MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Navy won only three games a year ago, but one of them was a 22-21 victory over Memphis in which the Midshipmen erased a 12-point deficit in the final quarter. With both teams off to undefeated starts, the Tigers will get a shot to avenge last year's defeat when they host Navy on Thursday night in a nationally televised American Athletic Conference matchup.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Memphis -10.5
Memphis is 3-0 for the third time under coach Mike Norvell and is knocking on the door of the Top 25 coaches poll, sitting one spot out of the rankings as it prepares to play its conference opener. The Tigers are coming off routs of South Alabama and Southern by a combined 97-30 but they served early notice of a promising campaign with a 15-10 victory over SEC foe Ole Miss in the season opener. The Midshipmen breezed past overmatched Holy Cross 45-7 before kicking off their AAC campaign with a 42-10 romp of visiting East Carolina. Navy's success over the years has been built upon its signature triple-option offense, but coach Ken Niumatalolo has tried to mix it up more by working in the pass this season.
ABOUT NAVY (2-0, 1-0 AAC)
Malcolm Perry finished 9-of-23 for 222 yards in 2018 but showed his evolution as a passer by becoming the first Navy quarterback since 2010 to rush and pass for at least 150 yards in the same game while accounting for six touchdowns (four rushing) versus East Carolina. Although the competition has been suspect, Navy's defense is surrendering 226.5 yard per game - a dramatic improvement after ranking among the worst nationally in a number of categories last season. Niumatalolo said the biggest reason for that success is holding the opposition to 5-for-25 on third down after ranking 121st out of 129 FBS teams in that category last season.
ABOUT MEMPHIS (3-0, 0-0)
Top running back Patrick Taylor has not played since rushing for 128 yards and a touchdown against Ole Miss and has been ruled out of Thursday's game, but freshman Kenneth Gainwell and Kylan Watkins have capably filled the void. The duo combined for 258 yards on the ground against South Alabama, including a career-best 145 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries by Gainwell. Quarterback Brady White is completing 72.2 percent of his passes - among the top 20 nationally - while throwing for 718 yards with five scores versus two interceptions while his top target is wideout Damonte Coxie (15 catches, 237 yards).
1. Memphis (226.3) ranks third nationally in fewest yards allowed - one spot ahead of Navy.
2. The Midshipmen are the only team with zero three-and-outs this season.
3. Memphis' 48 wins since 2014 rank No. 13 in the FBS.
PREDICTION: Memphis 27, Navy 22