After years of disappointment, Navy has won two of the past three matchups in its historic rivalry with Notre Dame, and there is plenty of reason to believe the Midshipmen can pull off a shocker once again in 2012.
The Notre Dame-Navy rivalry is one filled with respect and mutual admiration rather than bad blood and bitterness.
That said, it's a game both teams desperately want to win, but Navy has all the makings of pulling off another stunning upset.
The Midshipmen lost their best quarterback in decades in Ricky Dobbs prior to the 2011 season, but despite the instability at the most important position, nearly pulled off an upset of 10th-ranked South Carolina early in the season.
That level of competition didn't carry over to Notre Dame week, as a 56-14 blowout ensued in South Bend.
Ironically, the Irish dominated in the area that the Naval Academy makes their living off of on the gridiron, pounding the rock for seven rushing touchdowns on the day.
Trey Miller has settled in under center as the maestro behind the team's vaunted triple-option wishbone attack.
Once again, the Fighting Irish enter the season with lofty expectations, despite the fact that the renowned program hasn't finished inside the Top 25 at season's end since 2006.
As the Chicago Sun-Times' Mark Lazerus reports, QB Everett Golson was overwhelmed last season in just about every way. Under the weight of huge expectations and adjusting to college, Golson fell into obscurity on the scout team.
Now, the redshirt freshman is the team's starting quarterback, and will have to develop without the help of the program's all time leading receiver in Michael Floyd.
The spread attack of head coach Brian Kelly should suit Golson in time, but Kelly hasn't sounded overly enthusiastic about his expectations for Golson's play (via WIVB.com):
I think we've prepared the offense to suit a first-time starter...If things go the way we're planning it, he'll play the whole game.
Golson has already shown discouraging signs of handling pressure before even reaching the field at Notre Dame. Starting his first game against a heated rival in a foreign country doesn't exactly seem like the best place to begin his career.
If Navy can control the ball with their wishbone attack against a defense that gave up 160 yards on the ground per game last year, Golson may be pressed to force throws and make plays to counter.
Having a young quarterback standing on the sidelines, out of rhythm, and relying on him to come in and make plays in his debut is a lot to ask.
Last year's matchup wasn't close, but these two teams are far more evenly matched this time around.
It will be unique to see the rooting interests of the Notre Dame-Navy matchup. The Midshipmen are listed as the home team, but this matchup—dubbed the Emerald Isle Classic—takes place in Dublin, Ireland.
Regardless of the home-field advantage, though, Navy once again feels the burning incentive to bounce back after an embarrassing loss to the Irish.
In what is literally Irish territory, the Midshipmen will methodically will their way down the field, and sail back to the States victorious.
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