This Saturday, Notre Dame will host Navy (6-3), and have a chance to improve to an impressive 7-2 record. A win Saturday would keep the Irish’s chance of a BCS bid alive, as well as keep quarterback Jimmy Clausen in the Heisman hunt. For Notre Dame to achieve these goals, they will have to take care of the Midshipmen first, and three keys will allow them to do so.
Notre Dames run defense:
This is an obvious one mainly because of Navy’s offensive scheme, which is to run the triple option. Last year, Navy ran for a total of three rushing touchdowns against the Irish, which almost lead them to victory. This year, freshman Manti Te’o among others will have to step up and force Navy to do what it hates; throw. Another key figure in stopping Navy’s attack is defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta. Coach Tenuta will need to come up with an effective blitzing scheme to stop Navy’s run, keep our defense off the field, and our offense on it. Limiting Navy’s run and forcing them to throw will only end in good things for the Irish.
Notre Dames run game:
As of now, it looks like the Irish will be without starting tailback Armando Allen, and will be running with Robert Hughes. Also look for Theo Riddick and Jonas Gray, who each got a little under 10 carries against Washington State. The Irish will need to provide a consistent ground game, so that Clausen can open up the offense and keep Navy on its heels. In addition to a strong running performance, look for improved blocking, to give Clausen time to hit one of his receivers – which now includes Michael Floyd, who is playing in his first game since breaking his collar bone against Michigan State.
Last year against Navy, Notre Dame had a horrific 4th quarter of special teams in which they allowed Navy to recover two straight onside kicks, giving them a chance at victory. The kicking game has been solid this year, in which freshman kicker Nick Tausch has converted all but one field goals. In this game especially, look for the resurgence of Mike Anello, who has been much quieter than he was a season ago.
All in all, the Irish should not have a problem against an inferior Navy team, and will look to put up solid overall team stats to improve its chances of a BCS bid.