When you look at this game on paper, it should be a mismatch. The Irish have a veteran front seven. Almost every player in the front seven has played the option, many more than once, and the Irish have been very good against the run all season.
The Irish have a size advantage on both sides of the ball. Navy's offensive line averages just 272 pounds while the Notre Dame defensive line averages 277 pounds. The Irish offensive line averages 297 pounds while the Navy defensive line averages just 260 pounds.
One thing I know about the option, after living in the Nebraska and seeing it every week, is penetration disrupts the option. The Irish front four have done an outstanding job of getting penetration against the run on defense all year.
But the Irish defensive front four have not faced the navy cut-blocking scheme, also known as the great equalizer.
We also have to factor in Navy head coach Paul Johnson and his staff. I firmly believe that Johnson is the best coach that Notre Dame will face all season. Give him 16 days to prepare for this game and you're going to see some fine coaching on Saturday.
Throw in midterm week for the Irish, their propensity to start slow in games, the Navy losing streak, the fact that Navy has been very close to beating the Irish in the last two contests, and you have the makings of an upset—if nothing else—a fine football game.
I think we'll just see a fine football game and the streak will continue.
As much as I respect Paul Johnson, I just don't see his team having a lot of success running the football against the Irish. I think the Irish front seven have seen this defense enough to know how to play it.
The Irish defense has been outstanding against the run, and if they can get consistent penetration against this Navy offense in the running game, it's good night Midshipmen--penetration kills the option.
However, I think Johnson is smart enough to know that he'll likely not be able to run just a base option offense against the Irish defense. This is where the 16 days Navy has had to prepare for this game will come into play.
Misdirection is the running game will be key. If Navy has success with misdirection plays in the running game, it could be a very long game for the Irish.
Navy will try to keep the Irish guessing with misdirection plays and some passing, thereby making them think which will slow them down, and try to neutralize the speed and size advantage the Irish have on defense.
So, while you are watching the game, if you see the Midshipmen picking up chunks of yards when running misdirection plays, start to get worried.
The Irish offense should hang 35 points on this Navy defense. They are clearly superior in every way. But that doesn't mean they will.
One thing we know about Navy. If they Irish give them confidence on defense this is going to be a long game.
Notre Dame's tendency to start slow scares me in this game. If the Irish offense can come out and score on their first offensive possession, I think they should win fairly easily.
The Irish squeak out another win over Navy.
Notre Dame: 31 Navy: 24