Next season, this game will almost certainly feature a higher-ranked Notre Dame, but that will not be the reason fans are overly excited to face Navy. Rather, a trip to Dublin (Aug. 26, 2023), though technically considered an Irish home game — actually, that will be more fitting than that trip typically masquerading as a Midshipmen jaunt — will dial up the novelty.
No such exotic location will entice crowds today, no disrespect to Baltimore. No. 20 Notre Dame (6-3) did not arrive in the Charm City early enough to take an extensive tour of The Wire locations, so the trip to M&T Bank Stadium really is just a business trip.
Well, as much of a business trip as can be had when playing the Naval Academy (3-6) the day after Veterans Day. Some pomp and circumstance will be appropriate and should be expected anytime the Midshipmen put on an event.
TIME: 12:00 ET. It was rare two weeks ago to have Notre Dame play a road game short of primetime, let alone as early as lunchtime. The Irish playing two straight road games at the noon hour has not happened since halfway through the 2016 season, then taking a 1-3 record to New Jersey against Syracuse, winning 50-23 there before losing a week later in a literal hurricane at North Carolina State.
That 2016 is the applicable reference point underscores how disappointing the start of Notre Dame’s 2022 was. This kickoff time was not determined until two weeks after the Irish lost to Stanford to fall to 3-3, but that Cardinal defeat removed enough luster from Irish football for the foreseeable future as to warrant a network moving Notre Dame to a noon kickoff, keeping Nebraska at No. 3 Michigan in the 3:30 ET slot.
TV: ABC will broadcast this annual meeting, with Dave Flemming on play-by-play, Dan Orlovsky as the analyst and Kris Budden working as the sideline reporter. If needing to watch from a mobile device, the Watch ESPN app should provide the broadcast.
Any stubborn critics of Irish offensive coordinator Tommy Rees should be forewarned, Orlovsky’s film study this week revealed multiple moments of praise of how Rees has manufactured production recently.
If you’re a nerd you love this stuff @NDFootball 👏👏👏 pic.twitter.com/tq0H93ksKm
— Dan Orlovsky (@danorlovsky7) November 10, 2022
PREVIEW: In 94 meetings, Navy has won just 13 of them, including only four since 1963 and one since 2011. The military academies lean into the triple-option for a reason: They know they suffer from a talent disadvantage.
Consider the Team Talent Composite curated by 247 Sports. Focusing mainly on the last four years of recruiting rankings, Notre Dame ranks No. 10 in the country in the talent composite. Presumably, because Annapolis admittance procedures mess with the usual recruiting timeline and protocols, Navy does not rank on the composite, but looking at American Athletic Conference team rankings in the last four cycles, the Midshipmen ranked No. 11 of 11 teams in every year except 2021, when they came in No. 9.
Navy’s talent issues have taken on a greater extreme in the modern times of immediate eligibility after transferring and added years of eligibility thanks to the universal pandemic eligibility waiver. Perhaps the roster has not been actively ravaged in the last year or two — a la Stanford’s or Northwestern’s, looking at you Irish safety Brandon Joseph, though he will most likely miss this weekend with a sprained ankle — but it has also not constantly improved as nearly every other team tries to.
No Tobias Merriweather today for #NotreDame is a surprise.
Brandon Joseph being ruled out was the expectation all week. https://t.co/fF8PzZ2GsJ
— Douglas Farmer (@D_Farmer) November 12, 2022
Logically, that makes the Midshipmen reliance on the triple-option not only all the more understandable but also that much more necessary. Yet, the NCAA outlawed cut blocks outside the tackle box this season, not inherently a requirement of the triple-option but a technique within the option that further serves to mitigate the talent gap Navy faces. Without those blocks, Midshipmen head coach Ken Niumatalolo has noticed second-level defenders ease through the traffic that used to chop them down.
For the better part of a decade, Navy has relied on elite quarterback play in its best seasons. Finishing 11-2 in 2015 and 2019 was not a coincidence; those were the last seasons of Keenan Reynolds and Malcolm Perry, respectively.
