The Navy Midshipmen and Notre Dame Fighting Irish will open up their 2023 seasons at Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland, this Saturday with the third meeting between these teams under what was initially dubbed the Emerald Isle Classic. Navy finished 4-8 last year under longtime head coach Ken Niumatalolo before parting ways at season end; former defensive coordinator Brian Newberry now takes charge. Marcus Freeman led Notre Dame to a 9-4 record and victory over South Carolina in the Gator Bowl; the opening kickoff is set for 2:30 PM EST.
Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman hopes his second season will go better than his inaugural campaign, in which he started at 0-2. That mark included defeats at Ohio State and Marshall – two teams Freeman started his coaching career against. Notre Dame returned from its early-season slump by winning nine out of its final 11 games – including an impressive bowl victory over South Carolina – while returning much talent on offense. Audric Estime returns after amassing 920 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, as does All-American offensive tackle Joe Alt, who will lead an impressive offensive line. But perhaps the most noteworthy addition will come at quarterback. Heisman Trophy contender Sam Hartman transferred from Wake Forest to Notre Dame this off-season, taking with him an ACC record 110 touchdown passes and over 300 passing yards 21 times in games played during his career. Virginia Tech transfer Kaleb Smith might become Notre Dame’s leading receiver in what will likely be an inexperienced wide receiver group this season; yet under Hartman’s leadership, experience will likely go undetected.
On Saturday, Naval Academy and head coach Brian Newberry officially launch their 2023 season against #13th ranked Fighting Irish to kick-start Brian Newberry’s tenure as coach. Newberry takes over a team that went 4-8 last season – including an embarrassing 20-17 loss against arch-rival Army! Navy will once again feature an option offense under Newberry, and three of his five starting offensive linemen from last season have returned. They also have a new offensive coordinator with similar tendencies to what Navy is used to running. They may, however, be more open to throwing this season than in years past. Tai Lavatai – who started eight games before suffering a season-ending knee injury last season – and Blake Horvath will both get time at quarterback; Horvath tends to be faster while Lavatai will likely focus more on hard yardage gains while Horvath may throw more often during games.
Notre Dame will win, but it won’t be by more than 20 points; Navy has an outstanding front four and an offense that can shorten the game, take Navy and the points.
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