ARMY PASSING OFFENSE VS. NOTRE DAME PASSING DEFENSE
EDGE: NOTRE DAME
The Army passing offense was back to being a mess when it was asked to do too much against Air Force. Quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw is 33 of 77 attempts for 565 yards, three touchdowns, and eight interceptions. Against Air Force, Bradshaw completed just 5 of 15 passes for 84 yards as the Falcons shut down the running game. Army would like Chris Carter to be back in the picture as he is the better passing option when games go in that direction.
Last time out Notre Dame lost to Navy 28-27 and Navy quarterback Will Worth was a conservative 5 of 8 through the air as he guided the triple-option attack. Teams average 208 yards passing against Notre Dame and have scored ten touchdowns through the air. The Notre Dame defense is fairly aggressive when the ball is in the air as the Irish have picked off eight passes in 2016. Pass rushing has also been a problem for the Irish as they have just 11 sacks on the season, ranking 119th in the country in that category.
ARMY RUSHING OFFENSE VS. NOTRE DAME RUSHING DEFENSE
Army is still rushing the ball better than all but one team in the country and the Black Knights average 320.6 yards per game on the ground. It is a balanced rushing attack with nine different ball carriers having rushed for over 100 yards on the season and 11 players having scored at least one of the Black Knights 29 rushing touchdowns. Most of the work is done by fullback Andy Davidson (707 yards) and quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw (602 yards) who gave combined for over 1,300 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The Notre Dame rushing defense, like the Notre Dame defense, in general, has not been as good as was expected this season. The Irish rank 76th in the nation in rushing defense and they give up 177.9 yards per game on the ground. Notre Dame has also allowed 19 touchdowns rushing, which is a far cry from those BCS Title Game years where running on the Irish was an almost impossible task. Navy rushed for 320 yards and four touchdowns in the win last weekend over the Irish.
NOTRE DAME PASSING OFFENSE VS. ARMY PASSING DEFENSE
EDGE: NOTRE DAME
Notre Dame has passed for 2,333 yards this season on 162 receptions and has 19 passing touchdowns. Most of those passes have come from junior QB DeShone Kizer who has attempted 268 passes, and 162 have been completed sitting at roughly 60 percent. This is a prolific and dangerous passing attack that has seen Kizer throw for 19 scores and seven picks. There are two main targets when the Irish are on offense as WR Equanimeous St. Brown (42 catches) and WR Torii Hunter Jr. (38 catches) have combined for 11 touchdowns. Hunter was especially productive against Navy as he caught eight passes for 104 yards and a score. There are five pass catchers with double digits receptions on the year.
The Army defense has played exceptionally well this season and the Black Knights rank 13th in the country in scoring defense as they give up just 18.1 points per game. A huge part of this is a pass defense that ranks sixth in the country and that allows a measly 166.6 yards per game through the air. Army has also given up just eight passing touchdowns all season, less than one per game.
NOTRE DAME RUSHING OFFENSE VS. ARMY RUSHING DEFENSE
The Irish rushing attack is dynamic and dangerous. Running back Josh Adams had a below average outing against Miami where he rushed for 73 yards on 12 carries as Notre Dame focused on their explosive passing game. On the season Adams has carried the ball 113 times for 583 yards and two touchdowns. The most dangerous rusher on the team has been quarterback Kizer when he breaks containment on either scrambles or designed runs. Kizer has rushed for 368 yards and seven touchdowns on 95 carries.
The Army rushing.defense has been spectacular in 2016 and teams (other than Jeffrey Wilson of North Texas) just cannot move the ball on the ground against the Black Knight's defensive front. Army ranks 24th in the nation in rushing yardage allowed, giving up under 120 yards per game and only allowing 12 touchdowns. The rushing defense fell down the rankings a little after allowing 249 yards and three touchdowns to Air Force.
Army's two kickers are still a weakness that leads to decision-making problems for head coach Jeff Monken. Blake Wilson and Howard Mitchell have combined to go 5-of-10 on the season of field goal attempts and Wilson hardly helped his case by having an extra point blocked against Air Force. Army is still having to go for it on fourth down more than Jeff Monken would like.
The Irish have Justin Yoon kicking this season, and he has been very good for Notre Dame. Yoon is 79% for the season on field goals as he has hit 11-of-14 and he is perfect under 30-yards. He has also shown the ability to hit long range kicks and is 1-of-2 in the 40-49 yard range. The punting game, however, was a disaster for Notre Dame against Miami and a badly timed special teams penalty killed the Irish against Navy. Special teams is an area where Army can take advantage of Notre Dame mistakes.
EDGE: NOTRE DAME
Seventh-year Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly is 58-29 with the Irish. Kelly made his name at Grand Valley State where he went 118-35-2 and won a pair of NCAA Division II Championships in 2002 and 2003. From there Kelly moved on and had head coaching success at Central Michigan (19-16) and Cincinnati (34-6) before moving on to Notre Dame. The Irish may be underperforming in 2016, but Kelly did take them to the BCS National Championship Game in 2012.
Third-year Army head coach Jeff Monken is 11-22 at Army. He previously was the head coach at Georgia Southern and was 38-16 with the Golden Eagles, but he was winless in the FCS playoffs in three attempts. Monken has had stints all over the country before becoming a college head coach, including putting in time at Navy, Georgia Tech, and Buffalo.
Notre Dame is in a weird position that Kelly cannot have expected coming into the season. The Irish need to win out against Army, USC, and Virginia Tech just to become bowl eligible and there is no obvious momentum behind them that would suggest this is possible. Army has had some tough losses, and some inexplicable ones, in 2016, but the Black Knights have played up to their potential on far more occasions than the Irish.
Prediction: Army 31, Notre Dame 28. It is hard to score on Army this year, but Notre Dame has the offense to put up points. This is not a vintage Notre Dame team though and the Black Knights will run their way to a victory.