The 2012 college football season opening weekend features a rare early Saturday morning game (9am EST) between a pair of familiar rivals with two independents meeting to get the first weekend of action off to a running start. The annual meeting will take place in Dublin, Ireland with the Notre Dame FIghting Irish taking on the Midshipmen of the United States Naval Academy. Notre Dame is led by head coach Brian Kelly who enters his 3rd season with a 16-10 career record for the Irish . Navy is led by head man Ken Niumatalolo in his 5th full season leading the Midshipmen with a 32-21 career record. In the last meeting between the two teams on October 29 last season Notre Dame rolled to a 56-14 win in South Bend, rushing for 7 touchdowns in the process.
The Fighting Irish will go into this meeting with Navy without their top running back and starting quarterback from a season ago, as both Cierre Wood and Tommy Rees have been suspended for the first two games of the season for disciplinary issues. The Irish will be breaking in a new starting quarterback with sophomore Everett Golson beating out Andrew Hendrix for the position in fall camp. Golson is a dual-threat QB and is considered to have the ideal style of play for Kelly’s fast-paced spread option offense. Theo Riddick is expected to fill in for Wood at running back, Riddick has been more of a receiving threat during his career, catching 38 passes for 436 yards and 3 TDs last season. The Irish defense will be led by middle linebacker Manti T’eo again this season, and figures to be a strength after ranking 24th in points allowed with 20.7 per game and 30th in total defense with 344.2 YPG allowed.
Navy will again feature a run-heavy option offense with a unit that ran 312.5 YPG to rank 4th in the nation last season and averaged 29.7 PPG to rank 47th among FBS teams. The Navy defense ranked a dismal 86th in the nation in total defense in 2011 with 413.8 YPG allowed and 78th in scoring defense with 28.9 PPG allowed.
Notre Dame vs. Navy Spread and Betting Odds:
Notre Dame Fighting Irish -15
@ Navy Midshipmen +15
Over 55 (-110)
Under 55 (-110)
Betting odds taken from Bookmaker <- $500 bonus money
Notre Dame vs. Navy Pick:
Notre Dame is 6-2 ATS in their last 8 meetings at Navy, and the road team is 14-3 ATS in their last 17 head-to-head meetings. The under is 19-7-1 in Notre Dame’s last 27 games on grass and the under is 9-2 in Navy’s last 11 games on grass. The under is 4-1 in ND’s last 5 games overall.
Notre Dame and Navy both feature offensive units that figure to keep the ball primarily on the ground, especially in the first game of the year with teams breaking in new quarterbacks as Navy looks to replace the departed Kriss Proctor. With the trend favoring the under in recent meetings between the two teams, it is tempting to take the under in this game. With the blowout that occurred last season and the talented Golson making his debut, it is tough to bet that Navy will be able to hold down the Irish offense enough to make the under a safe play. Notre Dame, even with the missing pieces on offense, should have enough firepower to cover the line in this game with a stable of athletes that far surpasses what Navy has on their roster. Take the Irish to cover here as Golson and a rugged defense that shut down Navy to the tune of a season-low 229 yards of total offense in last season’s blowout win, should combine to give Notre Dame a two-TD plus victory in their 2012 opener.
PICK = Notre Dame -15