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Notre Dame prediction: Game 8 at Navy

11/1/2014

No. 10 Notre Dame renews its rivalry with Navy at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland. Are we in for another tight contest?

How Notre Dame can win: Everett Golson and the Irish have to avoid turnovers, first and foremost. The longer the Irish hold the ball, the more efficient they can be, the better it is for their defense, which will have its work cut out for it defending Navy. That can be the difference between Notre Dame blowing Navy out -- as it did in 2011 and 2012 -- and finding itself in a tight contest, as it did last year (38-34). Forcing turnovers always makes life easier for Notre Dame against Navy, too. (Notre Dame has forced 15 turnovers this season, tied for 36th nationally.)

How Navy can win: The Midshipmen have been hitting their stride lately, with Keenan Reynolds scoring a rushing touchdown in 14 straight games after last week's 251-yard, three-score performance on the ground. Reynolds needs to run another efficient charge against Notre Dame, as Navy's turnover-less performance gave it a great shot at the upset last season. (A missed extra-point didn't help, either.) It will be interesting to see this Irish defense facing the option in its first year under Brian VanGorder, who said he has not defended the option since going against Georgia Southern in 2004. Still, if the first seven games are any indication, the Irish won't lack for discipline.

Breakout player: Jaylon Smith is the best player on Notre Dame's defense. He hit his stride last season after facing Air Force and Navy back-to-back. Should Notre Dame's defense perform well Saturday, Smith will be a big reason why.

Prediction: Notre Dame 48, Navy 24. Style points? Don't be surprised if the Irish go for some after the initial College Football Playoff rankings had them at No. 10.