Tonight, Navy visits Memphis in a game that represents the old guard of the AAC West, if you can call it that. The Midshipmen enter as 15-point favorites, but the series history tells college football fans not to count the Midshipmen out against the Tigers. Even in Navy's worst seasons in recent memory, they still find a way to play their best games against Memphis. As a result, there are multiple head-scratching results in this series.
Most who recollect the 2015 season remember the race for not only the AAC title but the Group of Five's New Year's Six spot as well. For the first two months of the season, Memphis was the frontrunner on the strength of two Power Five wins, including a #13 ranked Ole Miss squad and an undefeated record. Since that Ole Miss team beat Alabama, Memphis had a legitimate argument for a College Football Playoff spot if they could run the table.
And then unranked Navy came into town on November 7th, and not only crashed Memphis' New Year's Six party but sent the Tigers on a catastrophic tailspin. The Midshipmen ran for 374 yards on the way to a 45-20 dismantling of the Tigers. Memphis lost two straight after the Navy and went from a New Year's Six bid to a spot in the Birmingham Bowl against 6-6 Auburn. This was not an upset in retrospect as Navy finished 11-2 and a game away from the AAC Title Game.
Three years later, Navy pulled another upset on the Tigers, though not as impactful to the Tigers' season. In 2018, Navy went 3-10, but one of those three wins was surprisingly against the eventual AAC West champion, Memphis. Memphis found a way to blow a 21-9 fourth quarter lead to a Navy team that threw for only 52 yards. Malcolm Perry willed the Midshipmen to victory with 36 carries for 166 of Navy's 264 rush yards, while four turnovers also doomed the Tigers.
Memphis finished the regular season 8-4 and the AAC West champions, but with four losses, they were out of the New Year's Six race. Nonetheless, this was still a shocking upset.
Two years later, another three-win Navy team nearly stunned Memphis again. In Tyger Goslin's third and final start at quarterback at Navy, he nearly quarterbacked the Midshipmen to an upset. Nelson Smith ran for 142 yards, but a late missed field goal doomed Navy's upset bid in a 10-7 loss.
Memphis finished the season 8-3 with a win over Florida Atlantic in the only Montgomery Bowl ever, while Navy finished 3-7 and only scored 13 points in their final three games.
If there is one thing to expect tonight, it is the unexpected. Navy's uncanny ability to spoil Memphis' seasons is one of college football's most intriguing oddities. Add in the fact that Memphis may look ahead to their game against Missouri next week and we may have the recipe for another Navy upset over Memphis.