#16 Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs #21 Navy Midshipmen Game Preview

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As we enter into the home stretch of the season, who would have thought that Navy might end up being the signature win for the #16 Notre Dame Fighting Irish? The Midshipmen come to town ranked #21 in the nation, and no one that the Irish have beaten this season are still currently ranked in the top 25.

So we’ll see what happens Saturday, and how both teams end up finishing the campaign, but given ND’s remaining schedule, and the fact that Virginia, Virginia Tech and USC are not likely to end the season in the top 25, this might be the Fighting Irish’s biggest resume win; should they emerge victorious on Saturday. It won’t be easy though, as ND will be limited and series and possessions, meaning they’ll need to capitalize almost every time that they have the ball.

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What’s the spread on this one? Well, if you’re into making free college football picks, then you’ll see the Notre Dame Fighting Irish favored by 11, with the over/under set at 54. The last time these two met as ranked teams, November 4, 1978, (15) ND topped (11) Navy, 27-7. Saturday is just the ninth time that they have met as ranked teams. Notre Dame leads the all-time series 78-13-1.

Side note: this will be the first ever ND game for a few of my family members, and mine was also against Navy, back in 2007. So with that in mind, I’ll be showing them around this weekend, and thus I give you The Notre Dame First Timers/Tourist Guide.

This game also marks the end of ND’s 273 game home sellout streak, the second longest in college football history, behind only Nebraska’s currently active 373 game streak.

The last time ND played at home, with tickets available, was Thanksgiving Day 1973.

No. 21 Navy (7-1) at No. 16 Notre Dame (7-2)

Saturday, Nov. 16 | 2:42 p.m. ET (NBC)

Notre Dame Stadium (77,622) | Notre Dame, IN

Video of Brian Kelly News Conference:

Player to Watch: Notre Dame Safety/Co-Captain and Navy transfer Alohi Gillman

Kelly was asked yesterday what he remembers about playing against Gillman:

“Extremely active; really good tackler; somebody that for us got our attention immediately,”

“I think that when you’re playing a team like Navy and you’re trying to make sure that you stay up with them in terms of scoring points, anybody that stands out on that defensive side becomes a problem for you because you got to work away from them or you’ve got to have them in your game plan.”

“And he was a guy that you didn’t want to throw to his side. You wanted to try work away from him.”

#16 Notre Dame Fighting Irish Preview 

ND has bounced back nicely since the drubbing at Michigan, and a big reason why is the resilience of quarterback Ian Book. The field general had had a couple of rough games recently, leading to a ton of over-the-top criticism from college football observers, fans and pundits.

I mean c’mon you didn’t expect college football fanatics and media hot takers to be measured, grounded and reasonable did you? Especially in regards to the starting quarterback at the University of Notre Dame, right?

Book has responded by reverting to his top form and at this point if you have issues with his play, your standards might be kind of ridiculously high.

Last week, Book became the first Notre Dame quarterback to throw for four touchdowns and rush for 100 yards in a single game at Duke. The signal caller had four touchdowns and 181 yards, and also rushed for 149 yards. In doing so, he surpassed his season total of TD passes from last season, with three games left to go.

Ian also joined Brady Quinn as the only quarterbacks in Irish history to throw four or more touchdown passes in a game on four occasions in their career (Quinn accomplished this feat seven times).

“I think there was some significant progress made,” said Kelly of the roller coaster that Book has been on the past few weeks.

“Maybe just he got back to the starting line for many people that were viewing him, but I think for Ian, playing the quarterback position requires to eliminate a lot of clutter that goes along with the position. I think he finally did that and just went and he just went and played quarterback at Notre Dame.”

On Monday With Okwara, arguably ND’s best player (and most likely their top NFL Draft prospect) out for the season now, the unique challenge of defending the triple option becomes even trickier. Jamir Jones now steps in as the DE1 opposite Khalid Kareem.

#21 Navy Midshipmen Preview

In 2007, Notre Dame lost to Navy for the first time since the Roger Staubach era (1963), in triple overtime, 46-44. This ended Notre Dame’s 43, yes 43 game win streak in the series. Since then, Notre Dame is 8-3 in the series, which is very unique in that it’s been played all over the country in a vast array of venues.

Navy’s “home” games in the series have been in Baltimore, Landover, New Jersey, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Orlando, Jacksonville and Dublin (two different stadiums) among many others.

“I think just the respect part of it in terms of who we’re going against, leaders of our country, Naval academy, coaching staff, players. That, to me, is what’s great about this game,” said Kelly about this historical rivalry.

“The history and tradition behind it and why this game is being played today, because the history and tradition of this game.”

Navy’s only blemish on the season is a 35-23 loss to 8-1 Memphis back on Sept 27. Their most impressive win? Probably the 41-38 triumph over 6-3 Tulane last month. This game should absolutely fly by because Navy just does not pass the ball. Starting quarterback Malcolm Perry has 53 passing attempts on the season!

At Washington State they get more than that in three quarters of a game! Perry is the team’s leading rusher having gone over a 1,000 already.

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Kelly described him as: “a dynamic offensive player. I think he’s top 15 in the country in rushing and he’s the No. 1 rushing quarterback in the country. Last year he played slot. Now he’s back at the quarterback. He’s precise, very secure with the football. He’s a point guard, distributing, making really good decisions. Very difficult to defend.”

The reason Navy doesn’t ever pass is because they’re back to having the triple option as their bread and butter. They got away from that last year, but they’re all in on this approach now.

Kelly discussed the other modes of attack sometimes implemented by this offense.

“They run a counter play they didn’t run last year that’s not triple option,” he said.

“So they’re back to their roots, but they can still do some things like toss sweep, get the ball outside, that are not part of their triple. But you have to stop the basic tenants of their offense, and that’s triple option.

Perry is 11th in the nation in rushing, and he averages 6.6 yards per rush. Navy is the nation’s number one rushing team, averaging close to 358 yards a game on the ground.

Another service academy, Air Force is second, but they average about 40 yards per game less. Kinda seems wrong doesn’t it AIR force, as in the air, is all GROUND attack; not passing.

Prediction: #16 Notre Dame Fighting Irish 24, Navy Midshipmen 17

It’ll be unorthodox, and challenging, but I think the Irish have got this.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.

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