Saturday's Keys

There probably hasn't been one time during Notre Dame's 43-game winning streak over Navy, where the run of dominance was in this much jeopardy. If the Irish lost the game and the longest winning streak over one opponent in NCAA history, this Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium, not too many people would be surprised.

Heck, a lot of people are predicting it.

If Notre Dame (1-7) is going to push the streak to 44, they're going to have to do two things they haven't really done all season.

Limit the run: Navy (4-4) leads the nation in rushing, the Irish are 93rd nationally against the run.

Score some points: The Midshipmen come in averaging nearly 36 points per game. Notre Dame's season high is 20, in its only win of the season.

Here are the keys to the game.

Force Navy into second-and-long, and third-and-long situations on offense. The Middies are ranked last nationally in passing yardage per game. If they are forced to throw the football, it plays right into the Irish defense's hands. Notre Dame is ranked 13th nationally against the pass, and if Navy is looking at second and long and third and long all afternoon, it will be tough for them to move the chains.

Be sound tackling: Notre Dame has struggled all season tackling the ball carrier. The Midshipmen and their option attack could really hurt the Irish if they miss the initial tackle. Make the play, and Navy will be forced to throw the football more than they'd like.

Get the offense going: For the first time all season, the Notre Dame offense has a clear advantage physically against the opposition. The Irish and running back James Aldridge should have a big day on the ground. Quarterback Evan Sharpley has an opportunity to pick apart the nation's worst pass-efficiency defense. Notre Dame could need 30 points to win, and if the Irish can't move the football against Navy, who can they move the rock against?

Prediction: Notre Dame 31, Navy 21: The Irish will finally get things together offensively, gaining close to 500 yards of total offense. In the three games against option teams during the Charlie Weis era, the Irish have been pretty good at containing those teams. Navy will be held under its 342.88 yards rushing per game.


IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories