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Week 10: Notre Dame at Navy Preview

Notre Dame (6-1) at Navy (4-4) , in Landover, Nov. 1, 8:00, CBS 

Here’s The Deal: Notre Dame was able to right the ship. It was one of the most lopsided rivalries in college football as the Irish were regulars when it came to beating up Navy, but that started to change just a few years ago. With three wins in a row against the Midshipmen, Brian Kelly has changed things in a big way since Notre Dame’s 35-17 loss in 2010, but now there are more important things to worry about. Beating Navy is nice, and it’s a must, but for a program thinking about getting into the playoff, this has to be nothing more than a speed bump. 

Navy’s a disappointing 4-4, with too much experience to not have been far better against Western Kentucky and Air Force. However, there’s still time to get the six wins needed to go bowling, facing a dangerous Georgia Southern team in two weeks followed up by dates with South Alabama and Army. The ground game leads the nation, and on a two-game winning streak scoring a combined 92 points, it seems like the team is as ready as it’s going to be to ruin the Irish’s season. 

Why Notre Dame Might Win: The Irish have the defensive front to hold up against the Navy option with the right linebackers and enough penetration up front to be disruptive. While the D gives up touchdowns runs, allowing two in each of the last three games and seven in the last four, it doesn’t get gouged for big yards. Power running doesn’t work, and there’s just enough speed and athleticism on the outside to turn everything in. The Irish coaching staff has seen the Navy curve ball for the last few years, and while there were problems last year, it has the defense in place to keep from getting hit for 300+ yards. Why Navy Might Win: Could there be a lookahead factor here? It’s a huge, huge sandwich moment for a Notre Dame team coming off a two week layoff following the Florida State heartbreaker and with a date at Arizona State ahead. While the Navy secondary has been a bit of a problem, the run defense has tightened up over the last few weeks, failing to allow 200 yards on the ground after getting hit twice for two bills in back-to-back weeks against Texas State and Rutgers. As always, this is a read-and-react defense, but it should be able to hang back just enough to keep Everett Golson from getting wide and coming up with big plays outside of the pocket. 

Who To Watch Out For: Navy QB Keenan Reynolds has put together a stellar career – against everyone but Notre Dame. Stuffed for -3 rushing yards on three carries in the 2012 season opener, he was better last year, but he was still held in check for 53 yards on 23 carries – but he ran for three touchdowns. Rested after missing a little time hurt, he destroyed San Jose State for 251 yards and three touchdowns on 39 carries last week, and he appears to be ready to take even more punishment. The veteran will have to get everything working to come close to pulling off the upset. 

What’s Going To Happen: What beats the Navy offense? Pressure and time. The Irish can generate the pressure into the backfield to get to Reynolds before he gets started, and the team has had two weeks off to prepare and should be more than ready to handle the fun. 

Prediction: Notre Dame 38 … Navy 14 
Line: Notre Dame -15 o/u: 54.5 
Must Watch Factor: 5: Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown – 1: Mike Tyson Mysteries … 3 

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