Frankie V’s Prediction: Will Notre Dame Cruise to Victory Over Navy in Ireland?

Notre Dame and Navy kick off the 2023 college football season on Saturday from Dublin, Ireland, in a game that was supposed to happen three years ago but got canceled because of COVID-19. The Irish head into the game ranked 13th in the country, while Navy enters with a new head coach and some more intrigue than in past seasons. The game is also the long-awaited Notre Dame debut for transfer QB Sam Hartman, who Irish fans hope will ignite the offense. Will that start this week? Let’s dig in.

What Worries Me This Week

Navy’s pressure up the middle. Navy made its second-half run last year when they decided to blitz Notre Dame on almost every down. Tommy Rees had no answer (good luck, Alabama) as Drew Pyne struggled to make Navy pay for the pressure. Notre Dame has two new starting guards, and starting center Zeke Correll has been banged up this summer. If Navy wants to send pressure as often again, look for them to try to exploit the interior of the line.

Rocco Spindler and Pat Coogan won their starting positions when neither was considered the front-runner coming into summer, so their positions are well earned. Still, it could take a while to set in. Remember how bad the Notre Dame offensive line looked in 2021 with new starters before eventually settling in? I don’t expect it to be that bad this time around since its tackles are so good, but there may be some blown assignments early that could lead to free blitzers.

Taking too long to adjust to new Navy wrinkles. Navy isn’t going to abandon the option offense completely, but there are likely to be a lot of new wrinkles that Notre Dame hasn’t seen from the Midshipmen before with a new coaching staff.

Most expect Navy to pass more under new offensive coordinator Grant Chestnut. Still, it’s unlikely we’ll see Navy come out and have a completely new offensive system, ala Charlie Weis and the spread against Georgia Tech in 2007. Still, there will be more passing plays that the Irish defense will see for the first time during the game. If Navy hits on a couple of those, it could be a frustrating afternoon for the Irish.

What Doesn’t Worry Me This Week

Notre Dame’s passing attack. The big difference between last year and this year for Notre Dame – if Navy decides to go all Jon Tenuta on Notre Dame – is at the quarterback position. Drew Pyne was fine last year for Notre Dame, but he wasn’t great under pressure, and he wasn’t great when someone took away Michael Mayer. Sam Hartman is not Drew Pyne. He’s battle-tested and out to use his one season at Notre Dame as a springboard to the NFL.

If Navy is going to give Notre Dame free yards, Hartman will take them. Notre Dame didn’t do that enough last year, but with a veteran quarterback, that should be a problem. Regardless of what Navy does defensively, Hartman and the Irish passing attack will eventually find a way to exploit it and put up points.

Navy’s passing attack. While Navy will pass more, and there is a worry of some big plays off of it, in general, Navy passing more is probably a good thing for Notre Dame in this game because it will be new for them, too. Navy barely threw the ball last year. Navy quarterbacks passed for a total of 1,030 yards on the season. No receiver had more than 242 yards for Navy last year. If they decide to throw it more, they’ll have growing pains.

Timing of the matchup. Playing Navy in the first week of the season is an ideal time, outside of the new offensive coordinator wrinkle. Preparing for the option in the middle of the season after weeks of playing “normal” offenses and after a couple of months’ worth of bumps and bruises accumulating isn’t fun for anyone involved. Getting Navy in week 0 before their timing is down and their offense is humming is advantageous for the Irish.

Is it any coincidence that one of the most dominating performances from the Irish over Navy came in 2012 when the two last faced off in Dublin to start the season?

Players to Watch

  • Jordan Botelho – He was one of Notre Dame’s highest-rated defenders last year against Navy.
  • JD Bertrand – His late scratch was an underrated reason for Notre Dame’s struggles with Navy last year. He should have 10+ tackles on Saturday.
  • Xavier Watts – Watts got his first real action as a safety against Navy in 2021 and is built for matchups like this.
  • Tobias Merriweather – Will the sophomore pop off for a big play from Sam Hartman? I think so.
  • Chris Tyree – No one on Navy can keep up with Tyree in space; look for Notre Dame to find ways to get him the ball and watch him make people miss – especially if Navy blitzes a lot.
  • Jaylen Sneed – He got his first extended action as a freshman against Navy in 2022. He could be unleashed again this year.
  • Pat Coogan/Rocco Spindler – If they are stout up the middle, Notre Dame might be able to do whatever they want against the Midshipmen.
  • Nana Osafo Mensah – Javontae Jean-Baptise got a lot of the headlines this off-season at DE, but Osafo Mensah is better against the run and could have a sneaky good game for the Irish defense.

