Navy and Notre Dame will renew their rivalry Saturday afternoon, where the stakes will be high for both teams.
The Fighting Irish are coming off their first loss of the season, a 24-22 defeat at the hands of Clemson, and they can’t afford to be beaten again if they want to have any shot at a spot in the College Football Playoff (they probably already need help as it is).
Meanwhile, the Midshipmen are off to a 4-0 start for the first time since 2004. They’ve won eight straight games overall (their longest winning streak since winning nine in a row from 1959 to 1960) and 10 out of their last 11. In fact, the one loss in that stretch came against Notre Dame.
Navy has looked impressive in its first season as a member of the AAC and is even receiving votes in both polls. If the Midshipmen pull off the upset this weekend, you can expect to see them enter the rankings for the first time since 1979.
However, Navy enters the game as 14.5-point underdogs and a win over the Irish would be a pretty major upset. So do the Midshipmen really stand a chance?
The Navy-Notre Dame rivalry has actually been rather competitive in recent years, especially when you compare it to the stretch of utter domination that preceded it.
Notre Dame won 43 consecutive meetings between the two teams from 1964 to 2006, before the Midshipmen finally broke through in 2007 with a 46-44 triple-overtime victory. Navy would end up winning thrice from 2007 to 2010, though the Irish have won four in a row since.
The last couple of years have been competitive and highly entertaining, with Notre Dame winning by scores of 38-34 in 2013 and 49-39 in 2014. In fact, in last season’s game, the Midshipmen rallied back from a 28-7 deficit to grab a 31-28 lead late in the third quarter. The Irish would outscore Navy 21-8 in the fourth quarter to escape with a win, but the Midshipmen proved once again that they’re not a team that Notre Dame can look past any more.
Quarterback Keenan Reynolds and the Navy offense have been effective so far this year, averaging 38 points per game. The defense has also been stellar, surrendering 15 points per game, which is tied for the 13th-lowest mark in the FBS.
The Midshipmen’s triple-option attack won’t be unfamiliar to Notre Dame. The Irish already dealt with a triple-option offense earlier in the season against Georgia Tech, so even players who haven’t faced Navy before will have an idea of what to expect.
For what it’s worth, Notre Dame held the Yellow Jackets’ offense mostly in check in its 30-22 win. Georgia Tech only scored seven points until the game’s final minute, when it scored a pair of garbage time touchdowns.
Still, Reynolds and the Navy offense will present a formidable challenge, and the Midshipmen shouldn’t simply be dismissed. Notre Dame has seen just dangerous Navy can be in recent years, so don’t expect the Irish to sleep on the Midshipmen.