DALLAS (AP) – Navy could still play the American Athletic Conference championship game at home. SMU needs one more win to get bowl eligible.
The two teams that beat Houston this season have a lot on the line Saturday.
Triple-option Navy has already clinched the West Division and a spot in the conference title game. But the Midshipmen (8-2, 6-1 AAC, No. 25 CFP) still have a chance to host the Dec. 3 game depending on who wins the East.
“You have to find a way to keep pressing forward, have to find a way to not look ahead to the next game,” coach Ken Niumatalolo said.
While SMU (5-6, 3-4) has to win to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2012, there are rumors about the possibility of second-year Mustangs coach Chad Morris leaving to become Baylor’s new coach. Morris addressed that situation this week, saying that it’s just that time of year in college football when people are mentioned for jobs. He said he hadn’t been contacted by Baylor.
Navy, which has a three-game winning streak and is averaging 46 points its last six games, pulled off one of the biggest upsets this season when it won 46-40 over Houston (9-2, 5-2 No. 20 CFP) on Oct. 8. The Mustangs then beat the Cougars 38-16 two weeks after that.
“We’ve definitely turned the corner in this program. There is no doubt about that,” Morris said. “Just watching our kids play and seeing the hurt in our locker room after a tough loss. I’m extremely proud of where we are in this program. … Year 1, we laid the foundation and Year 2 is about building off that foundation.”
Some things to know when Navy goes for its seventh consecutive win in the series against SMU:
WE’LL BE BACK
After Saturday’s game at SMU, the AAC title game and then the Army-Navy game, the Midshipmen will return to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex for their bowl game. Navy has a contractual agreement to play in the Armed Forces Bowl on TCU’s campus on Dec. 23. The only thing that would change that is if they finish as the top-ranked league champion from the Group of Five conferences. If that happens, Navy would play in the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Day in the Dallas Cowboys’ home stadium.
The Mustangs’ defense has 18 interceptions this season, ranking second among FBS schools. They are the only FBS team that has three players who have at least four picks. SMU is third nationally with 25 total takeaways after forcing only 10 turnovers all of last season.
A FEW NUMBERS
SMU receiver Courtland Sutton set a school record with 252 yards receiving in a loss to USF last week, when he had a career-high 13 receptions. He has 70 catches for 1,186 yards and nine TDs this season. … Navy is 25-5 its last 30 games, and has a 13-2 record in AAC games since joining the league last year. … Navy’s senior class has won 36 games, tied as the most in school history over a four-year period. Last year’s seniors also won 36 games, matching the Class of 1909.
THIS ONE’S FOR GANSZ
The two teams play for the Gansz Trophy, created in 2009 in memory of Frank Gansz, who played at Navy from 1957-59 and was an assistant coach at both Navy and SMU. Gansz died in April 2009 from complications after knee replacement surgery. He coached for 38 seasons, 24 in the NFL and 14 in the collegiate ranks.