The Fighting Irish return to Dublin, Ireland for the first time since 2012. The Notre Dame Football program has changed dramatically this past decade, but the national championship goal remains the same. Notre Dame marches into this Week 0 matchup with another high preseason ranking to face their longtime rival, the Navy Midshipmen. Led by Heisman candidate Sam Hartman, the Irish are looking for a convincing win after a near upset to the Midshipmen last fall.
Essential Game Info:
- Game Time: Saturday, August 26th at 2:30 PM ET
- Location: Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Ireland
- Matchup History: Notre Dame is 79-13-1 all-time against the Navy Midshipmen (Last Meeting 2022: Irish won 35 to 32)
- Current Odds: Notre Dame -20.5
- Trophy: The Rip Miller Trophy
- Conference: American Athletic Conference
- Head Coach: Brian Newberry
- 2022 Record: 4-8 (4-4)
- 2021 Record: 4-8 (3-5)
The current GameDay forecast shows a 45% chance of rain, with a high of 63 degrees and a low of 53.
There is a new Head Coach in Annapolis. For the first time since 2007, Ken Niumatalolo will not lead the Midshipmen into battle. Former Defensive Coordinator and Safeties coach since 2019, Brian Newberry, has taken over as Head Coach. Before his time at the Naval Academy, Coach Newberry was at Kennesaw State.
Navy Football travels back to Ireland. As an independent, Notre Dame can play essentially whoever they want, wherever they want, and the Naval Academy has always been open to playing neutral site games. Whether it is Jacksonville, San Diego, or now Dublin, they travel across the world to play in this historic rivalry.
No starting quarterback has been announced for Navy Football. Per Head Coach Brian Newberry, it is still a two-quarterback competition. Fans will likely see both Tai Lavatai (Senior) and Blake Horvath (Sophomore) in action this Saturday.
Last fall, Lavatai went 42 for 91 (46%) for 787 yards, 5 passing touchdowns, and 3 interceptions in 2022. On the ground, he had 115 attempts for 309 yards (2.7 yards per carry) with 5 rushing scores. While Blake Horvath has yet to record a statistic. Regardless of who is at quarterback, expect the Midshipmen to do a little more passing than they did under Ken Niumatalolo.
Notre Dame Storylines:
Sam Hartman makes his debut under center. The time has finally arrived for the Wake Forest transfer to make his highly anticipated start in Ireland. Notre Dame has desperately needed a superstar quarterback under center since Brady Quinn in 2006.
Gerad Parker takes over as offensive coordinator. With the departure of Tommy Rees to Alabama, former West Virginia Offensive Coordinator Gerad Parker gets another shot at play-calling. Undoubtedly, every coordinator in the country will be questioned on each decision, but how Coach Parker balances Sam Hartman and Audric Estime will be fascinating to watch.
The Irish Defense seeks redemption against the Navy. Notre Dame had a 35 to 13 lead against the Naval Academy but ended up winning 35 to 32. The Navy is always willing to roll the dice on 4th down and go for it just about any time the opportunity presents itself. Coach Freeman and Coach Golden must be better prepared in year two for the triple option.
Notre Dame Offense vs. Navy Defense: The Fighting Irish have the advantage in this matchup. As always, Notre Dame must avoid settling for field goals when playing a service academy. There will only be limited possessions as the Navy Offense will windle the clock down to single digits every drive.
The Irish will have a clear advantage in this category but must be patient.
Advantage: Notre Dame
Navy Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense: There is a new era of Navy Football, but expect them to stay close to their triple option roots. Last fall, the Midshipmen were able to give the Irish Defense fits during the second half of their matchup while keeping the Irish Offense off the field.
I give Al Golden’s Defense the advantage in this category and believe they will play better than they did in 2022.
Advantage: Notre Dame
Special Teams: Notre Dame brings in new special teams coordinator Marty Biagi (Ole Miss) alongside transfer kicker Spencer Shrader (South Florida). Last season, Shrader was 9 of 13 last season with a long of 49 yards.
Conversely, Navy is expected to start senior Evan Warren, who only has one attempt in his career (a 45-yard missed field goal).
Advantage: Notre Dame
Notre Dame has won 10 of the last 11 matchups against Navy, including 5 straight victories with an average margin of 18 points. However, Marcus Freeman and company narrowly escaped a late surge from the Naval Academy last fall.
Football has no certainties, and before Notre Dame can even think about Ohio State, USC, or Clemson, they must pass this test. I believe the Irish will win this year’s matchup convincingly. Both the offense and defense will likely show some rust early on but will ultimately get the job done.
Notre Dame has been built off the rushing attack this past decade, so I anticipate Navy to try and take away the ground game first. But this will allow Sam Hartman to take some early shots and gain momentum for the Fighting Irish. I have the Irish winning this week 0 matchup by three touchdowns.
Prediction: Notre Dame 45, Navy 24