ARMY WON THEIR 6TH GAME!
There was plenty to praise, and plenty to criticize, about the Black Knights' performance against Kent State. The praise would revolve around the offense, which returned to being the efficient, effective scoring machine that it has been for most of the season, after a few off games. QB Trent Steelman played the best game of his career, throwing 9 of 10 for 149 yards. The incomplete pass should have been a touchdown to David Brooks. Steelman ran for 2 touchdowns on 37 yards and picked up a couple 4th down conversions. The Cadets rushed right by the nation's leading rush defense for 233 yards. FB Jared Hassin ran for 75 yards and a TD, and slotback Brian Cobbs added another 64 yards and two 2 TD's. On the big running plays, Patrick Mealy was either sealing the corner or making a downfield block. He does many things that count, but are hard to quantify.
The criticism would revolve around the defense, which suddenly can't stop anyone, can't put pressure on the QB, and whose secondary seemingly doesn't know how to defend the deep passes and play the ball when it is in the air. In the 2nd half, with a comfortable lead, Army chose to only rush 4 or 5 and sit in two deep coverage. This did not stop a 72 yard slant pass made for a touchdown in the 4th quarter. Uncharacteristically, Army only had one sack.
Nevertheless, the bottom line is that the team won, and the goal of becoming bowl eligible has been achieved in just the second year of the Rich Ellerson era. Congratulations are well deserved by all for a remarkable achievement accomplished so quickly
At South Bend, Notre Dame dismantled #14 Utah, 28-3. It did not appear as though Utah came ready to play and they were never really in the game. The Irish controlled the trenches and put forward a power-oriented game plan that allowed freshman quarterback Tommy Rees to be comfortable and effective. He threw three TD passes in his first start, two to Duval Kamara. They also had a couple of big plays from their special teams.
Notre Dame gained 256 total yards, half of those on the ground.
What to look for?
The Fighting Irish are coming off their biggest win of the year over Utah following two utterly dreadful performances against Navy and Tulsa. Certainly blowing out the Utes is bound to fill a very young Notre Dame squad, led by Head Coach Brian Kelly, with confidence leading into its big annual showdown at Southern Cal next week...
Which is exactly the point. If this were the NFL this game would be referred to as the ultimate trap game for Notre Dame. Coming off a big win, and with their big rivalry game the following week, Army is an opponent who would be characterized as a "pimple on their behind". Human nature would dictate that the Irish players will not take this game very seriously...
From Army's standpoint, this is the biggest stage that this group of coaches and players will have ever been a part of - in prime time, on national network TV, in the House that Steinbrenner's Billions Built 20 minutes from Broadway, against Notre Dame. The thought of our boys on such a stage is nothing less than spine-tingling.
Thankfully, Army has nothing at stake in this game. We would be very concerned that, after the disastrous performance in the spotlight against Air Force, a stage of this magnitude would be too much for the Cadets to handle if there were anything significant on the line. As it is, there is nothing to lose. After what promises to be a shaky, nerve-wracked start, Army should settle in and play a strong, fast and spirited game.
Looking at these two teams objectively, it seems almost impossible that Army can hang with Notre Dame. However, what sticks out like a sore thumb about Notre Dame this season is their awful defensive performance against Navy, where they gave up 367 yards rushing and 438 yards total, showing that they were unprepared to deal with Navy's option attack. They also gave up 203 yards rushing in their loss to Tulsa, further evidence that their defense has had serious problems stopping the run. On the other hand, Army has consistently worn down on defense and gotten steamrolled late in games – they have been outscored 102-56 in the 4th quarter and overtime this season. They will need to have a lead going in to the 4th quarter, and they will have to find a way to protect it. Do not look for Army to win this game coming from behind. Also, a memo to Coach Ellerson: No settling for field goals in this contest. 4th and one inside the red zone is not a field goal situation. Field goals will not cut it this Saturday.
Will Notre Dame be prepared to stop Army's option attack? Will Army score touchdowns, have a 4th quarter lead and be able to protect it?
Who is favored?
Notre Dame is favored by 8 points
Final Score – Notre Dame 28 - Army 24 (predictions 2010, 5-5)
Game will be shown on NBC @ 4:00PM EST.
Picks from the Ridge (predictions 2010, 5-4):
Northwestern +7 vs Illinois
LSU -16 vs Mississippi
Navy -13 vs Arkansas St.