Site Predictions's staff, moderators, and guest selector offer their predictions for Saturday's contest vs. Air Force.

Tim O'Malley – Managing Editor

In August, I had the Irish falling to 4-2 with an upset loss to Air Force. The reality is, Notre Dame will reach 4-2, but at the Falcons' expense.

Only a minus three turnover ratio would result in Notre Dame defeat; a minus two would keep it close. If even, the Irish will hammer the undersized but effective Falcons, piling up more than 475 yards of offense for the fourth time in six games to date.

Look for a big day from Cierre Wood and Tyler Eifert, as well as a career-best tackle effort from free safety-turned-OLB (Saturday), Jamoris Slaughter.
(Full prediction column forthcoming.) ND 30 Air Force 20

Brian Dohn – Northeast/IE Recruiting Reporter

A few weeks ago, this one would have been more difficult to predict, especially given Notre Dame's need to prepare for an option offense and the discipline that takes.

However, the Irish are markedly more confident on defense, and the offense has a rhythm and multiplicity that will be tough for the Falcons to stop.

Since Notre Dame also has the athletic edge, this one is all Irish.
Notre Dame rolls, 41-17

Dave Berk – Recruiting Analyst

The Irish return home to welcome a team that scares everyone with its high-powered rushing attack. Notre Dame's strength has been stopping the run, and the Falcons are going to test this early and often. While many expect the Irish to look to use their power running attack, I would not be surprised if the passing attack gets rolling in this game. The Falcons will score at least one touchdown; however, I see a couple field goals in their future. Irish win 28-13

Christian Zavisca – Staff Writer

A tricky one this week.

Air Force is efficient and effective offensively. The question is: can the AFA defense slow down the Irish? Somehow, I don't think so – unless Notre Dame turns the ball over – and what we end up with is a bit of a shootout.

Home field is key for this game. Notre Dame's fans are ready to back a winner, and the Irish are on a roll. Notre Dame 34 Air Force 24

SeattleNDFan (Moderator)

Air Force represents a classic trap game for the Fighting Irish, coming off a blowout win at Purdue and with the USC Trojans in town in two weeks. AFA is more than good enough to beat Notre Dame if they fall back into their turnover prone September ways.

Air Force just beat Navy last week, which almost beat South Carolina the week before. The Falcons employ a triple option attack, but also feature the much feared Veer variation and a better and more sophisticated passing attack than the Midshipmen, while sharing Navy's never-say-die attitude and high level execution.

I don't think Air Force will be able to dominate with its run the way the Midshipmen did last year, but I do see their option attack setting up 2-3 big play action passing plays, at least one of which will result in an AFA score. On defense, Air Force has been quite poor against the pass this season, but not as poor as the Pitt defense was prior to playing ND. If ND can run the ball successfully against Air Force, it will set up some play action passing of our own, ND will get ahead early and force the Falcons to abandon their strengths on offense.

Because of the timing of this game and the quality of the kids playing for Air Force, I do not see a huge margin of victory but my gut feeling is that ND will pull this one out on the strength of its run defense and its emerging running game.
Notre Dame 27 Air Force Academy 17

Morrissey79 (Moderator)

After a strong 38-10 win over in-state "rival" Purdue, ND is coming home with some momentum. The coaching staff and team need to remain concentrated on the task at hand and can't look forward to the bye week as Air Force comes in with one of the more potent, difficult offenses we will face all year.

Tim Jefferson is not your normal option QB – he can run the triple option very efficiently, but can also throw when given a chance. Diaco and the defensive staff will have their hands full in preparing for this offense.

On the other hand, Air Force is not very good against the run, defensively, and ND will have to have a similar game plan as last week. The most important thing for the Irish is to get out to a quick lead, led by some big stops on D.

Air Force has shown it can go on the road under head coach Troy Calhoun and cause very good teams fits (as evidence by their trip to Norman last year, a 27-24 defeat vs. #7 Oklahoma), but I like the Irish to continue improving and win a hard fought game. ND 28 Air Force 13

BNolan (Moderator full of sunshine)

Last week's win over a very sub par Purdue team did little to convince me that this wayward Irish squad isn't still plagued by some disturbing fundamental issues. Air Force, as has been the case in recent years, presents a considerable challenge. I'm not a big Bob Diaco fan, this will be telling. We have some horses on D, but will they be utilized/schemed effectively? Will our shortcomings be exploited?

