The last time the Midshipmen of Navy traveled to South Bend marked the snapping of Notre Dame's 43-game win streak against them in a double-overtime thriller. That season, the Irish finished 3-9, the worst record in school history. Since then, almost two years later, ND has won 13 games, including a bowl victory (finally) and JimmyClausen has become a strong Heisman contender.
Much has happened since Notre Dame's rather embarrassing loss to Navy on November 3rd, 2007, but some things have remained the same.
For example, Navy's offensive style. Navy has continued to run the "wishbone", or triple-option offense, which has helped them to lead the nation in rushing yards for a team several years back-to-back. The fact that they rarely throw the ball also helps.
In Notre Dame's case, this is a very good thing. Against the run this year (and they'vefaced some talented running backs in Joe McKnight, Montel Harris and Ralph Bolden) they rank in the top 50 among FBS schools, something they have failed to accomplish in several years. Add that up with a SOS that actually ranks higher than seven of the top ten teams in the BCS standings this week and you get a fairly strong run defense that has only gotten tougher since Manti Te'o has been stuffing the middle of the field. Notre Dame's pass defense, however, has been a major let-down. Navy's lack of a pass attack that would keep ND's defense on its toes certainly hurts their offense's potential in Saturday's game (not that their rush offense is in any way inadequate).
Therefore, a team that relies almost entirely on the run will have a tough time keeping up with a Notre Dame offense that for the first time in weeks will incorporate Michael Floyd, one of the best wide receivers in the country. The addition of Floyd not only enhances ND's offense but makes it practically unstoppable; in the first three games of the season (one of which he missed a large portion of) the Irish offense averaged 479 yards of total offense, while the rest of the season (without him in the lineup) the offense averaged just 445 yards of total offense, a number that is distorted because of the overtime in the contest against Washington (and the obvious blowout of Washington St.). The fact that Notre Dame lines up two other big-play receiving threats in Golden Tate and Kyle Rudolph (quite a gruesome scenario for any defensive coordinator) against a much smaller Navy defense adds fuel to Notre Dame's fire when it comes to putting points on the board.
Expect Floyd and Tate to both have several receptions in the first quarter and get Notre Dame ahead. Navy will score more than once, but Notre Dame should come up with some key stops like they have found ways to do more than once this season and pull ahead comfortably enough so that Clausen will be able to relax on the sidelines for the second week in a row (albeit not as soon). With his best receiver (and possibly even best player) back in the lineup one would assume that Clausen would have a great opportunity to boost his Heisman stock as well.
The Navy game ought to be entertaining and should not be looked past; as Notre Dame learned two years ago, you can only beat a team forty-three times in a row every so often.