Prediction Time

First games of the year are always among the toughest to predict because of all the variables. That said, I don’t expect this to be one of those frustrating and annoying Navy games that is much closer than it needed to be ala last year. Brian Kelly got whipped by Navy in his first matchup. Notre Dame beat NAvy by 42 the following year. Marcus Freeman and DC Al Golden have a year preparing for Navy under their belts and even with some unknowns on Navy’s side, this one should not be overly close.

Notre Dame 42, Navy 10

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  1. Sam fn Hartman…how lucky were we to get this leader!? Also how lucky were we that Diggs transferred and Estime gets to be the guy?

    Couldn’t ask for a better start! Go Irish!

  2. It shows when you have a high level talented & seasoned QB at the helm, it makes for one hell of a difference. I thought the team overall looked much better compared to recent past editions. The use of a number of different young players good enough to play right away shows the uptick in recruiting. The team handled their opponent in a way they should have and no nail biting or hand wringing by fans occurred ND didn’t let an obvious lesser talented team make it a game.

    1. I might be wrong, but I think there was a conscious decision to give the younger players some real game time experience. The old adage, ‘None of us is stronger than all of us’, seems appropriate here. Go Irish!

  3. We are getting a good look at what an Elite QB can do for your program. This is what Brian Kelly failed so miserably at during his stint at ND. Let’s hope Hartman can stay healthy.

  4. Prediction: If Navy is within 26 points and has the ball last, they’ll score to cover the 19.5 spread.
    The “over” (48.5 as of last night) looks like the best bet.
    They never quit and ND has shown in the past to take their foot off the pedal late with a lead.
    New coordinators for Navy will feature extra wrinkles, especially with the extra prep time for the Middies. Hoping for a big game for Hartmann overcoming the Navy blitzes up the middle.
    After the second half last year, Golden better have something planned to counteract that.
    ND must limit the big fullback runs, and J.D. playing after not available last year should help. Their FG kicker was 0-1 last year but that won’t matter much as they’ll go for it on fourth down often.
    NDs superior athleticism with size and speed should prevail. If not, it’ll be a long season.

  5. Well thought out, Frank. It all sounds about right.
    2-0 after game two will leave our team in a much better frame of mind than 0-2 last year. Me too Frank.

    BGC 77 82

  6. Notre Dame wins this game easily 52-10. Hartman throws for 5 scores and runs for another. Complete domination. Plan Bs can start midway thru 3rd Qtr.

    1. Jeff, I believe this ND team could win this game 52-10…and we might. We’ll see if Coach Freeman will let the score get that high. Or do simply chew clock, like Kelly, Devine, and sometimes Holtz and ARA, though having the second and third strings run the ball between the guards didn’t always help ARA, our guys often continued to score anyway. ARA often lamented that when talking over the latest game (and the unfavorable media coverage of the score) with Gregor. But what else could be done? Put in the walk ons, the waterboys, and the trainers, and short out the regular number one and two backups?
      I hope Freeman keeps his foot on the gas, just this once, sans Hartman, of course. The last thing we need is a feature injury to him while sporting a 31 point lead in the 4th!

      GO IRISH, beat NAVY.

      1. Errata: line three eliminate “do” and in the last line replace “feature” with “freak”
        which it was how it read before some artificially intelligent robot changed it. Lord God Almighty, if you think our political parties perpetually screw up while deciding what we really want or need, wait till the robots are doing that for everyone, including our political rulers. Something to look forward to.

        BGC 77 82

      1. Maybe Donna and Rhonda are conjoined twins.
        Ones that don’t eventually turn up on 60 Minutes as amazing.

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