Tim O'Malley -- PublisherSaturday's contest offers Notre Dame's offense two choices:
1.) Dominate through the air, as it always does vs. poor defenses, and as the Air Force Academy afford every opponent the opportunity, or...
2.) Begin a two-game, eight quarter stretch of running the football no matter what. Regardless of an extra hat in the box or of 3rd-and-4 situations, or whatever look the opponent happens to feature on a given snap. Run it. Impose their will.
I know Notre Dame can pass its way to victory this week, but forging an end-season identity on the ground would serve it well when the schedule stiffens.
Defensively, it's never easy against the option. Bob Diaco will be without his group's anchor, Louis Nix, and down a starting safety without Elijah Shumate close to full strength (though purportedly in uniform). It won't matter because the Irish O should provide 35-plus, but the defense will be stressed at times as It has been for most of 2013.
Keep the points down with an ancillary goal of escaping without ankle, leg, and knee injuries fin the wake of myriad cut blocks endured in Colorado Springs.
Notre Dame 45 Air Force 24
Anna Hickey -- Recruiting ReporterThe option can be dangerous when its run with dangerous playmakers; however, Air Force simply doesn't have enough of those to provide concern to Notre Dame's defense, especially a defense that's developed an identity over the past few games. The Irish will easily run the table this weekend with a probable healthy Tommy Rees at the helm. Notre Dame 30 Air Force 10
Brian Dohn -- Recruiting AnalystForgive my lack of excitement on this but this begins the snooze-fest portion of Notre Dame's schedule. Usually, preparing for an Academy game brings an element of uncertainty because preparing for an option-based offense is always difficult. However, Air Force isn't very good. The Falcons are allowing nearly 38 points and 490 yards of offense per game, which means the Irish's second-stringers should get plenty of action in the second half. This one should be over by halftime.
Notre Dame 41 Air Force 10
SeattleNDFan -- ModeratorGoing into injury riddled and 1-6 Air Force, ranked 118th on defense and 106th at creating turnovers, the Irish should absolutely be able to come out of Colorado Springs with a victory. This is the kind of defense that Tommy Rees shreds, so the only real question is whether or not the Irish defense will be up to the task of facing the first of two consecutive weeks of option football.
Fortunately, rising star linebacker Jaylon Smith saw plenty of option football during his high school career, and he has the quickness and athleticism to stuff the option in spectacular fashion if Louis Nix, Sheldon Day and Stephon Tuitt can control the fullback and guards to allow Smith to roam free. Injuries to the starting DL is likely the biggest threat ND will face in this game, so expect to see a lot of players rotating in to avoid fatigue in the high altitude.
Notre Dame should win this going away, but don't expect a Baylor score even if they are able to, as embarrassing the United States Air Force Academy in their own house is almost certainly not part of the Brian Kelly playbook. Expect Notre Dame to pull ahead early but allow the Falcons a couple of late scores in the 4th quarter once the second team is on the field. Notre Dame 42 Air Force 21
Amruther24 -- ModeratorPlaying against a triple option is not necessarily what the doctor ordered in terms of Notre Dame's defense getting healthy after a brutal game against USC last week. They stepped up huge, but played a ton in the second half in what had to have been a physically and emotionally draining game. However, Air Force is also a pretty terrible team this year which hopefully means a lot of PT for some of the younger guys in the defensive front seven in order to keep some of the veteran starters fresh for the brutal stretch that ends the season.
This IS the perfect week for the offense to get healthy as Air Force is getting lit up to the tune of 489 yards and 38 points per game and have yet to play a team with anywhere near the talent Notre Dame possesses on offense. After participating in a couple of rock fights over the last several weeks, the Notre Dame offense should find it easy sledding in Colorado Springs. As with the defense, the offensive reserves should get a healthy dose of action. Notre Dame 50 - Air Force 28
KurzND -- ModeratorND fresh off its victory over Southern Cal travels to Colorado to take on the 1-6 Air Force Falcons. ND will be without NG Louis Nix for the contest and OG Lombard for the rest of the year. It'll be up to Kona Schwenke, Steve Elmer, and others to step up. In the first of two contests versus triple option teams, look for the Irish to be able to score easily and run the ball to great effect.
The Irish will run the ball multiple times using three running backs and the Irish DLine will use everyone available to keep the line fresh and avoid injuries. The game is a success if no one gets hurt and the Irish win. ND will take their foot off the gas after getting up early. Notre Dame 38 Air Force 17
GaviND -- ModeratorAfter seeing some of their top players getting dinged up over the last few weeks (Rees, Smith, Nix and Grace), playing the Air Force Academy could not happen at a better time for the Irish.
Louis Nix will not make the trip out to Colorado for the game this week, however given the offense the Irish defense will be facing, his absence is not as inopportune as one might first assume.
Offensively, Notre Dame is fortunate to have senior quarterback Tommy Rees back behind the wheel this week. After one of the most dreadful quarterback performances in Notre Dame history was issued by Andrew Hendrix in the second half of last weekend's tilt with USC, it has become abundantly clear that the fate of the Irish offense over the next five weeks starts and ends with Rees' health.
I expect the Irish to impose their will on a subpar Falcons defense early and often this weekend, providing Rees with an opportunity to hit the showers early and get him some more rest over the stretch run.
Expect to see all four running backs this weekend as the Irish roll! ND 45 AFA 17
Morrissey79 -- ModeratorND had a very important win last week against the Trojans - now sitting at 5-2, the Irish have a chance to really make a move the next two weeks, develop underclassmen, and win some games with ease. Will they though? That is the real question.
Since the Navy debacle in 2010, Diaco and Co have stifled the option offenses they face -- I expect this week to be the same, and ND's running game to churn out a lot of yardage. ND 41 Air Force 20
BNolan -- ModeratorWith or without Rees, there is no reason for Notre Dame to not achieve a relatively easy victory this Saturday. I respect the heck out of the service academies, but... Air Force has clipped wings thus far this season.
Rees should play, and therefore even his limited skill set throwing the ball should be enough to confound the Air Force defense and get some points on the board, with a running game that should be effective as well. The Notre Dame defense needs to play sound fundamentally, contain, and be cognizant of injuries. Jaylon (Smith) should be fun to watch this game. The DL should bulldoze the Air Force OL.
Even with what seems like inevitable performance foibles, ND should win by double digits. Notre Dame 34 Air Force 20