The loss of Cierre Wood will sting some for Notre Dame against Navy, but the defense will be the key if the Irish are to win.
Although Wood is expected to carry a heavy load at running back this year for the Irish, Navy isn't the opponent they have to worry about. Well, at least when it comes to their offensive abilities.
Last year, Navy ranked 82nd in the Football Bowl Subdivision with 28.9 points allowed per game and 89th in yards allowed per game, with 413.8.
Take into consideration that the Midshipmen's toughest games were against South Carolina and Notre Dame last year. Outside of that, the teams Navy played were in the lower half of FBS in terms of records and stats.
And the Navy defense still struggled.
This year, I expect Navy's defense to struggle the same. The Irish will be able to find holes in the front seven, with backups Theo Riddick and George Atkinson III expected to carry the load at running back.
The passing game may struggle a little with sophomore quarterback Everett Golson under center, but he still has weapons on the outside that will help.
However, the key for Notre Dame will be its defense.
Navy averaged almost 400 yards of offense last year, with 312 of those coming on the ground. Notre Dame allowed an average of 147 yards rushing last year, ranking in the middle of all FBS schools.
Will Cierre Wood's suspension hurt the Irish against Navy?
The Irish saw freshman defensive end Aaron Lynch transfer to South Florida after last season. If that wasn't enough for their defensive line, reserve defensive end Justin Utupo was suspended, as well, for the first two games of the season.
Linebacker Carlo Calabrese will also miss the opener after being suspended for a May arrest at an off-campus party. Outside linebacker Danny Spond will miss the Navy game (and possibly more) due to migraines.
The secondary is also missing a key piece in starting cornerback Lo Wood, who suffered a season-ending injury to his Achilles tendon.
Needless to say, the defense is really hurting right now, especially in areas where a triple-option team like Navy can take advantage.
While the loss of Wood at running back does hurt a little for the Irish, they will still be able to do what they do on offense.
Now, it's up to the defense to limit the Midshipmen and their triple-option if Notre Dame wants to leave Dublin with a win.