Notre Dame looks to bounce back from last weekend’s disappointing showing in Miami. With the playoff dreams all but dead, Notre Dame will face a Navy team that isn’t exactly the kind of team you want to face when you have any reason for a let down. Add in the always emotional element of Senior Day and suddenly we have a game that is more interesting than it appeared it would be just a couple weeks ago.
What Concerns Me This Week
Senior Day. It’s always an emotional game for Notre Dame – and most schools for that matter. The good news for Notre Dame is that a lot of the seniors still have eligibility left after this year so they know it’s not their last game but for guys like Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson, it’s the last time they will step onto that field for the Fighting Irish (yes I’m aware Nelson has eligibility left but he’s a top 10 pick at worst right now). Playing a team like Navy that will grind you down and frustrate you is not an ideal combination with Senior Day to be honest.
Notre Dame is bigger, stronger, faster, and all that but they were all of that last year too and Navy still beat them in Jacksonville. It won’t be an easy task for the staff to have everyone’s heads in the right mindframe at the start of this one.
Notre Dame’s defensive line. Greg very astutely pointed out in the summer that the Notre Dame defensive line could wear down by season’s end and sure enough, it looks like that might be happening. After being so stout against the run all season the Notre Dame defense was gashed by both Wake Forest and Miami in the running game. Now the Irish will have a bunch of young kids playing against the option for the first time. Guys like Daelin Hayes, Jay Hayes, Khalid Kareem, Julian Okwara, Kurt Hinish and Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa either didn’t play much last year or were still in high school.
I expect Navy to put together a couple of good drives early as the Irish defense settles in. Good news here is Mike Elko has a lot of experience in scheming to stop the option so that should help ease the burden on the young defensive linemen. That said, it’s a lot different when you get out there and start cutting cut blocked repeatedly.
The mental state of the team. This isn’t just tied to Senior Day either. After last week’s no show in Miami, we’ll learn a lot about the mental make up of this team. Everyone said all of the right things all week, but it would be impossible for them all not to be utterly disappointment this week. Hell, if anyone on the team wasn’t disappointed and pissed off all week long, they are playing the wrong sport. Teams can respond in one of two ways to such situations – they can come out and play pissed off or they can let Miami beat them a second time this weekend.
What Doesn’t Concern Me This Week
A bounce back from the Notre Dame offensive line. While the defensive line worries me this weekend, the offensive line doesn’t – even after Miami made them look ordinary at best. Navy just doesn’t have the players in the trenches to hang with the Notre Dame offensive line and the Irish should be on a mission to get that ground game going again early on. Look for Quenton Nelson especially to play like a man possessed this weekend as he was one of the few players last week that looked locked in and ready to play. I hope Chip Long comes out and makes a statement by running the ball three straight times on Notre Dame’s first possession of the game. If he does, I have little doubt that the 4th play would be a punt.
And Brandon Wimbush. Last week’s game won’t be in the Brandon Wimbush highlight reel but he has a chance to learn from it. In Notre Dame’s two losses this year, Wimbush has been pretty bad. He was a different kind of bad against Miami than Georgia though. Against the Bulldogs, he was just really off. Against Miami he turned the ball over way too much and got rattled. He has a chance to learn from that performance though and improve as a quarterback.
I said earlier this week we will learn a lot about Brandon Wimbush this weekend and someone in the comments pointed out that even a huge game this week doesn’t mean that he will suddenly play like that against another top team. And they were right. My point, however, remains that we’ll learn about how strong Wimbush is between the ear holes this weekend. If Wimbush comes out and hits some throws and moves the offense and doesn’t show any lingering effects from last week, we’ll know he moved on. If he doesn’t though, then the Irish have a new problem on their hands.
The Rockne Heritage jerseys. Some people will love them, some will hate them. If Notre Dame struggles at all the old guard will complain that all they did was motivate Navy to play harder. Personally, I don’t really think what Notre Dame wears today will have any impact on how hard Navy plays or how the Irish play. All I’ll say on them is that the jerseys, helmets, cleats they wear today are meant to honor Knute Rockne. Hopefully the players play in a manner that honors him as well.
Players to Watch
- Josh Adams – He has been shut down the last two weeks ever since the 33 Trucking Campaign kicked off. The only thing that could slow him down today though is another random, minor injury. Look for him to bounce back.
- Jerry Tillery – Notre Dame needs him to have a monster game in the middle of the DL. He’s played Navy two times already and knows what he is in store for.
- Alize Mack – Will last week’s touchdown – albeit after the game was decided – be the spark that finally gets him going?
- Nick Coleman – Navy will most definitely pull out a few trick plays and mix in a few well timed play action passes. Notre Dame needs Coleman to be disciplined this week to avoid giving up the kind of big plays Navy needs to to win a game.
- Drue Tranquill – He was an option stopping machine in early 2015 before he got hurt. His role in this year’s defense is similar to that specialty role he played then. Look for him to rack up tackles today.
How’d I Do Last Week
Horrible. I predicted a 10 point win for Notre Dame and honestly, deep down I thought Notre Dame had a chance to win even more comfortably so in reality, I couldn’t have been more wrong. I thought the chinks in the armor we saw against Wake Forest was just a young team looking ahead to a big game. Instead, they were a sign of things to come. And now I have myself very confused for this week.
This is honestly the hardest game of the year to predict in my opinion. You have all of the emotional factors which play such a big role in college football weighed against the fact that Notre Dame is playing a team they should never beat by less than 20. But we all know how the Navy games go for whatever reasons. All that said, here goes. I think this game will be close until half-time with both offense scoring early. In fact, I could see this game in general playing out exactly like the 2015 game between the two. In the second half though, the Irish will pull away and win reasonably comfortably. Navy will try to limit Notre Dame’s possessions so it’ll be on Chip Long to stay patient when Notre Dame has the football. If long just trusts the process this week and runs the ball, Notre Dame will be fine in the end.
Prediction: Notre Dame 45, Navy 24
Pre-Season Prediction: Notre Dame 49-17
|Week 12: Stanford
|Week 11: Navy
|Week 10: Miami
|Week 9: Wake Forest
|Week 8: #14 NC State
|Week 7: #21 USC
|Week 6: North Carolina
|Week 5: Miami OH
|Week 4: #16 Michigan State
|Week 3: Boston College
|Week 2: #3 Georgia
|Week 1: Temple