Game Prediction

The past few weeks have all been big games for the Irish, but none have probably been as big as Saturday's game is for the future of Notre Dame football program. Win, and the Irish get back on the winning track. Lose, and boo birds will get louder.

There's been much debate all week as to if Saturday's game should be such a big game considering the opponent, and I mean no disrespect to Navy by saying that, but the Irish should be able to beat Navy as it had 43 times previously until last season. The reality is that it is a big game for Notre Dame and head coach Charlie Weis, but it's also a big game for Navy.

The Midshipmen will certainly enter the contest with a lot of confidence after breaking the streak last season, and the Irish won't be able to sleepwalk their way through Saturday's game if they want to win. The outcome of this game will certainly come down to which team wants it more on Saturday.

Notre Dame offense versus the Navy defense

Saturday's game should be an opportunity for Irish quarterback Jimmy Clausen to get back on track after struggling recently throwing the football. Navy has surrendered 16 passing touchdowns on the season, and is allowing 258 passing yards per game. I expect Clausen's passing totals to exceed 300 yards in this game, and I also think he'll throw at least three touchdowns in this game.

The Midshipmen are allowing the opposition to convert on third down an alarming 51 percent of the time. Navy is also allowing over 25 points per game, but I think the Irish will score more than that on Saturday.

The game plan should be simple. The Irish just need to score points on offense and they should have a great chance to win on Saturday. The most efficient and most likely way they'll score is to throw the ball all over the field and make the Midshipmen cover their talented receiving threats. The Navy defense isn't a great pass rushing team (15 sacks on the season), so Clausen should have plenty of time to find the open man and deliver the football.

I expect the offense to bounce back this week and play pretty well on Saturday. They'll need to play well to have a chance to win.

Notre Dame defense versus the Navy offense

On paper this looks like a scary match up for the Irish. Navy is ranked No.2 in the country averaging 308 rushing yards per game. The Irish have been suspect all year against the run, but have played better than most expected and are allowing 132 rushing yards per game.

The Midshipmen can run the football. The Irish have to find a way to stop them. Last year's formula for success was lethal. Navy simply used a four-down strategy to beat the Irish. They had four downs, and they used all four if they had to to get a first down. If they apply the same strategy on Saturday they'll have some success, but it could also be devastating. This should be interesting to see how often Navy goes for it on fourth down.

The big key for the Irish is to get a couple of defensive stops early. If Notre Dame can stop Navy a few times in the first half, and then score on offense and gain a lead, they'll have a great chance to win. The most important thing for ND on Saturday is to get an early stop or two on defense. If they allow Navy to stay in the game early, it's going to be a long afternoon for the Irish.

The "X" Factor

How much gas does ND have left in the tank? Will they show up ready to play? Will they play with the same emotion and intensity that Navy will play with? I'm 100 percent certain that Navy will show up. I have no idea if the Irish will or not. And that's been the problem.

The first quarter will be critical for the Irish. They have to put this game away early or it's going to be a real struggle to win. If this game goes into the fourth quarter still in doubt, I doubt Notre Dame wins as I just don't think they have the confidence to win a game like that right now.

Mike Frank Prediction: I've doubted the Irish defense many times this year and I've played the part of the fool for doing so. I think you'll see the Irish play well on defense. They'll give up some yards and points, but I think they'll get defensive stops they'll need to win this game. Will the offense show up? That will be the key. I think they will.

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