Notre Dame prediction: at Air Force

The banged-up Irish get ready for two straight weeks of option teams.

When Notre Dame has the ball: Tommy Rees seems to be fine, but it would not be surprising if Andrew Hendrix receives some extended action to get his feet wet for if and when the Irish really need him. Hendrix did, after all, break out two years ago against the Falcons. With Rees in, it will be interesting to see if Notre Dame tries to push the tempo again early the way it did against USC, considering that it will not want to strain an already-hurt defense that is facing a tough offense to defend. It is important for Rees to establish a rapport with someone other than TJ Jones, who has been reliable but has had an ever-changing cast of characters complementing him every week. Tight end Troy Niklas could be stepping into that No. 2 receiver role.

When Air Force has the ball: No Louis Nix is tough, and the defense cannot afford to take many chances against the Falcons. Stephon Tuitt seemed to like facing option teams, saying that he faced many of them when playing prep ball in Georgia. Assignment-correct football is a must, something that many of the upperclassmen should be somewhat used to by now -- Kapron Lewis-Moore had always seemed to play well against option teams -- though it's a different kind of challenge for newcomers like Jaylon Smith. Notre Dame's secondary must continue to tackle the way it has in its last two wins to keep big plays from breaking off.

Intangible: It is a very nice coincidence for Notre Dame to get Air Force and Navy in consecutive weeks. The Irish seemed to downplay the potential difficulty of playing in the high altitude of Colorado this week, saying that they will take extra precaution by staying hydrated and so forth. They are also coming off their first home win over their archrival in 12 years and had no classes this week (fall break), while the Falcons -- losers of six in a row-- will not have taken the field in 16 days.

Prediction: Notre Dame 42, Air Force 10. The Irish get out to a quick start offensively and the offense gains some traction under Hendrix, who sees plenty of second-half action.