The losses to Air Force and Navy during the Charlie Weis era reminded Irish fans that these teams are not guaranteed “W’s” on the schedule. Air Force’s triple option presents an entirely different challenge for a defense that faces traditional or spread offenses all season. Air Force will attack the edges of the Irish defense, particularly their undersized defensive backs. Moreover their energy and discipline will frustrate Notre Dame’s defense.
The key to stopping Air Force’s triple option is playing gap protection in the middle and containing on the edge. Fortunately for Notre Dame they have arguably the best nose tackle in college football and a deep group of talented outside linebackers. Nix will prevent any meaningful rushes up the middle while Williams, Spond and Shembo shut down the edges with the occasional assistance from the secondary.
On offense Notre Dame needs to establish the running game against the smaller interior of the Air Force Falcons. At this point in the season Greg Bryant may have worked his way into the rotation, and his bruising style will help Notre Dame establish the rushing attack early. Notre Dame will also exploit mismatches between the Falcons defensive backs and the tall receiving targets of Davaris Daniels and Troy Niklas.
If Air Force can cause turnovers or Notre Dame fails to establish the running game, the Falcons can control the ball and turn the game into a close battle. However, if the Irish impose their will Air Force simply cannot score enough points to keep pace. I expect the Irish to score early and never relinquish the lead.