It has been a frustrating two weeks for Notre Dame.
First, presumed starting corner Lo Wood ruptures an Achilles tendon, requiring season-ending surgery. Then starting running back Cierre Wood and linebacker Justin Utupo are suspended for the first two games after a rules violation.
Then Irish legend Joe Montana comes out and trashes head coach Brian Kelly and his choice of quarterback on ESPN, saying, "[Everett Golson is] probably the least talented thrower they have, so maybe they’re looking to run the ball with him.”
To add icing to the quite smelly game-week cake that arrived on the doorstep of the Notre Dame football program, former Irish great and current Notre Dame radio color analyst Allen Pinkett was removed from the broadcast team for a truly unfortunate statement commending Notre Dame for having a few players in trouble with the law because "you need a few bad citizens on the team" (via USA Today).
For the first time since the game location was announced, if feels like a relief that the team opens up 4,000 miles away.
Amid the constant noise among the media that covers the Irish regarding all things trivial, Notre Dame has a game this week.
Brian Kelly's fighting Irish open the 2012 campaign against the United States Naval Academy at Dublin, Ireland's Aviva Stadium.
The Irish enter the contest a moderate favorite, giving 16.5 points to the Midshipmen, and only on "upset alert" by the most ardent Irish doubters at ESPN.
On paper, Notre Dame has a decided advantage at every position. Size, speed and strength all favor the Irish.
Gone are the two top rushers from last year's Navy team, including constant thorn in the side Alexander Teich, who carved up Notre Dame in 2009 and 2010, and quarterback Kriss Proctor.
Navy welcomes back 13 starters from the team that was beaten 56-14 in South Bend.
For Notre Dame to win on Saturday, it doesn't come down to any matchup in particular, other than Notre Dame versus Notre Dame.
If the Irish can avoid a beginning similar to last year's, when a first half with two red-zone turnovers and a fumbled punt led to a 16-0 halftime deficit to an under-matched team, Navy cannot compete.
Prince Shembo and Ben Councell need to maintain outside containment against Navy's confusing triple option, forcing the dive to the fullback aiming at Louis Nix and Manti Te'o as often as possible.
Navy's only hope is to chew up ground, burn the clock, keep it close and hope to capitalize on enough Notre Dame mistakes to build an upset.
If the Irish defense can stay in position, remain disciplined and tackle with fundamentals rather than hopes of winding up on Sportscenter, the game should be put away early.
Should Notre Dame turn the ball over, play sloppily and allow Navy to dictate the tempo and control the time of possession, it could be a long flight home.
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