NAVY PASSING OFFENSE VS. NOTRE DAME PASSING DEFENSE
EDGE: NOTRE DAME
The Navy passing offense was asked to do too much last weekend against USF. Quarterback Will Worth is 52 of 87 attempts for 987 yards, six touchdowns, and four interceptions. Worth is the only quarterback Navy has used since Tago Smith went down for the year. Worth completes his passes at a 60% clip, benefiting from the passes out of the option look. Against USF, the Mids went behind big early and Worth passed for 299 yards on 15-of-25 passing trying to claw back that lead.
Last time out Notre Dame beat Miami 30-27 and Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya passed for 288 yards on 26-of-46 through the air. Teams average 228 yards passing against Notre Dame and have scored 10 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 109th in the country in that category.
NAVY RUSHING OFFENSE VS. NOTRE DAME RUSHING DEFENSE
We all know that Navy wants to run the ball all day long and the Mids average 206.6 of their 444 yards per game on the ground. The rushing attack has to be on point, and on point early, for Navy to be able to keep Notre Dame close. The Mids leading rusher on the year is quarterback Will Worth who has 618 yards and 13 touchdowns on 161 carries. Worth scored four touchdowns on the ground in trying to claw back the Bulls last weekend. Chris High is still the leading rusher among backs with 445 yards and five of the Mids 26 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 61st in the nation in rushing defense and they give up 160.1 yards per game on the ground. Notre Dame has also allowed 15 touchdowns rushing, which is a far cry from those BCS Title Game years where running on the Irish was an almost impossible task.
NOTRE DAME PASSING OFFENSE VS. NAVY PASSING DEFENSE
EDGE: NOTRE DAME
Notre Dame has passed for 2,110 yards this season on 149 receptions and has 16 passing touchdowns. Most of those passes have come from junior QB DeShone Kizer who has attempted 241 passes, and 143 have been completed sitting at roughly 59 percent. This is a prolific and dangerous passing attack that has seen Kizer throw for 16 scores and seven picks. There are two main targets when the Irish are on offense as WR Equanimeous St. Brown (37 catches) and WR Torii Hunter Jr. (30 catches) have combined for nine touchdowns. There are five pass catchers with double digits receptions on the year.
The Navy passing defense has been an issue all year long. The Mids rank 89th in the nation in passing yards allowed per game at 250.4. Navy though has generally been good at keeping the opposition out of the end zone in the passing game and the Mids have allowed just 11 touchdowns through the air. Navy has been awful when it comes to taking the ball away from the opposition in the passing game. The Mids are tied for 117th in the country with just three picks on the season and only Nevada (two) has been worse at creating interceptions this season.
NOTRE DAME RUSHING OFFENSE VS. NAVY RUSHING DEFENSE
EDGE: NOTRE DAME
The Irish rushing attack is dynamic and dangerous. Running back Josh Adams had an average outing against Miami where he rushed for 94 yards and a score on 12 carries as Notre Dame focused on their explosive passing game. On the season Adams has carried the ball 101 times for 510 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. Kilzer has rushed for 316 yards and seven touchdowns on 86 carries.
The Navy defense is still reeling a little after the beatdown that South Florida put on the unit on the ground. The Bulls rushed for a Navyesque 412 yards, with quarterback Quinton Flowers and running backs Marlon Mack and D'Earnest Johnson all going for over 100 yards on the day. It is the scrambling ability of Flowers that will carry over as Kizer is a similar sort of quarterback. Navy allowed USF to convert 12 first downs in a row, something that must change on Saturday.
Navy's Bennett Moehring has now connected on 4-of-6 field goals with a long of 40 yards on the year. Moehring has missed one extra point and both his field goal misses were in the 30-39 yard bracket. The Navy return game is strong and the Mid can get some value out of pressuring the Notre Dame punt return game both with their punt block and punt return units.
The Irish have Justin Yoon kicking this season and he has been very good for Notre Dame. Yoon is 75% for the season on field goals as he has hit 9-of-12 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. There were two mishandled kicks and a punt block all of which resulted in massive momentum swings for the 'Canes.
Seventh-year Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly is 58-28 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.
Ninth-year Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo is 72-39 at Navy. He previously was the offensive line coach at Navy under Paul Johnson and took the head coaching role for the Mids bowl game at the end of the 2007 season. Niumatalolo previously coached on staffs ate Hawaii and UNLV and many consider him to be one of the most underrated head coaches in the game today.
Navy will come into this thinking they have a real shot of beating an Irish team that is 3-5 on the season. Navy is looking to regain the momentum after a brutal loss last week against USF, but the way the offense played in the second half would suggest that they can hit the ground rolling in this one and keep scoring points. Notre Dame has had some bad luck (hurricane affected NC State game), but this is not a vintage Irish team and it might be a battle of which beleaguered defense makes the most plays to win.
Prediction: Navy 38, Notre Dame 31. There is no doubt here that both schools will be able to move the ball and score a bunch of points. Turnovers will play a part, but if Navy can stay clean then the Mids will move to 6-2 on the season.