Written by Ernie Casanova
Orlando, FL – What do you get when you combine the Navy Midshipmen and the UCF Knights? A 10-1 record. That’s right, you read it. Combine these two universities’ current record, and you get playoff contending numbers. Navy makes up that lone loss, although it was just handed to them last week in a tough matchup against Memphis. UCF has yet to suffer one as they go into Annapolis and try to give the Midshipmen their second straight defeat this Saturday at 3:30 pm ET. Sitting at 5-0, the Knights are on a path to finish undefeated and contend for a playoff spot. Considering how they are defeating their opponents by 34 points per game, this should be a favorable matchup.
UCF will come in and face a Navy defense that allows a total of 28 points per game against their opponents. Averaging just over 50 points per game as the number one scoring offense, the Knights show no signs of slowing down. Quarterback McKenzie Milton is enjoying a tremendous sophomore year as he ranks second in the nation in passing efficiency (203.6). He also averages 337.4 yards per game of total offense, as that holds a ranking of 11th in the nation. Milton, most certainly has help propelling the offense, as wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith is hauling most of Milton’s throws. He leads the team in receiving and ranks second in touchdown receptions across the nation. With a staggering defense that has a knack for creating turnovers, the Knights look to be in full control. If successful, this will be the Knight’s’ first-ever matchup and win against a service academy.
Ken Niumatalolo is in his 10th season as the Midshipmen head coach and has his team sitting third in the AAC. This team has fared very poorly against teams in the turnover battle, having 11 of their own, and faces a defense that ranks fourth in turnover margin. Averaging 81 passing yards per game, this Navy team’s leading rusher is none other than their quarterback, Zach Abey. Having 1,016 yards on the ground, Abey faces a Knights defense that allows 110 rushing yards per game. While the team as a whole averages 397 rushing yards per game, they will have a hard time keeping up with the Knights’ offense as they look to attack early on. This Navy team uses the clock to its advantage and has outgained their opponents in the time of possession category by 13 minutes. With the amount of time and effort the ground and pound game requires, they will be forced to face an uphill battle from the beginning.
While the Knights are home to the top offense in the nation, they also rank 15th in scoring defense. Anchored by three returning starters on their defensive line, they are one of only four teams in the nation to be in the top 15 for both categories. The other three are Alabama, Ohio State and Notre Dame, so the Knights are in very good company. The team has done a great job of protecting the ball on offense, only tallying up four turnovers total in five games. On that note, this high potent offense should have little to any trouble against a team that struggles to force turnovers on defense.
UCF head coach Scott Frost is looking to keep building off of his promising first year at the helm. In 2016, the Knights had more losses than the number of wins they currently have, in which they still were awarded a bowl berth. Looking for their first 6-0 start in program history, this team is still reminiscent of being 0-6 at this time two years ago and finishing 0-12. This program is heading in the right direction under Frost for years to come and playoff implications definitely aren’t out of the conversation. With half the season almost in the books for the rising Knights, they are a legitimate force to make a stand come bowl season.