- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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Another option team awaits as the Irish look to make it four in a row.
When Navy has the ball: Navy is another triple-option team, but it is a far better triple-option team than Air Force, which the Midshipmen beat 28-10 back on Oct. 5. Keenan Reynolds helps present the biggest difference between the two teams, as the quarterback is also Navy's leading rusher, with 546 yards and 11 rushing scores on the season. (He has 667 passing yards and four passing touchdowns.) Navy's three-headed attack at fullback is a stressor for defenses as well, and the Irish will again need their linebackers to make plays. Jaylon Smith impressed last week in his debut against the option. Keep an eye on Chris Swain, who, like Reynolds, is averaging 3.7 yards per rush and is the Midshipmen's next-best option on the ground.
When Notre Dame has the ball: Tommy Rees probably won't be able to pick and choose his spots with the ease he did last week, as Navy has a better defense than Air Force and is good at limiting big plays. The Midshipmen allowed Pitt quarterback Tom Savage to complete 20 of 27 passes last week, but only for 203 yards, as he averaged just 7.5 yards per completion. Panther freshman sensation receiver Tyler Boyd was also kept in check (three catches, 35 yards, touchdown). Still, this is another game against a physically inferior opponent, and one in which the Irish can again try to gain more traction in a ground game that remains not very good, ranking 95th nationally. That can give its defense, again without Louis Nix, some breathing room as well.
Intangible: This is easily the most difficult game remaining on the schedule for a 4-3 Navy team that looks like it will be go bowling for the 10th time in the last 11 years. It is coming off a win over Pitt and opened the season winning a shootout on the road against a solid Indiana team. Notre Dame, meanwhile, has looked for ways to keep things fresh as it it reaches the relatively stale portion of their schedule, with a BCS-bowl berth still in sight.
Prediction: Notre Dame 38, Navy 14. This won't be like the last two Navy games, but it won't exactly be like last week's Air Force game, either.