Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has spent much of this week studying film of No. 23 Navy and he is impressed.
"Really good football team," Kelly said. "Deserving of being nationally ranked."
The same could be said for No. 16 Notre Dame.
The Fighting Irish (7-2) will host Navy (7-1) on Saturday afternoon in the 93rd meeting between the programs -- and the first time since 1978 that both teams have been ranked. In that meeting 41 years ago, No. 15 Notre Dame and a promising quarterback named Joe Montana pulled away for a 27-7 win over No. 11 Navy.
No one is comparing Fighting Irish quarterback Ian Book with Montana, now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but the senior from California has showed plenty of poise this season. Book has passed for 2,009 yards, 21 touchdowns and six interceptions, and he has rushed for 463 yards and four touchdowns.
In his most recent performance, Book passed for 181 yards and four touchdowns, and he had 139 rushing yards on 12 carries. Chris Finke caught two touchdowns and Chase Claypool and George Takacs hauled in one apiece as Notre Dame cruised to a 38-7 win over Duke for its second straight victory.
Navy also enters the weekend feeling confident. The Midshipmen have won five games in a row, including a 56-10 victory over Connecticut last Friday.
The lopsided score allowed Navy to rack up 51 rushes compared with six pass attempts in the game. The Midshipmen typically lean on their triple-option rushing attack, which can perplex opposing defenses.
A reporter informed Kelly this week that two high schools near South Bend also featured the triple option.
"I would rather play them," Kelly deadpanned.
What made the offense so effective?
"Well, I mean, they've seen everything," Kelly said. "First of all, their in-game adjustments, the ability, and certainly the coaching. They can make adjustments to what you're trying to do in a split second.
"You've got the best and brightest that are playing at the academy that can make some quick adjustments in game, at halftime, so they're not going to be fooled by what they see."
The Midshipmen are led by quarterback Malcolm Perry, who has 1,042 rushing yards on 157 carries for a 6.6-yard average. He also has scored 16 rushing touchdowns. Perry has completed 29 of 53 passes for 722 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions.
Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo said he and his players are pleased but not fully satisfied with their season.
"From where we were last year (finishing 3-10), to be 7-1 at this point, I'm encouraged," Niumatalolo said in comments published by the Baltimore Sun. "It's a testament to our senior leadership. They did a great job during the offseason of building the culture of our program.
"Our mantra has been 1-0. Just think about winning the next game. It's great to be 7-1, but we don't want to stop here. We want to keep pressing forward."
--Field Level Media