Three Keys Navy vs Notre Dame

Navy and Notre Dame will meet for the 88th consecutive season on Saturday with plenty on the line for both teams. The Mids are looking to move ever closer toward bowl qualification and would love a big scalp to lift a season which has not been all that was expected at the end of summer.

Notre Dame on the other hand simply cannot afford another loss if they want to be part of the first ever BCS Playoff. Here are the three keys for this very intriguing matchup.

1) Run through the Irish

Last fall the Mids almost took down Notre Dame thanks to the pure power and speed of the rushing attack. Navy was able to churn up 331 yards on the ground, as always split via a myriad of backs, and had a shot to get into the lead again late before a fail to convert a fourth-and-4 ended the comeback hopes and sealed a 38-34 Irish win.

Navy has the running game so locked in at this point that it is hard even for power conference schools to game plan against it. The Mids do so much reading and adjusting during the first quarter or so of the game, which combined with a cut blocking scheme which maximizes the players abilities, makes them so hard to defend. Brian Kelly is 17-1 at Notre Dame and Cincinnati after the calendar hits November, so Ken Niumatalolo and company will have to have come up with the right tweaks during this week to get the offense rolling early. Navy needs over 300 yards on the ground, and if we are being honest probably nearer 400 yards, to have a shot.

2) Make Notre Dame punt

One of the issues for the Mids against the Irish has been getting them off the field. This does not look likely to get any easier this fall as Irish new/old quarterback Everett Golson is putting together a monster season. If the Irish can go on and push toward being in the BCS Playoff then his stat line, which currently stands at 1996 yards, 19 touchdowns, and six interceptions, will have him right in the thick of the Heisman Trophy chase.

Golson will be looking to continue a long streak of Navy defensive futility on third down against the Irish. Notre Dame has not had to punt at all in five of its last nine games against the Mids, while they have punted just seven times total in those nine games. If Navy cannot get Notre Dame off of the field then it doesn’t matter how well the offense plays. The key is going to be limiting the yardage picked up on first and second down. If Navy can force Notre Dame into third and long situations then the defense can tighten and punts will be forced. If however the Irish spend all day in third-and-2 or third-and-3 then their running game will be going well and it will be a long afternoon for the Mids.

3) No more turnovers

In the 13 games Navy played last year the Mids had 10 total turnovers. In eight games so far in 2014 the Mids are already over that total with 13 turnovers. Those 13 turnovers include nine lost fumbles, more than one a game, which is just unacceptable in a ball security needy offense. With the difference in talent level in most positions on the field on Saturday Navy just cannot afford to turn the ball over. Giving Notre Dame extra possessions is a surefire way to end up on the losing side. If Navy can stay clean however they certainly have a shot at the upset.

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