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Air Force Falcons vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish Preview + Free Predictions

Air Force Falcons (3-1, 0-1 MWC) vs Notre Dame Fighting Irish (3-2)

The venerated Notre Dame Fighting Irish football program seems to be finding its footing, at just the right time with Southern Cal on the schedule next week. But the Irish must deal with Air Force first, which means the Irish must thwart a whole bunch of running game.

Air Force vs. Notre Dame
Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend IN
Saturday, Oct. 8, 3:30 pm EST
NCAA Odds from Sportsbook.com:
MoneyLine: Air Force +465, Notre Dame -667
Spread: Air Force +15, Notre Dame -15
Over/Under: 55.5

The Irish looked good last week with a convincing 38-10 victory over in-state rival Purdue in West Lafayette. Notre Dame desperately needed some momentum, after an awful 0-2 start to the 2011 regular season; it will be crucial to get another win against the Falcons to carry the vibes into the USC match-up.

At least the Irish fans across the continent know they will be getting a prolific offense. Quarterback Tommy Rees has racked up 1,242 passing yards and 10 TDs, RB Cierre Wood has 103 carries for 583 yards and five majors, and hallmark WR Michael Floyd has proven his worth with 47 receptions for 561 yards. Tight end Tyler Eifert has been a nice secondary target with 24 grabs. The Irish are in the top half of the FBS in both passing and rushing offense; more encouraging still is that the defense has locked down in recent weeks – the Golden Domers now rank just 26th in total defense, surrendering only 18.6 points per contest. Keeping Michigan State, Pittsburgh and Purdue each to under two touchdowns is an impressive accomplishment for any team, much less an Irish “D” that looked ugly in the first couple weeks.

These realities make it seem like a tough hill to climb for Air Force. Last week, the Falcons squeaked by Navy in OT, but the Falcons defense has been positively Swiss cheesian thus far – something that does not bode well going up against Notre Dame’s high-octane attack. Falcons QB Tim Jefferson is what makes the offense go and if the Falcons start getting a nice yield on the ground, they must try and control the tempo of the game. If not, Notre Dame can roll out the vertical passing game and put points on the board in a hurry. [soliloquy id=”82219″]

Air Force senior RB Asher Clark has 382 yards rushing on just 41 attempts, so if he can rip off big gainers like that against the Irish, it will be a good omen for Air Force’s upset chances.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has a warm seat right now, not unlike any Irish head man that doesn’t perform wonderfully sooner rather than later. Yet if the Irish can roll this recent success into sustained winning for the rest of 2011, it will do wonders for Kelly’s evolution as a successful head coach under the microscope in South Bend. Rees should have a field day with the aerial attack against the visiting Falcons; if the Irish can get ahead by a couple of scores early, even a successful running game (re: Air Force is third in the nation) isn’t very effective when it is playing catch-up.

To come into hostile northern Indiana and pull off an upset, Air Force must not only run the ball well, but present enough passing from Jefferson to keep LB Manti Te’o and the Irish “D” honest, as well as wrest some miracle turnovers out of Rees. Without these pre-requisites, Notre Dame’s superior speed and talent will dictate the terms of the contest.

For Notre Dame’s part, it must ensure that it isn’t caught looking ahead to the USC Trojans, rather than focusing on the task at hand. With the Irish’s nice wins over these last three weeks, it looks like the team is rounding into form to be ready for loathed USC. But a .500 ballclub, with USC coming into town next week won’t have as much spring in its step as a program riding the wave of four straight wins.

Kelly should have his players ready for this week.

Score Prediction: Notre Dame 38, Air Force 14
Over/Under Prediction: 52

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