Staff Predictions: Notre Dame vs. Navy
The Irish have built up a three-game winning streak following their first regular-season defeat in nearly two years, and they’ll look to run it up to four by beating Navy in the reinstatement of the historic series. Members of the Observer Staff give their predictions.
Aidan Thomas – Associate Sports Editor
The Irish have finally made it through that midseason gauntlet, escaping a pretty brutal five-game stretch with a 4-1 record. They sit at 7-1 overall, with the No. 8 ranking in the AP Poll and No. 10 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings. The road to 11-1 is pretty straightforward from here on out, as the Irish should be favorites in each of their remaining four games. That starts with a 2-6 Navy team, that is a touch better than their record, but certainly an exceptionally winnable game.
The Midshipmen have stayed within a possession of Cincinnati – ranked No.6 in the CFP poll – but suffered blowouts in three other losses. They also have an upset win over UCF. So Notre Dame needs to put this one away early, and thankfully, they should be able to key in on the run, as Navy averages four pass completions per game. The Irish have struggled against versatile offenses but dominated against more one-dimensional attacks. While the result shouldn’t be in question, it’s important for Notre Dame’s postseason hopes to come out and dominate an inferior opponent at home.
Notre Dame 48, Navy 14
Nate Moller – Sportswriter
The Navy game always makes me nervous, and despite Navy’s atrocious 2-6 record, this year is no different. The Midshipmen will surely come into Notre Dame Stadium with an upset on their minds, and the Irish better be careful not to underestimate the Midshipmen. In last week’s win against UNC, the Irish struggled mightily at times to tackle, and that won’t fly against a triple-option attack that can survive off of four-yard gains every play. I think the Irish will win this one easily when all is said and done, but I do expect the Midshipmen to have some big plays off of missed tackles that will keep them in the game for a while.
On the other side of the ball, the Irish should be able to dominate the Midshipmen with their improved offensive line and running back Kyren Williams. The up-tempo offense the Irish have developed around quarterback Jack Coan should also pay off against a Navy team that is going to take up a lot of clock running the football. While I do expect the Irish to miss some tackles, the defensive line is good enough to get some tackles for loss that should derail some Midshipmen drives.
Notre Dame 34, Navy 14
Mannion McGinley – Sports Editor
The Irish climbed all the way up, out of the midseason stress. Fans can breathe again (but calmly and unassumingly so as not to disrupt anything going forward). After the win over UNC, I am not concerned with the offense’s ability to produce so long as the offensive line can make the space to do so. With the game ball in their pocket, they should be able to find that capability again this weekend. The one space the Irish need to watch is their tackling.
On paper, the Irish should run away with this game. The offense is producing and doing so quickly but as for the defense, the Midshipmen need to be downed on the first touch. There cannot be a second or even third touch. That was the biggest issue this weekend and heading into a Saturday that is solely characterized by a triple option, the Irish cannot be lulled to sleep by a 2-6 record. Notre Dame will win but it will not be the blowout it should be if the tackling is not there. The score is closer than it could be, additionally, because the Irish tend to play to the level of their opponent.
Notre Dame 42, Navy 24
Emily DeFazio – Associate Sports Editor
The midseason nail-biting has passed, and though the Irish emerged from the fray with a loss, I would call it a win that there was only one to record. Notre Dame pulled off a rather impressive victory against the Tar Heels; never in my wildest dreams had I thought I would witness a Jack Coan rushing touchdown, and who can ignore that 91-yard run from Kyren Williams. In the words of fellow beat writer Nate Moller, “man did have himself a career day.”
I expect team morale to be high heading into this weekend’s matchup against the Midshipmen, and it should be a pretty solid win for the Irish. Especially with the new rhythm on offense, Notre Dame should definitely be the stronger team on that field. But that doesn’t mean they should get too comfortable; that is where mistakes can come in. Navy is 2-6, but that doesn’t mean they are not talented. Notre Dame’s defense needs to iron out the kinks in the tackling department; they can’t get away with giving the Midshipmen five-plus yards on every play. Do this, and Notre Dame should walk away with another home win in their pockets.
Notre Dame 45, Navy 20
Jimmy Ward – Associate Sports Editor
Yeah yeah, I get mutual respect and all, but this one is easy. Irish by a zillion.
Notre Dame 45, Navy 3
Colin Capece – Assistant Managing Editor
This is one of my favorite games of the year because what it represents transcends college football, and the mutual respect between these two teams is more than apparent. Like Jimmy said though, I have to take the Irish by a long shot in this one. Navy has played hard all year long and hold a one-possession loss against a Cincinnati team currently ranked No. 6 in the CFP poll that outplayed Notre Dame at Notre Dame Stadium in early October.
They also beat, in my opinion, an underrated and well-coached UCF team the same early-October weekend the Bearcats beat the Irish. Navy always has this game circled on their schedule and will no doubt come into South Bend with some juice, but they just don’t throw effectively enough to challenge this Irish defense, even with Kyle Hamilton out for the second straight week.
The Irish will have to adjust early on from the pin the ears back and demolish the ballcarrier style of play they’ve had under defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman so far to a more contain-focused approach, but the triple option will run out of steam by the second quarter. With junior running back Kyren Williams rolling the way he is right now, combined with Navy’s atrocious tackling that was on full display against Tulsa last week, the Irish will flip the script on the Midshipmen and control the clock from start to finish. Notre Dame finally makes a statement win against an inferior team, which will be huge for New Year’s Six bowl consideration at the end of the season.