypc. But Robinson has been the most consistent, pacing the squad with 539 receiving yards and six touchdowns.
Against Tulsa, Robinson led the way with 118 yards, while Johnson finished with eight receptions, 102 yards and one score. Beasley also got involved, hauling in one score and 91 yards on seven catches.
What has also helped Pardon's maturity this season has been a solid ground attack, which is averaging 149.2 ypg. Zach Line has done the majority of damage out of the backfield, rumbling for 552 yards and five touchdowns.
The offense for SMU has been high-powered for the most part this season, and that has take away from the mediocre display put forth by the defense. Coach June Jones' defense has shown holes throughout the season, especially against the pass, as teams are averaging 247.7 ypg through the air.
In the win over Tulsa, the Mustangs surrendered 229 passing yards, but held the Golden Hurricane without a touchdown through the air. However, both scores for Tulsa came on the ground, meaning through six games this defense has allowed 11 TDs via the run, despite limiting the opposition to just 115.2 ypg, along with a mere 3.3 yards per attempt.
The Midshipmen fought hard and came back to defeat Wake Forest this past weekend. However, the way Navy grabbed the win was quite shocking, as the notoriously ground-oriented Midshipmen went to the air for their final touchdown.
Ricky Dobbs connected with Greg Jones on a six-yard pass in the final minute of regulation, giving Navy's quarterback four touchdowns on the day. Dobbs finished with 94 yards and two touchdowns through the air, but more importantly the signal caller led the ground game with 100 yards and two more TDs. Aaron Santiago added 66 rushing yards on just six totes, while Alexander Teich totaled 43 yards.
Dobbs was clearly the best player on the field for Navy, and that has been the case throughout the season, as the signal caller is leading the squad with 317 rushing yards and five touchdowns, to go along with three more scores through the air.
Vince Murray and Gee Gee Greene have also played a large role in the rushing attack, as Murray has racked up 283 yards, while Greene comes into this weekend with 226 yards on 8.1 yards per tote.
Navy's defense was able to keep the team in the game long enough for the offense to make its comeback charge. However, it was not a dominating performance by this unit, which was torched for 326 yards through the air. At the same time however, the defense for coach Niumatalolo was stout against the run, limiting Wake Forest to 77 yards on 3.2 yards per attempt.
It was quite the role reversal for this defense, which has struggled tremendously against the run this year, while performing well against the pass. Entering this weekend the Midshipmen are being punished for 171.4 ypg on the ground, and that is even with their solid showing against the Demon Deacons.
It will be interesting to see how this defense plays this weekend against an SMU squad that loves to air out the football.
The Mustangs have played well heading into this contest, using a passing attack to crush opposing defenses, while defensively holding the opposition to a low average on the ground. The Midshipmen are home, but their ground game has not been as prolific as years past, and if they get down early to SMU, it could be a long contest for coach Niumatalolo's bunch.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: SMU 35, Navy 21