Army West Point Black Knights (5-4 SU, 5-4 ATS) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (3-6 SU, 3-6 ATS)
College Football Week 11
Date/Time: Saturday, November 12th, 3:30 PM
By Mike Mann, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: ARMY +13 / ND -13
Over/Under Total: 52.5
The Alamodome in San Antonio will host Notre Dame and Army on Saturday afternoon in a matchup of two of the four remaining independent schools in the FBS division. They are having near opposite seasons with the Black Knights having well exceeded preseason expectations and the Irish playing far below their capabilities and going through a first two months full of disappointment. When comparing the current rankings of all 128 teams in major college football against what they were slotted at back in week one, Army comes in 25 spots higher than projected (84th from 109th), while Notre Dame finds themselves 66 spots lower (76th from 10th). The only squad failing to meet their potential as poorly as the Fighting Irish is Michigan State (77 spots lower), whose lone highlight of the season was winning 36-28 in South Bend back in week two.
Notre Dame again found themselves on the losing side of a very winnable game last weekend, falling to Navy 28-27 in Jacksonville. Much like a skipping record, fans got to relive the same avoidable mishaps for yet another week, as horrendous play calling and a couple poorly timed penalties doomed the Golden Domers yet again. Twice the Notre Dame defense was flagged on plays that extended dead drives for Navy and in both instances the Midshipman went on to score touchdowns because of it. The illogical play calling was even worse, as head coach Brian Kelly again eschewed a commitment to the run, which made little sense considering Navy had struggled to stop it all season and could do little to slow Irish running back Josh Adams all game. Instead the only person who could stop Adams was his own coach, who once more refused to take advantage of the back’s abilities and the opposing defense’s inability to stop him. Kelly’s most egregious error came late in the game, and put the finishing touches on any chance his team of pulling out the win.
Midway through the fourth quarter Notre Dame was down 28-24 and had the ball 1st and 10 at Navy’s 20 yard line. Kelly of course decided to forgo running the ball and passed on three straight plays, which setup a 4th and 4 at the Navy 16. This was the Irish’s only sixth offensive possession of the game and the defense had not caused Navy to punt all day, which led many (announcers, players, fans, media, alumni, stadium vendors, stray pets) to think that going for the 1st down to be the correct call given all the extenuating circumstances pointing in that direction. Of course Kelly went for the field goal and Notre Dame never had the ball again, as Navy and quarterback Will Worth took over possession and ran their offense and the clock out to perfection, ending the game with their fourth victory in the last ten tries against the Irish.
The loss to Navy dropped Notre Dame’s record to 3-6 on the season, and with remaining games against 16th ranked Virginia Tech and on the road the following week at USC, it all but mathematically assured that the Irish will not be getting to a bowl game in 2016. While Notre Dame has recently been rather terrible against the best of the NCAA (2-19 last 21 games against teams ranked 12th or higher), their current struggles go far beyond just not stacking up against the elite. They have gone 2-5 in their last seven games and a maddeningly mediocre 14-13 in their last 27 overall. Kelly can continue to blame his players or the maturity of his team, but their age is even more of a reason why they have to get rid of him. Three of their best players on offense are sophomores (Josh Adams, Equanimeous St. Brown and C.J. Sanders) while the defense has eight underclassman amongst their starting eleven. The administration cannot allow this budding core of talent to be further tarnished and tainted by the taciturn troll that is Brian Kelly. This isn’t just about the lack of results over the recent past and growing records of inferiority, it is about a less than average coach whose lack of personable accountability continues to cast a shadow of negativity both on the field and off as the voice and face of a once proud football institution that can only start getting back to greatness once it cut ties with their program poison.
While Notre Dame will be staying home this postseason, the Black Knights are on the precipice of reaching just their second bowl game in the past 19 seasons, needing to win either this weekend against Notre Dame or December 10th vs. rival Navy to gain the needed edibility. Head coach Jeff Monken continues the option tradition at West Point, though it is the Army defense that has garnered the attention this season, currently ranking nationally 6th in yards allowed, 6th against the pass and 13th in points allowed. A four headed monster drives the D from the middle, with linebackers Andrew King, Jeremy Timpf, Alex Aukerman and Kenneth Brinson continuing where they left off from last season and leading the way for the Black Knights.
The defense may be the clear strong point at West Point, but offensively they can not be ignored, especially by a Notre Dame team that couldn’t force a punt a week ago. Junior quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw has led the team’s triple option attack to the second ranked rushing offense in the country with running back Andy Davidson at the top of a crowded backfield. The Army passing attack isn’t nearly as formidable, or at all, ranking last in the NCAA at 128th, and will be hoping senior wide receiver Edgar Poe can continue to step up in big games and help spark the offense through the air.
Notre Dame had difficulty stopping the option last week against Navy, with Midshipman quarterback Will Worth’s ability to effectively pass the ball forcing the Irish defense to stay somewhat honest and leaving them susceptible to the running game. I do not believe Army will be able to do the same, as two of the last three weeks the Black Knights have lost 35-18 to North Texas and 31-12 to Air Force as both defenses stacked the box and dared Army to throw the ball, something they were unable to do and in turn had a major impact leading to their dual double-digit defeats. This weekend’s game will likely follow that same pattern as the talent of the Irish players, especially at the skill positions, will offset the ineptitude of their coach as they get the win and cover in Texas over a vastly improved Army team.
With Veterans’ Day on Friday, a sincere thank you goes out to any and all current and former members of the United States Armed Forces, thank you for all you have done and continue to do. God Bless America.
Mike M's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Notre Dame -13
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