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No. 3 Notre Dame at Navy: Who, what, when, where, why and by how much?

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WHO? No. 3 Notre Dame (7-0) vs. Navy (2-5).

WHAT? In this instance, consider the annual matchup with the triple-option a necessary stepping stone toward wanted greater things for the Irish. There will always be the griping about facing the unique offensive approach, but view it as an opportunity to get the task over and done with, like washing dishes.

WHEN? 8:00 ET. Why so late even though this features a downtrodden Midshipmen team? Well, first of all, Notre Dame is always a candidate for a prime time game, no matter who it is playing. Secondly, this time was set back in the summer. Way back then, CBS knew it had no rights to a better matchup in prime time to follow its afternoon juggernaut known as “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.” Giving up those possible carryover ratings would not make much sense, hence this time slot for the Irish.

WHERE? San Diego County Credit Union Stadium, San Diego. Continuing the tradition of Notre Dame never playing at Navy’s Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Md. It was built in 1959, so maybe 41 years from now the Irish can visit for its 100th anniversary? The problem with that thought — Odd years are played at Notre Dame or a venue chose by Notre Dame, not at Navy. How about the 75th, then? 2034 is so much closer, anyway.

CBS has this broadcast, and if streaming, it may be worth noting CBS All Access comes with a free one-week trial.

WHY? The Midshipmen remain one of three teams Irish director of athletics Jack Swarbrick insists remain on the schedule every year, joining the Pac-12 duo of Stanford and USC. That is not about to change anytime soon.

ANOTHER MAILBAG QUESTION
Actual serious question: Will Brandon Wimbush see the field again? — @jekyllandheid12

Absolutely. He is Notre Dame’s backup quarterback. With five, well, six (seven?) games to go, senior Ian Book will inevitably sprain an ankle or lose his helmet. Wimbush will be the one who subs in at that point, not freshman Phil Jurkovec. Wimbush understands the playbook; Jurkovec does not. Wimbush has experience against collegiate experience; Jurkovec does not. Wimbush has preserved his year of eligibility; Jurkovec has not.

For that matter, Wimbush played against Virginia Tech. Another mop-up opportunity may await. By no means has he taken his last snap in a blue-and-gold uniform.

NOT RECENT HISTORY

BY HOW MUCH?
The Irish are favored by 24 with a combined point total over/under of 52.5. That math indicates Notre Dame should win 38-14. Expected blowouts have not exactly been an Irish forte this season, though.

But consider passing efficiency defense. The measurements may be cryptic, yet the concept is simple and all in the name. Navy is No. 112 in the country, in part thanks to giving up 253.7 passing yards per game. Maybe with Wimbush at quarterback having an off day, Notre Dame would not take advantage of that, but with Book completing 70, if not 80, percent of his passes, the Irish should be able to pick apart the Midshipmen defense.

Then how come not more points? Possessions. Navy does not grant them. In their last five meetings, Notre Dame has averaged nine competitive possessions with a low mark of six in 2016. Context: In seven games this season, the Irish have averaged more than 12 competitive possessions per game.

No matter how good this Notre Dame defense is — and it is — it will struggle to get the Midshipmen off the field quickly. Drives will stretch on. The Irish will not get the ball often enough to truly rack up points.

Let’s use that average of nine as the starting point. Presume one fluke turnover and one drive stalls early because of poor execution, perhaps another fails because Navy forces the issue. Of the remaining six, two finish with field goals rather than touchdowns.

Then, remember the Midshipmen have been held below 21 only twice this season. Even during a four-game losing streak, they are averaging 22.5 points. Navy scores. Notre Dame should be able to limit that, but not entirely.

Notre Dame 34, Navy 17.
(6-1 in pick; 2-5 against the spread, 3-4 point total.)

INSIDE THE IRISH READING:
No. 3 Notre Dame returns from a week off
Notre Dame’s Playoff Possibilities & Opponents: One looks better and the other still average
And In That Corner … The Navy Midshipmen
Notre Dame, Navy returning to Dublin in 2020
Things To Learn: OL change could spark Notre Dame’s run game, helped by Armstrong’s return
Friday at 4: A never-ending Notre Dame mailbag to end the quiet week

OUTSIDE READING:
Alohi Gilman has brought ‘a swagger’ to Notre Dame secondary since transferring from Navy
Unbeaten and with inside track to playoff, Notre Dame can draw comparisons to 212 title game run
How Syracuse QB Tommy DeVito gained ‘effortless power’ to become elite deep passer
WKU AD ‘frustrated’ by 1-6 start