Electricity will fill the air Saturday in Ann Arbor, perhaps for the last time in the storied rivalry that is Michigan Vs ND. Some hundred plus years ago, Michigan taught the little leprechauns the brutal game of intercollegiate football, and hope to do so again Under the Lights in only the second night game in the 86 year history of the Big House. If the first time was any indication, we’re in for a treat at Stadium and Main. It’s the kind of setting that would just seem perfect for Keith Jackson.
With Michigan’s main three rivals all struggling to a certain extent with MAC schools in week one, The Wolverines handled CMU by half a hundred. While we shouldn’t read too much into that, it’s hard to ignore the success Michigan had, in spite of the numerous teaching moments. The secondary without its starting safeties ( one to injury, one to suspension) was human for much of the game in spite of the front seven generating a good amount of pressure. Some of that should be cleaned up this week, and both safeties return at least in part, assuming Courtney Avery hasn’t suffered any setbacks in his recovery from minor knee surgery.
The linebacking corp showed signs of excellence, even without potential all American Jake Ryan, and for the most part tackled very well.
By and large, the front 4 played well, generating pressure, albeit against a young, less talented offensive line, and a team which lost a starting QB and 1500 yard rusher in the first quarter to significant injuries.
On the offensive side of the ball, the line played very well. Holes were enormous on several occasions, and Devin Gardner had little pressure. Even the second team OL played very well, showing how the past couple of years in recruiting that group is paying great dividends.
Devin Gardner had success, in spite of a couple of ill advised throws, and continued to show how dangerous he is running the football when the play breaks down or simply isn’t there.
Brian Kelly brings his Fighting Irish in after a 28-6 victory over Temple. While the score is much closer than one might have thought, ND did put up over 500 yards of offense. They have explosive offensive weapons, as only one of their 4 scoring drives was over 3 plays. That being said, Michigan will be able to put more pressure on Tommy Rees, who has shown the propensity to turn the ball over under pressure (see 2011 UTL1).
On defense, you can definitely see that the Irish miss Manti Te’o in the middle, and from the film I watched of the second half of the Temple game Louis Nix was gassed. He looked physically exhausted. Carrying 357 pounds will do that to you. Expect Michigan to pound the leather on the ground. Even if they aren’t as successful as they would like early. If you wear out Nix in the second half, by constant double teams, he will be sucking on an oxygen mask. Temple showed that ND is susceptible on the edges and I expect to see the stretch running plays as well. Even if it’s not a normal thing for Al Borges to show, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some hurry up offense. In the passing game, ND has a couple of good corners, but has inexperience up the middle, both in LB and Safety spots. I expect the TE’s to play a huge role in this game, especially Devin Funchess. He’s a mismatch that they can exploit.
If one thing Tommy Rees is good at, it’s pre-snap reads. He’s very good at getting the Irish into the right play. DC Greg Mattison will do his best to disguise what he’s doing, and he’s got the team speed to do it. If I were Brian Kelly, I’d try to run some hurry up offense as well. Michigan has so much depth on the defensive line, that he could neutralize that by running some no huddle.
At the end of the day, similar to last year, turnovers will reign supreme. If Devin Gardner can protect the football, Michigan should score a decent amount of points. I also don’t think Notre Dame will be able to sustain long drives on Michigan, and if the safeties keep the ball in front of them, ND more often than not will stall.
Michigan 27, Notre Dame 17.