Bowl eligibility means different things to different programs. At Notre Dame, getting to six wins and earning a bid to the Quick Lane Bowl is not a cause for celebration.
But for Army West Point, a program that has not tasted postseason play since 2010 and has been to just two bowl games in 28 years, it is. While the Irish need to win their last three games to become bowl eligible, the Black Knights of the Hudson can accomplish that mission with a victory in San Antonio this Saturday.
In what was once one of the great rivalries in college football, Notre Dame holds a 38-8-4 series lead.
Army West Point vs. Notre Dame (San Antonio)
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 12 at 3:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC
Spread: Notre Dame -13
Three Things to Watch
1. Notre Dame Defensive Adjustments to Defend the Option
The Irish play Navy every year, so the option should hardly be a mystery. Last fall, they also played Georgia Tech and had great success containing Paul Johnson’s offense. But last Saturday, Notre Dame surrendered 320 yards on the ground to Navy in losing 28-27. The Irish defense sat back and seemed to let the Navy offense dictate play. It will be interesting to see if the Irish are more aggressive this Saturday or if they will react to what quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw and the Army offense run.
2. Army Pass Defense vs. DeShone Kizer and the Notre Dame Receivers
The Black Knights are fifth in the nation in pass defense, giving up 167 yards per game through the air. However, Army has not played a team that can throw the ball like Notre Dame. And since the Irish only had 147 rushing yards against a Navy defense that allowed 412 yards on the ground to South Florida the week prior, it’s a safe bet ND will pass a lot this Saturday. DeShone Kizer has been inconsistent in recent weeks and his receivers should have a tough battle with a good Army defensive backfield.
3. Waiting for the Notre Dame Special Teams Mistake
The question is not if it will come, but when? There have been two punts that have hit members of the Irish return team leading to fumbles. There was the fumbled punt that resulted in a Miami touchdown. There was the blocked punt that accounted for the only touchdown against NC State. There was the kickoff return that sparked the Duke surge. And last week it was a 12 men on the field penalty that kept alive a Navy drive that ended up with the Midshipmen scoring their final touchdown. So what can we expect this week?
Clearly, this game means more to Army than it does to Notre Dame. This season has a chance to be one to remember for Army and already is a season to forget for Notre Dame. But there is still a huge talent disparity, despite the records of the two teams. The Irish are bigger and faster. Of course, Notre Dame was bigger and faster than Navy too, but the Black Knights are just a notch below the Midshipmen. Army will make it competitive, but Notre Dame will control a good portion of the game and get an elusive win.
Prediction: Notre Dame 30, Army 20
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.