Notre Dame Football Primer: #10 Irish host the Navy Midshipmen

The Irish look to improve to 8-1 as they welcome their historic foe, the Navy Midshipmen.

Brian Kelly just continues to win in South Bend. Notre Dame was able to outscore North Carolina last week and move up to #8 in the AP Poll. With only four games remaining in the regular season, anything can happen in college football and this year has been no expectation. The Fighting Irish welcome their longtime opponent, Navy this weekend. Ken Niumatalolo and the Midshipmen gave Cincinnati all they could handle a few weeks ago and will try to do the same to the Irish on Saturday.

Essential Game Info:

  • Game Time: Saturday, November 6th at 3:30 PM ET on NBC
  • Location: Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Indiana
  • Matchup History: The Irish are 79-13-1 all-time against the Navy Midshipmen (Last Meeting 2019: Notre Dame won 52 to 20)
  • Rivalry Trophy: The Rip Miller Trophy
  • Current Odds: Notre Dame -20.5

Weather Forecast

The current forecast for GameDay shows a 6% chance of rain with a high of 50 degrees and a low of 37.

Navy Details:

  • Conference: American Athletic Conference
  • Head Coach: Ken Niumatalolo
  • 2021 Record: 2-6 (2-4)
  • 2020 Record: 3-7 (3-4)

Navy Storylines:

Ken Niumatalolo and Navy have struggled the last several seasons. Recently, the Army Black Knights have become the premier football service academy. The Navy Midshipmen had great teams around the 2010’s and became good enough to join the American Athletic Conference. However, the program has witnessed a decline over the past few years.

From 2007 to 2016, Navy had 4 victories in 10 meetings against the Fighting Irish. But Brian Kelly has taken over the series, as Notre Dame has won 8 of the last 9 matchups. Although the Midshipmen come into this game with a 2-6 record, they gave the Cincinnati Bearcats all they could manage a few weeks ago and should never be overlooked.

Key Navy Players in this showdown. The Midshipmen are led by quarterback Tai Lavatai who is 21 for 29 (54%) with 273 passing yards, 2 interceptions, and 2 touchdowns on the season. On the ground, Lavatai has 117 attempts for 242 rushing yards (2.1 yards per carry) and 5 rushing scores. In Navy’s 20 to 17 victory over Tulsa last week, the Midshipmen did not have a completion.

Other crucial players include running backs Isaac Ruoss and Carlinos Acie. This fall, Ruoss leads the team with 437 rushing yards and has added two touchdowns. While Acie has 37 attempts for 287 yards (7.8 yards per carry), with his longest rush at 64-yards.

Notre Dame Storylines:

Jack Coan and Kyren Williams are peaking. Against the North Carolina Tar Heels, Coan went 16 for 24 with a touchdown and no interceptions. Perhaps most impressive, he had 3 rushes for 28-yards and a touchdown. Coan was only sacked once against North Carolina and his sack rate has dropped dramatically in the past several weeks, keeping the offense on schedule.

Williams has been unstoppable on offense. The Offensive Line is undoubtedly playing better every week, and it helps that Williams is turning broken plays into 91-yard touchdowns. Last Saturday, the Irish running back had 22 carries for 199-yards and one rushing score.

The Irish Defense struggled mightily against Sam Howell. The good news for Notre Dame’s defense is that the Tar Heels are the best remaining offense on the schedule (depending on Virginia Quarterback Brennan Armstrong’s availability next week). Notre Dame was also without Kyle Hamilton, the best safety in college football.

Nevertheless, there were too many blown coverages and missed tackles. Marcus Freeman’s unit allowed 554 total yards of offense and 28 first downs. Then again, even with an underwhelming performance, they were able to force a turnover and limit the Tar Heels to two field goals, which helped the hot Irish Offense secure the victory.

Head-to-Head Matchups:

Notre Dame Offense vs. Navy Defense: Notre Dame Football has averaged 33-points per game (overall team scoring), while the Navy Midshipmen have surrendered 30-points per matchup this fall. The deficit for the Naval Academy could be even higher, if not for their slow-tempo offense that limits possessions for opponents.

Since Notre Dame’s bye-week, the Irish Offense has been unrelenting. The Irish have the advantage in this department but must score touchdowns in the red zone as Navy attempts to control the clock.

Advantage: Notre Dame

Navy Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense: Navy is scoring 18-points per game, while Notre Dame is giving up 25-points per contest. Marcus Freeman’s unit did not look great against North Carolina, but the Midshipmen present a whole different challenge. Unfortunately, Kyle Hamilton will be out this week. But the Irish Defense still needs to take over even without the All-American.

Luckily, Coach Freeman was able to face Navy multiple times while coaching at Cincinnati, which helps for Saturday’s showdown.

Advantage: Notre Dame

Special Teams: Navy’s kicking game is headlined by Bijan Nichols who is 11 for 14 on the year with a long of 50-yards. Conversely, Jonathan Doerer is 12 for 16 this season with a long of 51-yards.

Kyren Williams and Chris Tyree have been electric this fall. Notre Dame has superior athletes on the field for special teams, the Irish have the advantage in this category.

Advantage: Notre Dame

My Prediction:

If this season is classified as a “down year” for Notre Dame Football, I am quite content to be a fan. Brian Kelly’s squad is #8 in the AP Poll with their only loss coming to #2 Cincinnati, a game in which the Irish Offense was still being molded and Notre Dame spotted the Bearcats three turnovers. There is still a lot of work to be done, but Brian Kelly just continues to win football games and they are 26-1 in their last 27 regular season ACC matchups.

Navy only lost to Cincinnati by 7-points two weeks ago and have played in a lot of lower-scoring games. I anticipate the Midshipmen to hold the football until the play clock is under five seconds. The Irish may not get many possessions, that is why I have Notre Dame winning by only 14-points.

Yet, this could be a much larger blowout if Coan is able to connect on a few deep plays to Kevin Austin Jr., Lorenzo Styles Jr., or other receivers.

Prediction: Notre Dame 31 Navy 17

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  1. Well, you either know how to stop the optionn, or you don’t. We did not play
    NAVY last year, so a third of the team has never seen it before. There are three basic ways to stop it, I won’t enumerate, but all three require the defensive players to stay on their feet at all costs (except maybe the nose tackle). Since our new DC has seen it
    we should win, probably by two to three touchdowns.

    BGC 77 82

    1. Ummm….but you did enumerate. Three.
      You didn’t elucidate.

      The annual ”eternal gratitude’ game….a touching sentiment, but gawdawful entertainment.
      And for a ‘feel good’ game, nothing good ever comes of it. But plenty of bad things have.

      If ND ever decides to get serious about competing for a national championship ever again —unlikely, but possible — this game must get reconfigured as a pure exhibition match….beginnong of training camp or something.

  2. ND 30-Navy 20
    MIssed tackles, missing Hamilton, and the Middies’ persistence will get Navy 4 scores; hopefully two of them will be FGs. Navy’s ball control will limit ND’s # of possessions and, when in the red zone, ND will settle for FGs as they run into the pile, which hasn’t worked all year. NDs TDs will come on big pass or run plays, all three of their TDs. ND is playing for a NY6 bowl, not a chance they will be among the final four seeing who’s rated above them, and their inability to cover the spread this week will further assure the CFP panel they do not belong near the elite four.
    I’m just hoping we get out of this game without major knee injuries.

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