During the long history of their rivalry, Notre Dame and Navy have met up in many different locales. They have played in Baltimore and Philadelphia on several occasions and battled in Cleveland and East Rutherford, N.J., many times as well. They have even gone over to Dublin, Ireland twice. This week, the Fighting Irish and the Midshipmen will square off for the first time at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla., which is just a 12-mile drive from the Jacksonville Naval Air Station.
Notre Dame comes in after getting by Miami last week to push its record to 3-5. Navy is now 6-2 as a furious rally against South Florida last Friday night fell just short. Notre Dame leads the all-time series 76-12-1 and carries a five-game winning streak into this week’s contest.
Notre Dame vs. Navy (Jacksonville, Fla.)
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 5 at 11:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Notre Dame -6.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Jarron Jones
The Notre Dame defensive tackle had a monster game against the Hurricanes last Saturday. Jones tallied seven tackles, six of which resulted in lost yardage with one of those being a sack. Beyond the numbers, the fifth-year senior from Rochester, N.Y., was in the backfield all game, disrupting one Miami play after another. This weekend his role will be different, but perhaps even more important. The first step to controlling Navy’s triple-option attack is to stop the fullback run. That’s where Jones comes in. If he can handle the middle of the Navy line, it will allow more Notre Dame defenders to roam free and make plays on the outside.
2. Will Worth
When Tago Smith was lost for the year with a torn ACL in the season opener, Navy’s quarterback situation seemed to be in dire straits. But Worth stepped in and the Middies have not missed a beat. A senior that, like Smith, bided his time behind Keenan Reynolds for several years, Worth leads Navy in rushing with 618 yards and in touchdowns with 13. He’s also thrown for nearly 1,000 yards and six scores. Notre Dame may be glad that Reynolds is gone, but Worth will be difficult to contain as well.
3. Notre Dame Running Game vs. Navy Rush Defense
It would make sense that Notre Dame’s big offensive line should be able to push around Navy’s smaller defensive front, allowing the talented Irish backs to chew up yardage. Over the course of Notre Dame’s recent five-game winning streak against Navy, that has been the case as Notre Dame has averaged more than 200 yards per game on the ground. If the Irish are able to run the ball effectively, Navy will have difficulty defending the whole field and it will make life easier for Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer and his receivers.
After losing 10 starters – including record-setting quarterback Keenan Reynolds – from last year’s 11-2, Military Bowl championship team, a rebuilding year was expected at Navy. But head coach Ken Niumatalolo has developed a culture of winning in Annapolis and Navy is well on its way to another successful season. Meanwhile in South Bend, Notre Dame’s struggles have been widely chronicled. It has been a year filled with mistakes and questionable decisions. But through it all, the Fighting Irish are still playing hard. They may not be playing well, but they are playing hard. Their effort, along with possessing more physical talent than Navy, will allow the Irish to overcome their miscues and beat the Midshipmen.
Prediction: Notre Dame 41, Navy 31
— 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.