NOTRE DAME, Ind. – As usual, No. 16 Notre Dame has played one of the nation's most demanding schedules, a rugged slate that included facing three ranked teams in a five-game stretch. The Fighting Irish still have plenty to play for with three games left in the regular season but face another daunting challenge when they host another ranked opponent in No. 21 Navy on Saturday afternoon.
TV: 2:30 p.m. ET, NBC. LINE: Notre Dame -7
Saturday will mark the 93rd meeting between the schools dating to 1927 and the first time since 1978 that both Notre Dame and the Midshipmen, winners of five in a row, are ranked in the Top 25. "For both teams to be ranked is kind of cool. We know how good they are, even if they weren’t ranked,” Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo told reporters. “We know who they are. It’s going to be really, really hard for us to beat them. We have to play really well just to have a chance. That’s never going to change.” The Fighting Irish have posted back-to-back victories since a 45-14 shellacking at Michigan and have won seven of the last eight against the Midshipmen, including a 44-22 romp last season. "Really good football team. Deserving of being nationally ranked," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly told the media. “Just been really impressed with their defensive structure. It has changed dramatically from what we’ve seen in the past.”
ABOUT NAVY (7-1)
Quarterback Malcolm Perry ran for a pair of touchdowns and went over 100 yards rushing for the fifth consecutive game in a 56-10 mauling of Connecticut on Nov. 1, joining Keenan Reynolds as the only players in school history with three straight 1,000-yard seasons. Sophomore fullback Jamale Carothers continues to play an integral role in the triple-option offense, averaging nearly 10 yards per carry and and scoring nine touchdowns (eight rushing) over the past four games. The Midshipmen’s defense ranks 15th overall in the country, allowing an average of 18.1 points, and 17th nationallly in total yards (310.6).
ABOUT NOTRE DAME (7-2)
Ian Book, who shredded Navy for 330 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns last season, is coming off a record-setting performance in a 38-7 rout of Duke, becoming the first quarterback in school history to throw for four scores and rush for 100 yards (139) in a game. Wideout Chase Claypool had his fifth game with at least five catches to boost his season total to a team-high 42 receptions and five scores. Despite losing senior defensive end Julian Okwara to a fractured left fibula last week, the Fighting Irish surrendered 197 total yards and did not allow more than one offensive touchdown for the second straight week.
1. Notre Dame has won 16 in a row at home, the third-longest streak in school history.
2. Navy leads the nation in rushing at 357.9 yards per game.
3. The Fighting Irish are 64th against the run, giving up 157.6 yards rushing per game.
PREDICTION: Notre Dame 34, Navy 24