Saturday morning brings a treat you don’t get every year.
Call it “Breakfast with Uncle Verne.”
Now, it would be fun to be in Ireland covering the Navy-Notre Dame season opener. The next best thing is probably having national treasure Verne Lundquist calling the action for the 9 a.m. Eastern kickoff … which is how exactly how it will be. Like the jovial Lundquist himself, the experience of college football at that hour should be a mirthful one.
As for what’s about to unfold? Here’s five predictions entering the Midshipmen’s season opener …
1. Noah Copeland will score his first career touchdown.
The sophomore fullback starred mostly on special teams last year, earning two random carries late in blowouts. He’ll handle plenty of duties at fullback this season after bulking up in the offseason. Navy fullbacks scored in only five games last season, but look for Copeland’s tenure as a starter to get off to a good start.
2. Brye French will have his second career double-digit tackle game.
The senior moves to inside linebacker after collecting 55 tackles on the outside last year. His breakout game was a 13-stop effort at South Carolina, and here’s guessing he comes close to that total against a Notre Dame offense breaking in a new starting quarterback. Even without suspended tailback Cierre Wood, the Irish could be inclined to rely on the running game a little more than usual.
3. Navy will have a five-minute drive.
It’s what the Midshipmen do, and it will be interesting to see if new starting quarterback Trey Miller can help manufacture the sort of extended possessions Navy needs to both shorten the game and keep its defense off the field. With as much as the Mids run, a five-minute drive might only require three first downs. Look for Navy to at least have one possession that provides precisely what they need with regard to ball control.
4. So will Notre Dame.
It sure looks possible the Mids will trot out six guys on defense with no more than three career starts, and the Fighting Irish shredded Navy in South Bend last year. There aren’t freshmen starting in the secondary now for Navy, and quarterback Tommy Rees will be left home. Chances are, Notre Dame won’t strike quite so quickly this time around. There should be at least one, if not more, prolonged drives for the Irish.
5. Notre Dame will win by double digits.
Navy’s relative inexperience probably hasn’t been hammered home quite enough. The Mids had eight sophomore and juniors end last season with at least 10 career starts. Well, cornerback David Sperry (dismissed) and linebacker Matt Brewer (suspended) won’t play at all this year, and wide receivers Matt Aiken (injured) and Brandon Turner (did not travel for unspecified reasons) aren’t available against Notre Dame.
It’s an incredibly new team, one with a real chance to evolve in a bowl-bound bunch before the year is out. But Navy remains fairly untested in several spots, and playing arguably its most talented opponent to start the season doesn’t help matters. Yes, the Irish are down some key players, but they should still win in Dublin.
—- Patrick Stevens