SOUTH BEND, IN. (AP) -- For the first time since 1978, the Midshipmen and Fighting Irish meet as ranked opponents.
WHAT'S AT STAKE?
A chance to be warmer over the holidays. Both teams are bowl eligible and the winner could be in the mix for a New Year's Six bowl berth but must win out. Navy, riding a five-game winning streak, needs to beat the Irish, SMU and Houston, qualify and win the ACC Championship and then beat Army. The Irish, after wins over Virginia Tech and Duke, needs to beat Navy, Boston College and Stanford to finish on a five-game winning streak and still could be left out in the cold.
Notre Dame's defense vs. Navy's triple-option offense. The Irish defense, which has lost defensive ends Daelin Hayes and Julian Okwara in recent weeks, is 26th overall in total defense (329.3 yards per game) but 64th against the rush (157.6 yards). The potent Midshipmen lead the nation in rushing (357.9 yards) and are ninth in scoring (40.1 points).
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Navy: Quarterback Malcolm Perry. The senior is a magician with the football. He has averaged 6.6 yards per carry (10th nationally) with his 1,042 rushing yards, 16 TDs and improved his passing skills, completing 54.7% (29 of 53) for 722 and 5 TDs.
Notre Dame: Free safety Alohi Gilman. The senior, in his second season as a starter, transferred to Notre Dame from Navy after a 2016 campaign during which he had a team-high 12 tackles in the Midshipmen's 28-27 victory over the Irish at Jacksonville, Florida After sitting on 2017 season, Gilman made seven tackles (six solo) against Navy in 44-22 Irish victory at San Diego.
FACTS & FIGURES
Ken Niumatalolo has witnessed four of Navy's 13 victories over the Irish, first as assistant to Paul Johnson in 2007 and then as head coach in 2009, 2010 and 2016. … Navy has not beaten ranked Notre Dame team (No. 19) since 2009. … The Irish have 16-game winning streak at Notre Dame Stadium, which is not expected to have sellout crowd of 77,622, thus ending 273-game capacity streak dating to Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 22, 1973.
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