ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Navy is coming off its first loss of the season in the American Athletic Conference, but motivation will hardly be a factor as the Midshipmen prepare to step out of league play. One of the most intense rivalries in college football will reconvene when Air Force pays a visit to Navy on Saturday afternoon in this season's first leg for the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network. LINE: Air Force -3.5
The Falcons arrive in Annapolis with an impressive 3-1 mark -- the only loss coming to No. 15 Boise State -- that included an overtime road win at Colorado, but they are expecting a stern test from the Midshipmen. "Navy's a great team. They always have been," Air Force tailback Josh Stoner said. "It's going to be a great game. It's fun to go out there and play against your fellow service academy. I'm excited." The Midshipmen let an early 13-point lead slip away in a 35-23 loss at Memphis on Sept. 26 and now must prepare for an opponent that dominated last season's game in a 35-7 shellacking. "Air Force is always good, but this is one of their better teams," Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "Watching Air Force, they have a good chance to be undefeated right now. We know we have a great task ahead of us."
ABOUT AIR FORCE (3-1)
Donald Hammond III, who accounted for four touchdowns against Navy in his first career start a year ago, was resting a sore ankle last week before coming off the bench and throwing a 64-yard scoring strike to ignite a 41-24 drubbing of San Jose State. Taven Birdow rushed for 124 of his 338 yards and two scores last week as Air Force churned out 382 yards on the ground, the seventh straight game in which it has outrushed its opponent. The Falcons rank No. 2 nationally in rushing at 332.8 yards per game, just behind Navy (344.7 yards).
ABOUT NAVY (2-1)
The Midshipmen appeared on the way to a third straight victory but managed only three second-half points and were victimized by big plays to absorb the loss despite holding the ball for 38 1/2 minutes. Malcolm Perry has thrown for three scoring passes in the last two games, eclipsing his season total from 2018, and has rushed for 336 yards and three TDs, but he was bottled up by Air Force last season as Navy was held to 178 total yards. Fullback Nelson Smith (167 yards, 3 TDs) is questionable after suffering a head injury versus Memphis.
1. Air Force WR Geraud Sanders has a touchdown reception in three straight games
2. Navy ranks No. 14 nationally against the rush (84.3 yards per game).
3. The home team has won each of the past six meetings.
PREDICTION: Air Force 27, Navy 24