After Notre Dame garnered their biggest win in recent memory — a 35-14 drubbing over previously unbeaten Clemson — The Observer staff give their picks for the Irish’s battle with Navy.
Aidan Thomas – Sports Editor
My heart rate hasn’t settled down from what was the most electric Notre Dame Stadium environment I’ve personally experienced in my four years. And now, it’s time for the Irish to do something else they haven’t done: perform well after a big game. So far, the Marshall and Stanford atrocities have followed up a tight loss to Ohio State and then a big win over BYU.
Notre Dame is going to be prepared for the triple option. I don’t anticipate Navy doing much offensively, especially with their starting quarterback out. I would anticipate more of the same for the Irish on offense. There’ll be some great moments and great drives, coupled with some frustrating missed opportunities. The key is getting locked in for a noon game coming off a pair of ranked wins against a 3-6 Navy team. This game might be a little closer than desired early. But ultimately, Notre Dame should handle the Midshipmen.
Notre Dame 34, Navy 10
Nate Moller – Senior Sports Writer
For the first time this season, the performance by the Irish last weekend was stunning in a good way. I truly did not anticipate the Irish being able to run the ball effectively against a seemingly elite Clemson run defense. But I was very wrong in that respect, as sophomore running backs Logan Diggs and Audric Estime were able to both rush for over 100 yards. The Irish will now face a 3-6 Navy team as heavy favorites. Unfortunately for Notre Dame, they haven’t played well as heavy favorites this year, as their losses against Marshall and Stanford seemingly came out of nowhere.
To make matters worse for the Irish, the Midshipmen are starting to play better football. They kept the score close against a solid Cincinnati team last week. The Irish will need to take advantage of every offensive possession they have on Saturday. And I don’t think the Irish offense is efficient enough to do that. I expect Navy to eat away at the clock with their triple-option attack and find a way to hang in the game long enough to stun the Irish with a late touchdown drive. In classic Notre Dame fashion, the Irish will follow up one of their best performances in recent memory with a disappointing letdown at the hands of the Midshipmen.
Notre Dame 20, Navy 21
Mannion McGinley – Assistant Managing Editor
The Irish have fallen twice after better-than-expected performances against top teams. Both the Marshall and Stanford losses seemed completely out of character in light of the weeks before them. That being said, the Irish had yet to look like they did last weekend. Freshman cornerback Benjamin Morrison had the game of his life, and the Irish defense shut down two quarterbacks and star running back Will Shipley. For the third time this season, the Irish seemed to be living outside their pay grade. But for the first time, they looked comfortable doing it.
So, are positive and negative performances infinitely linked? Do the Irish have to succumb to an insane loss after a massive win? No. This is the weekend to break that streak. But regardless of Navy’s record, it won’t be a cakewalk. The same defense that shut down the Clemson offense will have to shut down the triple option. And time will fly in this game as both run-oriented offenses attempt to stomp downfield. The Irish will have to come out of the gate ready to go, since they’ll get no extra time from the Midshipmen. After a slight first-quarter lull from the offense, a once again stellar defense will propel this victory.
Notre Dame 24, Navy 17
Liam Coolican – Associate Sports Editor
What was most impressive in Notre Dame’s victory over Clemson was that the Irish were dominant in the trenches. Not only did they shred Clemson’s star-studded defensive line, but they also held the Tigers to 90 yards on the ground, their lowest output of the season. The Irish will need more of the same against Navy this weekend. Navy is having a down year, but the triple option is always difficult to defend. Coming directly after the biggest game of the season, my concern is the Irish may not have had enough time to devote to this unique style of play.
On the other side of the ball, Navy’s run defense is stout, allowing opponents just 88 yards on the ground per contest. But as Marcus Freeman said after the Clemson victory, the Irish can’t shy away from their strength. It clearly worked last week. And after a season of searching, I believe Notre Dame has finally found their offensive identity. In this strength versus strength matchup, I’ll take the Irish.
Notre Dame 27, Navy 13
Emily DeFazio – Associate Sports Editor
If I thought the 2020 Clemson game was electric, I didn’t know what electric meant. That was defined Saturday night against the Tigers. I think I’ve been feeling the after effects of the adrenaline rush this entire week. I doubt it’ll go away if the Irish keep playing the way they did Saturday.
While Navy is a respectful rival of Notre Dame, I don’t feel too nervous heading into Saturday’s matchup. The Irish should walk in confident knowing that they have what it takes to notch a definitive win. The only caveat is that, in this inexplicable season, the games with less pressure are the games they have fallen short in. If they can keep the momentum going, maybe even going so far as to experiment a little on offense against a milder opponent, the Irish should have this one.
Notre Dame 38, Navy 14
Madeline Ladd – Associate Sports Editor
Last weekend was spectacular, but this is an entirely new week with an entirely new opponent. Notre Dame must avoid the hangover from the big upset over Clemson. I said after the monumental BYU, and I will say it again — now is not the time to rest. Navy’s talent isn’t great, especially since Navy QB Xavier Arline only threw the ball six times in two games combined as the starter. However, Navy has choices. They utilize QB Maasai Maynobu as a passing option and have demonstrated the ability to control the clock. Stopping their offense will require the Notre Dame defense to be especially disciplined.
The Navy defense is nothing to shrug over, and they have the ability to stop Notre Dame if they play down to their opponent, as shown previously with Marshall and Stanford. Freeman’s team has turned the corner and finally figured out their identity as a team. I predict a big game from junior quarterback Drew Pyne with 300 yards passing, with Estime, Diggs and junior running back Chris Tyree going all out on the Midshipmen. Notre Dame has this win — at least, they should.
Notre Dame: 42, Navy 10