The Midshipmen did not think they had a quarterback of that level this year in Tai Lavatai, but losing him to injury for the season a couple weeks ago cost them the one edge they did have offensively.
Add all that up — an inherent talent disadvantage made worse by the developments of immediate transfer eligibility and the universal pandemic eligibility waiver, an offensive scheme designed to compensate for that declawed by NCAA edict and then effectively neutered by injury to its most crucial player — and Navy’s season may be spiraling toward a 3-9 reality heading into the Army-Navy game on Dec. 10.
PREDICTION: Irish head coach Marcus Freeman has been burned by Navy before. The first time he ran into the Midshipmen as a defensive coordinator, Cincinnati gave up 569 rushing yards. When discussing that debacle, Freeman’s tone echoes how he speaks of blowing a three-touchdown lead in the second half of the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma State in his first game as a head coach.
It won’t happen again. That’s the tone.
And it hasn’t. Freeman’s defenses have given up a total of 290 rushing yards on 107 carries in two meetings since then. Those 2.7 yards per rush attempt garnered all of six points, a pair of field goals last season in a 34-6 loss in South Bend.
Assuming Notre Dame will cover a spread that has returned to 17 points, as of Saturday’s earliest hours, after spending most of the week at -15.5, is a bold assumption. The Irish are coming off a season-redefining win and now they face the most maddening offensive approach in college football. But Freeman’s defensive approach — one now buttressed by veteran defensive coordinator Al Golden and his decade of head-coaching experience against triple-option offenses — and the underlying, deep-set motivation to keep Navy from burning him again should be reason enough to trust Notre Dame.
This prediction focuses on the Irish defense because the only thing that has limited Notre Dame’s offense against Navy in the last decade has been defensive capitulation. The Irish managed just 24 points in 2017 because they gave up 277 rushing yards on 72 carries, allowing the Midshipmen to hold onto the ball for nearly 43 minutes. Notre Dame scored only 27 in a loss in 2016, undone by giving up 320 yards on 56 rushes, a 5.7 yards per carry average.
If the Irish defense can shut down Navy’s offense, lacking Lavatai, then the offensive points will come, though probably not enough to single-handedly top a combined points total Over/Under of 40.
Notre Dame 31, Navy 3
(Spread: 2-7; Over/Under: 3-6; Straight-up: 5-4)
-LeBron injury + getting old sucks
-Jacque Vaughn’s Nets
-more bad Brett Favre
-cookie history, handsome coaches
Plus @Marcus_Freeman1 joins us to talk about Notre Dame’s win over Clemson, field storming and holiday decorations!
🍎🎧: https://t.co/XWOvDVtsCQ pic.twitter.com/vow3eyR61E
— Mike Golic Jr (@mikegolicjr) November 10, 2022
INSIDE THE IRISH
— Two years apart, two field stormings with nothing in common aside from Notre Dame’s cause
— And In That Corner … Down a QB and with blocking rules hampering it, Navy’s triple-option awaits Notre Dame
— Notre Dame’s Opponents: Navy’s blocking woes, Boston College’s backup QB and USC’s turnover reliance
— Things To Learn: Revived season should include Notre Dame cruising vs Navy
— New cut blocking rules have hurt Navy’s ability to execute the triple-option
— Inside Michael Mayer’s message-sending TD vs. Clemson: ‘Are we passing it right now?’
— Prince Kollie keeps a special veteran in mind this weekend
— Notre Dame vs Navy odds, picks and predictions: Fighting Irish take over early
— Navy football almost pulled off remarkable comeback in last meeting with Notre Dame at M&T Bank Stadium
— Diabetes never became an obstacle for Irish legacy Ron Powlus III
— Safety DJ Brown preparing for homecoming and an unconventional offense
— 2024 OH CB Karson Hobbs commits to Notre Dame
— Conference USA’s new media deal includes heavy midweek slate
Navy does one thing well, stop the run.
That's what leads to a closer thought here than ND fans wanna see.
But I'm not so sure the on-field reality matches ND's of late. https://t.co/9V3KKJKwnQ
— Douglas Farmer (@D_Farmer) November 8, 2022