It's Friday again and that means game prediction time for the ISD staff. The Irish will travel to Colorado this weekend to take on Air Force in a late afternoon game. Coming off an impressive and gutty victory over rival USC, some might suggest this could be a classic "let down game" for the Irish. Air Force, loser of six straight has had a bye week to heal and regroup. Do the Falcons make a game of it on Saturday?
Ahhh, the classic "let down game." Will we see that on Saturday? To be honest, the stage is set for it. Starting quarterback may or may not play, and even if he does play, will he be 100 percent? The main cog in shutting down the run, Louis Nix, out for the game. You lose a starter along the offensive line. There is very little to get excited about in playing this game.
I do think we'll see Notre Dame struggle a bit, but it likely won't matter much. I can't see Air Force scoring more than 14 points, so the Irish need to figure out how to score 15 on this Air Force defense that has been giving up almost 38 points per game.
Regardless of Rees playing, I do expect we'll see Andrew Hendrix quite a bit in this game, and I do expect to see a much improved Hendrix on Saturday, as well as a whole lot of the running backs.
This will be yet another ugly win for Notre Dame, even though the score may not reflect that, but it will be a win none the less, which is the most important thing.
Notre Dame: 31 Air Force: 14
I really believe this game could have been a dicey one if Tommy Rees wasn't playing. Yes, Air Force is having an ugly year and the Irish have better talent at each position, but facing a tricky offense on the road one week after a big win over your biggest rival seems to be the basic ingredients for a trap game. I don't think Notre Dame would have lost, but it could have been one of those contests the Irish just never ran away with.
That said, I think the Irish will do exactly that with Rees apparently healthy and ready to go. Notre Dame's offense knows it has to make the most of each of its possessions and once it shows the ability to do so, I think the Irish defense will be able to take advantage of some of the risks the Falcons' offense may take. I expect Rees to have a solid game and keep Notre Dame's offense on the field by converting third down, but the ground game is where the Irish dominate this contest. Look for Notre Dame to roll up more than 200 yards rushing and control the game from the first half on.
I think the Irish defense shuts down Air Force for the most part and force a couple of turnovers. This one isn't as close as the score would indicate.
Notre Dame: 31 Air Force: 13
Air Force is Air Force and if Notre Dame is Notre Dame when the two teams play this weekend the Fighting Irish are due to dominate. The Irish have won their past four games against service academy teams by an average score of 48-15.
The Falcons average nearly 269 rushing yards and 102 passing yards a game, but nearly 40-percent of the team's 716 passing yards came in the first four games of the season when Jaleel Awini was still with the team (Awini has since been dismissed from the school).
Sophomore Karson Roberts is expected to be back at quarterback this weekend after suffering a concussion two weeks ago in the team's last game - a 27-20 loss to San Diego State. Air Force might move the ball early in the game while the Irish are adjusting to their option attack, but the bigger and much more talented Fighting Irish defense will adjust and keep the Falcons in check the rest of the was.
The Irish offensive line will also pave the way for a big day on the ground offensively. George Atkinson and Cam McDaniel should both top the century mark by the time all is said and done and ND will top the 221 rushing yards per game the AF defense yields.
Notre Dame: 48 Air Force: 13
I’ve gone on feel quite a bit this season when it came to making to my predictions. Some turned out well (Arizona State and Oklahoma) and one was pretty bad (Michigan).
This weekend’s prediction, however, has nothing to do with feel. This is a matter of one team being bigger, faster, and stronger than the other. One team is on the rise and the other has been pretty much floundering since the beginning of the season.
The only way Air Force has a chance in this game on offense is if Notre Dame’s defense completely drops the ball when it comes to defending the option. That’s it, there’s nothing else. I just don’t see that happening.
On the other hand, the only way Air Force’s defense has a chance is if they stop the Irish running game. I don’t see that happening either.
This is going to be one of those games where your nerves will catch a break for the weekend.
Notre Dame: 44 Air Force: 13