Then there is the offense, with plenty of question marks. I'll not even start on the dismal special teams. Nonetheless... I'll roll the dice, with some trepidation.
ND 27 AF 24

Weisass (Moderator)

Last week, Air Force gave Navy everything they wanted and then some winning in OT 35-34. The Falcons have only one loss and that was to #25 TCU…then again, their other two wins outside of Navy came at the expense of FCS schools South Dakota and Tennessee State.

Notre Dame seems to be getting things on the correct path, demolishing Purdue last weekend and playing strong defense for three straight weeks. Saturday's game in West Lafayette was the Fighting Irish's first relatively mistake-free contest.

Say what you want about the QB situation, but Tommy Rees handled himself very well and a lot better then I expected on the road. I look for this to be a shoot out with Notre Dame coming out on top. ND 28 Air Force 17

KurzND (Moderator)

Notre Dame is riding high with a three-game win streak and Air Force is coming off an emotional win (with a questionable penalty call included) over Navy in OT. The Irish D has been stellar against the run, however Navy gave ND huge problems last year, and though this Air Force doesn't run your standard triple option, they're third nationally running the football and are very efficient throwing it as well. QB Tim Jefferson is a great athlete.

However, last week's victory over Navy is Air Force's only good win as they lost big to TCU and beat up on some FCS teams. I would expect ND to pound the ball, as Air Force is giving up almost 200 yards a game on the ground. Expect ND to go over 200 for the second straight week and win again. Notre Dame 28 Air Force 17

GaviND (Superstitious Moderator)

Notre Dame returns to South Bend this weekend to face Air Force after having won three games in a row – the last two of which came on the road.

While Notre Dame is unquestionably the more talented team and features more players who will play on Sundays, Air Force brings an offensive scheme to the table that in the past has given the Irish defense fits.

Some point to last year's success against Army's similarly styled offense as a reason for optimism, however the reality is Air Force and Navy are in an altogether different league than Army.

Certainly, the Irish defense is light years ahead of where they were a year ago, but the potential absence – or at least certain limitation – of Ethan Johnson has to leave the ND faithful concerned. Freshman Aaron Lynch has proven a valuable commodity against the more traditional offenses he has played against...but is he ready and disciplined enough to play assignment football? The answer to that question may well decide the game because, quite frankly, you know Air Force is going to attack him early.

On offense, Notre Dame should have its way with the AFA. As long as they maintain the balanced effort that helped them crush Purdue last week, they should win this week regardless of whatever mistakes the defense makes (and you can bet there will be a few breakdowns). If they play the careless brand of football that defined the first four games though, it could be a long afternoon.

I would not even consider laying money on the spread – 16 seems a wee bit high – but this is a game the Irish should win....but hey, I'm on a streak here, not missing since I took one for the team in Week Three. Air Force 41 Notre Dame 30

MCS1868 (Guest Selector/Excellent Beer Thread Originator)

This week the question is "Can Notre Dame continue with the progress shown against Purdue?" Eliminating turnovers, continued solid run defense, better pass defense, an excellent running game, and an efficient passing performance were the improved areas I saw in that game.

As every ND fan has learned over time, especially over the last few years, the Service Academies cannot be overlooked, or they will haunt us in our nightmares. I do not see that happening this year – maybe if the USC matchup was not after a bye week, but not this year. Air Force will move the ball on the ground at times, but if ND plays disciplined defense, they shouldn't put the ball in the end zone more than once or twice.

The talent difference means nothing if ND does not play well, but I believe the Purdue game will be a confidence builder. Continued improvement will be shown this week (a reduction in penalties would be a nice one for this game). I think this one actually stays tight in the first quarter or so with ND pulling away in the middle part of the game (Air Force possibly scoring late to make it closer than it will be in the stats).
ND 34 Air Force 17 Top Stories