Notre Dame will look to rebound from its first loss of the season when the Navy Midshipmen travel to South Bend this Saturday. The Irish will need to be ready for Navy’s triple option offense, which they run with excellent efficiency. Notre Dame did an excellent job defending the triple option earlier this season defeating Georgia Tech and could put an end to questions about their ability to defend it with another strong performance this weekend. Despite the talent discrepancy Navy will certainly give the Irish a battle as they always play a full 60 minutes. The following matchups are critical to the success of the Irish on Saturday:
Jaylon Smith versus Keenan Reynolds
Notre Dame’s best defensive player Jaylon Smith will face his second elite option quarterback of the season in Keenan Reynolds. Reynolds is an elite runner and decision maker, rarely making the wrong read running the option. Reynolds is only four rushing touchdowns behind Montee Ball for the all-time NCAA record but his arm must be respected as well as he is a good passer for an option quarterback. If Smith can use his athleticism and instincts to contain Reynolds on the ground it will force Navy to pass, which they would like to avoid.
Joe Schmidt versus Chris Swain
In what will be a very physical matchup linebacker Joe Schmidt will be meeting Navy fullback Chris Swain in the hole often on Saturday. Schmidt can expect to have more than the one tackle he recorded versus Clemson as Swain carries the ball 17 times a game on average and will be taking it right down the middle of the Irish defense on most of those carries. Schmidt will need to shut down Swain as he is the first option in the triple option and if the Irish can’t stop that they are in trouble.
Mike McGlinchey versus Will Anthony
The Irish offensive line will look to bounce back from its worst performance of the season and Mike McGlinchey will have the toughest matchup in Will Anthony. Anthony is the most disruptive force on the Navy defense as he other leads or is tied for the team-lead in sacks, tackles for loss and forced fumbles. Typical of a Navy lineman Anthony is undersized at 6’1’’ 254 pounds but he won’t quit. If the Irish right tackle can stop Anthony from making plays in the backfield Notre Dame will be in good shape.
C.J. Prosise versus Micah Thomas
The Irish offensive line and running back C.J. Prosise will be looking to make a statement after struggling last week and standing in their way will be Micah Thomas. Thomas is the Midshipmen’s leading tackler but will face a much stiffer challenge than he has seen this season when he comes to South Bend. Prosise will be looking to break out again with big runs against the Navy defense which will be undersized and outgunned. If Prosise doesn’t experience success it will be a major red flag for the rest of the season.