NCF Nation: Ryan Gardner

Prediction: Notre Dame Week 6

October, 6, 2011
10/06/11
9:00
AM ET
So does Air Force do something special on offense? Seriously, though, the Falcons attack is a potent one, good enough to rank third nationally in rushing and fourth nationally in pass efficiency. Air Force lines up in a variety of different formations, will hand the ball off to any and every eligible player in the backfield and has a quarterback, Tim Jefferson, who has completed 70 percent of his passes.

But let's talk about the defense. Notre Dame's has been great for 19 out of 20 quarters so far this season and is tied for the national lead in rushing touchdowns allowed, with one. It has seen nothing like this offense before, and it struggled immensely in the fourth quarter against Denard Robinson and Michigan, but it is a veteran group in the back-seven -- one that knows its opponent this week cannot be overlooked with a bye and USC looming afterward.

I'm looking more at Air Force's defense, which is missing two of its top linemen in Zach Payne and Ryan Gardner. This is a defense that ranks no better than 70th statistically in any of the four major defensive categories -- rushing, pass efficiency, total and scoring. And it will be going up against a Notre Dame offense coming off its most complete performance of the season, a unit that has eclipsed the 500-yard mark in three of its first five games.

Notre Dame took a big step last Saturday by getting out of its own way and blowing out Purdue. That's something the Fighting Irish can build on this week. Sure, there will be some challenges early against the Falcons' offense, but the disparity between the two teams when Notre Dame has the ball is what will come to light Saturday.

Prediction: Notre Dame 31, Air Force 17

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