We have reached the first week of November in our season preview and Navy are set to take on their toughest opponent of the year, Notre Dame.
WHEN: Saturday, Nov. 2; 3:30 p.m. EST
WHERE: Notre Dame Stadium (South Bend, Ind.)
LAST SEASON: 12-1 (Top Independent; Lost 42-14 to Alabama in BCS National Championship Game)
CURRENT PRESEASON RANKING: No. 11 in Coaches' Poll; No. 14 in AP Poll
SERIES HISTORY: Notre Dame leads, 73-12-1. (Last meeting: Notre Dame 50, Navy 10, in Dublin last season)
OFFENSE: Everything was going along nicely at Notre Dame over the summer, right up until the point that difficult to defend dual-threat quarterback Everett Golson was ruled out for the season due to academic issues. The result is that the Irish will have to turn back to senior Tommy Rees, who is the antithesis of a dual-threat guy with -71 rushing yards for his career. Rees is smart and usually makes the correct decision, but the dynamic nature of Golson is something the Irish will have to look elsewhere on the unit to replace.
There are many out there who believe that Notre Dame only made the National Title game last year through smoke and mirrors play. The one stat that really backs that up is that the Irish actually won five games when they scored less than 20 points. For this unit to improve after losing five starters they will look especially for running backs George Atkinson III and Amir Carlisle to shoulder more of the load. Carlisle is a former transfer from USC who sat out last year with a broken ankle. If he is healthy and explosive it gives the Notre Dame running attack a powerful one/two punch.
Conclusion: The offensive line will be solid despite a couple of losses, but this unit really did suffer a huge blow with Golson disappearing. Rees is your typical pocket passer so the fact his two top wide outs are back is great news, but even that is tempered by the loss of Mackey Award winning tight end Tyler Eifert. The Navy defense should not give up close to 50 points to this unit again.
DEFENSE: If the offense is all about change in 2013 then the Notre Dame defense just needs to bring more of the same. The only loss of note from this unit is Manti Te'o and after he was shown up by Alabama that might not be such a bad thing after all.
The strength of the defense is the line play. This group goes as deep as any in the country and boasts stand out names like Prince Shembo, Louis Nix III, and second team All-American Stephon Tuitt. Though Tuitt was the stand out player for most of last season it was Nix who came out of the 'Bama game with the most credit. While all was falling around him Nix was making his living in the Crimson Tide backfield finishing the night with a season high five tackles, along with countless plays where he had an impact. He is the rare interior defensive lineman who needs to be double teamed every play and he will be a huge part of what is shaping to be the best run stopping defense in the country.
Conclusion: The defense could be even better than it was last year and not look it because of a combination of schedule and offensive play. Giving up less than two touchdowns a game in today's college football landscape is going to be hard to repeat, but this whole unit is a year more experienced and loaded with talent. It is hard to see how Navy runs on this defense with any regularity, the front four are really that good. This is a game where Navy needs short fields and more of a reliance on the revamped passing game to have a shot.
Other Factors: Navy plays Notre Dame late enough in the season for Malik Zaire to be a factor. Zaire was rated as highly as the No. 3 dual-threat quarterback in the class of 2013 and he enrolled early seeing plenty of playing time in the spring game. The lefty has been kept away from the scout team and as one of only three scholarship quarterbacks on the depth chart he is being prepped to play at a moment's notice. If Rees struggles early then Zaire could get the call by the time the Mids take on the Irish.
Conclusion: After ending the season highly over rated last year there is an argument that Notre Dame are under rated coming into 2013. It really all depends on if Tommy Rees can raise his level of play higher than it has been in the past to make up for the loss of Golson. The defense could be lights out good as the unit is just laden with 4 and 5 star recruits. This is the toughest game on the schedule and the Mids will have to be at their best, and the Irish below theirs, for a Navy victory.
Preseason Preview: Navy at Notre Dame
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