Notre Dame vs. Navy: Confidences and concerns for Irish

The last version of “Confidences and Concerns” was more than eight months ago, and I must say it feels good to revive this column at Fighting Irish Wire.

Game week is upon us. With that in mind, diehard Irish fans are tossing and turning at night pondering what the 2023 Irish team will look like this fall.

This time of year is special. Every team is undefeated and therefore can afford to let some hope enter their hearts and dream big. The beginning of every Notre Dame season is magical, but this year carries extra juice. There’s just so much “newness” to behold within the program from the quarterback to the strength and conditioning staff.

Let’s examine what I think Notre Dame fans should feel confident in and should be concerned about entering Game 1.

Confident: Talent

AP Photo/Gary McCullough
AP Photo/Gary McCullough

Notre Dame has significantly more talent on its roster than Navy does. The same goes for speed, size and depth. Notre Dame holds every physical advantage possible in this matchup. If the game is in doubt late, it’ll be more the fault of the Irish’s minds than their bodies.

If Notre Dame plays smart, solid football, it should run away with this game based on the talent differential. This game will provide the Irish a perfect opportunity to get their offense going early in the year, and, hopefully, help Hartman build in-game rapport and confidence with his receivers.

Confidence: Preparation

Report: Notre Dame closing in on apparel decision, who is in play?
Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Navy is very tricky to plan and practice for. The way it plays offense forces teams to alter personnel and planning significantly. Consequently, Notre Dame playing Navy in Week 1 is a big advantage for the Irish.

Unlike playing the Midshipmen in midseason, the Irish have had all of August to prepare for Navy. By now, everyone should be crystal clear on their responsibilities and roles in this matchup. There’s no reason for Notre Dame to be come to Dublin unprepared.

Confidence: Navy Starts Slowly

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The key to Navy’s offense being dangerous is precision timing and rhythm. Building it often takes time though, time Navy will not have facing Notre Dame in Game 1. It seems Navy has been practicing with two quarterbacks, and I can’t help wondering if that will add to the necessary cohesion ramp-up time.

In the last three seasons, Navy has scored 3, 7 and 7 points in their opening games against non-Power Five opponents. This track record lends credence to the theory that option-type offenses take a while to mature. Hopefully the Irish take full advantage.

Concern: Week 1 Variance

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Every team’s first game is played with a bit of inherent randomness within it. Nobody can be certain what their team will play like and how quickly it’ll will be able to play sharp, crisp football. There are also some additional wild-card factors to consider this week.

Travel to Ireland, Navy having a new coach with no film to study and the Midshipmen possibly playing two quarterbacks all increase the number of first game questions. Notre Dame must be prepared for anything and everything. With a month to prepare, I’m hopeful they will be.

Concern: Last Year

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

While it’s a half Notre Dame fans would like to forget, I’d be remiss if I failed to mention the Irish were roasted on both sides of the football by Navy for the entire second half. The Irish tallied 12 yards of total offense and were gashed on defense that day. Luckily, the clock ran out on Navy before the upset became reality.

I realize that both Notre Dame and Navy feature very different player and coach personnel this year, but I can’t totally ignore what a struggle last year’s contest became. Can the Irish avoid being in a dogfight this year? My dosage of Pepto Bismol is riding on it. Hopefully, Al Golden’s defense does a much better job this year. It must.

Concern: Low Margin For Error

247Sports top 10 Power Five quarterback list includes Notre Dame’s Sam Hartman

Navy plays to shorten football games. This limits more athletic offenses from having as many possessions as they would against a non-option team. It limits the difference in talent manifesting itself to the fullest extent by reducing scoring opportunities.

Notre Dame cannot afford to “start slow” on offense in this game. Possessions will already be limited due to the way Navy plays, and there’s no leeway for empty turns with the football. The margin for error is little, unlike my pregame Irish jitters.

Notre Dame-Navy Links

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

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Story originally appeared on Fighting Irish Wire