Every year it seems we build up Navy as a formidable foe for the Irish. Sometimes it has been justified, most times it's not.
But the past decade has seen a number of close games between these two teams. Under Tyrone Willingham the Irish struggled against Navy. In 2003 the Irish barely escaped with a 27-24 victory. In 2002 (Willingham's first season) the Irish also struggled to a 30-23 win.
When led by former coach Bob Davie, the Irish also struggled in two out of the five games he coached against the Middies with the Irish narrowly escaping in '97 (Davie's first season), 21-17, and in his third season ('99) with the Irish squeaking out a 28-24 win at home.
But that's why Notre Dame hired someone with Weis' pedigree. The Irish should always beat the Middies, and sometimes the Irish should roll Navy.
While I don't mean to disrespect the fine men of the Naval academy, the Irish have a clear advantage in size and athletic ability in this game, as they usually do, and they should roll over the Middies in this game.
When Notre Dame struggles against Navy, the reason is usually two-fold. One, they are not mentally prepared for the game. Two, their offense isn't very potent. I don't believe you'll see either on Saturday.
Yes, Navy rushes for almost 283 yards per game. When was the last time they didn't coming into this game? I'm not sure, but my point is that Navy has almost always been effective on the ground because of the offense they run. We know this.
The stat that I think matters here is that Navy has beaten five teams who have combined to register seven wins on the season. Three of those wins came against Division 1AA teams.
The Middies have allowed almost 160 yards rushing per game to much lesser competition than they'll face on Saturday. They've allowed 25 points per game to much lesser competition. How many will the Irish score?
The interesting part of this game will be where will Irish head coach Charlie Weis decided to attack first. Will Weis use their superior size advantage to attack their struggling rush defense? Or will Weis use their superior size and speed advantage to pick on the Navy secondary? He should have success doing both on Saturday.
Mike Frank Prediction
The only way I can see Navy giving the Irish a game on Saturday is if Notre Dame comes out flat and they turn the ball over. Notre Dame is averaging 1.35 turnovers per game and I don't expect them to turn the ball over more than that on Saturday.
I respect the Middies for effort on the field, and their commitment to our country, but they just don't have the horses to hang with the Irish offense on Saturday.
Notre Dame: 49 Navy: 17