The anticipation for Notre Dame’s season opener this weekend against Navy is surrounded with intrigue due to several unique circumstances.
For starters, the game will be played in Dublin, Ireland and kickoff at roughly 9 a.m. EST.
Additionally, Brian Kelly will be breaking in a new quarterback in redshirt freshman Everett Golson.
However, the Irish will make the trek across the Atlantic Ocean a bit shorthanded after the suspension of Irish leading rusher Cierre Wood—who along with backup defensive end Justin Utupo will sit out the team’s first two games for violating team rules—per the Associated Press. (h/t, ESPN.com)
Despite those losses, Notre Dame still has more than enough firepower to get its 2012 season off to a successful start.
Let’s take a look at some of the keys that will help the Irish knock off the Midshipmen.
Get Golson off to a good start
Golson emerged from the four-man quarterback derby to earn the starting nod, in part because his skill set is perfectly suited to run Kelly’s spread attack effectively.
With all of the turmoil that followed Irish quarterbacks last season, Kelly would be well-served to help Golson establish an early rhythm—and help him get the ball in the hands of skilled playmakers like tight end Tyler Eifert and receiver TJ Jones early to help settle any nerves he may have.
Stop the Navy triple option
Navy finished fourth in the nation in rushing offense last season, but the good news is that the Irish have had all offseason to prepare for an offense that can normally cause headaches for defenses with short notice.
Despite the loss of stud defensive end Aaron Lynch, the Irish defensive line is still strong enough to overpower a Navy offensive line that returns just two starters from 2011.
Ignore the distractions
The scene in Dublin is sure to resemble a bowl-like atmosphere, and the extra details like the time difference and travel schedule could cause both teams to react differently than they would in a normal season opener.
Add in the suspensions to Wood and Utupo, and the Irish will need an added level of focus to overcome the obstacles and Navy’s upset bid.
Follow script from last season
The Irish were dominant in last season’s 56-14 victory over the Midshipmen, holding Navy to its second-lowest rushing total (192 yards) of the 2011 season.
With Navy quarterback Trey Miller making just the fourth start of his career, the Irish defense—led by senior linebacker Manti Te'o—should be able to limit his effectiveness if they remain disciplined against the option.
Turnovers were the biggest reason that the Irish lost close games last season—specifically their first two contests last season against South Florida and Michigan.
If Kelly’s team ends up on the positive side of turnover margin in this matchup, they should cruise to an easy victory in their season opener.