By Zach Walker
Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders vs. Navy Midshipmen
Monday – December 30 – 10:45 AM
Amon Carter Stadium – Ft. Worth
How did they get here?
Middle Tennessee broke through to the bowl scene this year, after being snubbed a year ago, following a five game win streak to finish their season, following a three game skid in the middle of the season. The Naval Academy are ‘running’ in on the strength of a four game winning streak to close out their season, and it could have been six in a row, had they have converted on a 4th down against Notre Dame.
Everyone who has watched the Midshipmen play knows that they are going to run the ball 95 percent of the game, so you’ll seldom be caught off guard. But the Blue Raiders are ranked 85th in the nation in run defense, so if they are going to have a chance to, I’d say win, I should say possess the ball, the Blue Raiders are going to have to force turnovers, something the Naval Academy doesn’t do often (eight total turnovers all season). The Blue Raiders quarterback Logan Kilgore is going to have to play like he did against Marshall earlier this season, where he threw four touchdowns and threw the ball 40 times. Kilgore finished the season very strong, throwing 10 touchdowns to just three interceptions during the Blue Raiders final five game winning streak.
The Naval Academy
I’m just going to spoil this for everybody; the Midshipmen are going to run the ball. The Naval Academy has eight players with more than 200 yards rushing on the season, versus only one player having more than 200 yards receiving. The Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds is a busy player, and on the way to a 1,200 yard rushing season, he set a new single season rushing touchdown record with 29 in a season, that’s the good old option for you. The Naval Academy averages 320 yards rushing per game, which must be torture for opposing linebackers to keep up with for a full game.
Prediction: I struggle to think of a way that the Blue Raiders can win, taking their run defense into account. I’ll say Middle Tennessee 28 – Navy 35.