Matt Cashore / IrishIllustrated.com

Notre Dame: First Look

Navy and Notre Dame meet for the 90th straight season on Saturday. This time the Navy "home" game will be played in Jacksonville, Florida.

Navy takes on Notre Dame in the Sunshine State with the Irish looking to sink the Mids for the 50th time in the last 53 meetings. Here is a look at how Notre Dame is looking going into the contest.

Season so far

This is certainly not how Notre Dame envisioned the 2016 season going. Head coach Brian kelly and his staff have the luxury of two of the best quarterbacks in the country in Malik Zaire and DeShone Kizer, but the team has performed well below the lofty expectations that are set for the Irish each season.

The issues at the beginning of the season were defensive. On opening night against Texas, the Irish gave up 50 points in a two overtime thriller that tey lost 50-47. A ho-hum win over Nevada was followed by a loss to a Michigan State squad that has gone 0-6 since taking down Kelly's crew. After giving up 36 points to the Spartans, Notre Dame suffered the ignominy of a 38-35 loss to Duke. The opposition points kept coming even in wins, with Syracuse putting up 33 points in a 50-33 loss that left Notre Dame at 2-3 heading into October.

The next two weeks saw the defense back on track, but the offense not showing up. The Irish first lost at North Carolina State (10-3)in a game that was played on the edges of Hurricane Matthew in atrocious conditions. The weather, however, was much less of a factor when the Irish put up just 10 points in a 17-10 loss to Stanford. Notre Dame is now 3-5 after a field goal with30 seconds left lifted them to a 30-27 win over Miami.

Injuries and Suspensions

Attrition has been a big problem for Notre Dame with no less than 10 players on the confirmed injury report for this weekend. Seven of those players, including WR Javon McKinley and CB Nick Watkins, are listed as either out for the season or out indefinitely.

The three players that are question marks for the Navy game are all suffering from concussions picked up over the weekend in the clash with Miami. OL Colin McGovern, DL Daniel Cage, and LB Greer Martini, all play big roles on the team with the two linemen being starters. Of the three it seems that Cage would be the least likely to be available as he began the concussion protocol a day after the other two players because of his academic schedule.

Challenges

It seems strange to say this but one of the biggest challenges faced by Navy this weekend could well be one of desire. The Mids have 12 games a season before championship games and bowl games are taken into account. Eight of those games are in AAC play and Navy finds itself right in the thing of the AAC West race for the second consecutive season. Two more of those games are the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy games against Air Force and Army that are about much more than just football. One of those games is the opening game of the season against an FCS school (Fordham) that is all about knocking off the rust and getting ready for the season. That just leaves the Notre Dame game as the sole contest that in the grand scheme of things means less than the others. Yes, Notre Dame is a huge name and a huge opponent, but get up for a game mentally and physically every week is so hard to do. If any game is going to be played at less than 100% it would be this one.


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