[ADDITION - Awesome video feature on David Molk - must watch.]
Injury report and game details are on your right. So this is a big one. Michigan’s first road test of the season comes against a Notre Dame team that is prevalent on the media’s radar because of Brian Kelly’s debut season. Rich Rodriguez took a lot of pressure off of him and his team by winning comfortably a week ago – God I couldn’t imagine how much pressure he would be under if he hadn’t beat UConn. What a media annoyance that would have been for a Michigan fan. Vegas isn’t real sure what to do with this game, giving Notre Dame a similar edge (-3.5) they thought Michigan had last week against UConn.
|Pass O||>||Pass D|
|Run O||>>>>||Run D|
|Pass D||<<||Pass O|
|Run D||<||Run O|
|Sp. Teams||<||Sp. Teams|
Michigan Pass vs. Notre Dame’s Secondary…
Last week Purdue threw the ball quite a bit against the Notre Dame secondary – completing 31 of 42 passes with a couple interceptions in the mix. I think Michigan has the slight advantage simply because the run game will nicely set up the passing game. If Denard can be accurate with this throws, he ought to be tossing to some open receivers as he was last week against UConn. There’s been a lot of conversation around how well RR’s spread offense sets up the pass – lots of references to the completely wide open receivers Pat White used to throw to (by the way, that’s my last mention of Pat White, I’m already tired of all the Denard comparisons). Slight Advantage (>): Michigan.
Michigan Run vs. Notre Dame’s Run Defense…
Denard needs to replicate his effectiveness this week in the run game, not necessarily his production. 29 carries is too many for Denard to sustain week after week – and it’s well documented that 20+ carries for the quarterback is not RR’s intention. My guess is that Denard gets near 20 carries if not more – he’s just too fast and too much of a threat to not get him carries – especially if it’s effective and getting Michigan points on the board. Notre Dame’s run defense should be stronger than that of UConn’s, but still one that I believe Michigan can exploit. Expect Mike Shaw and Vincent Smith to rotate in similar fashion to that of last week. I don’t expect to see Stephen Hopkins or Mike Cox make their first appearances until Michigan plays UMass at home next week. Based on one week and one week alone – you have to give Michigan a hefty advantage based on one Denard Robinson. Definite Advantage (>>>>): Michigan.
Michigan Pass Defense vs. Notre Dame’s Passing Game…
Dayne Crist played relatively well last week, but you could tell he is a guy that just hasn’t played too many snaps at this level.
Dayne Crist said “There were a couple plays where I thought I could have taken a little bit more of a chance,” Crist said. “But those come and go. Both plays that I’m thinking of we completed the ball, so it’s kind of a Catch 22 on that one.
“But those things will come. Again, I’m not worried about it. I’m not going to play scared or anything like that. I’ll do whatever is asked of me, and that’s how I’ve been since I’ve been here, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.”
Reports on his play vary from extremely well to mediocre. Crist showed some poise and got the ball to his big play guy Michael Floyd – who could present big problems for an untested Michigan secondary. Michigan will most likely stick J.T. Floyd on Michael Floyd. The nature of last week’s UConn game allowed Michigan to hide their weaknesses in the secondary. If Michigan’s front seven can exploit ND’s young offensive line and get to Crist – Michigan’s secondary will have a much better chance to bend and not break. Advantage (>>): Notre Dame.
Michigan Run Defense vs. Notre Dame’s Running Game…
Armando Allen and the young freshman Cierre Wood looked very good in space against Purdue. I think this could pose some big problems or at least yield some big plays against Michigan’s front seven. The two guys combined for 151 yards against Purdue and looked pretty good doing it. This should be a huge test for Michigan’s linebackers Obi Ezeh and Jonas Mouton, who collectively didn’t have their strongest games against Jordon Todman and UConn last week. In my opinion, Michigan’s ability to stop Notre Dame’s running attack is a key to who wins this ball game. Advantage (>): Notre Dame.
So it appears as though it could be a wet one with some rain from the hurricane aftermath. If it plays a part in causing turnovers, as it did in the 2008 game, it’s absolutely a factor and I’m not sure who that favors. The default choice would be the home team – and again you can take what happened a couple years ago into consideration. Does it help or hurt Denard’s ability to run? Again, not sure because it could go either way, but my hunch is that it hurts the ND defenders more than it hurts Denard. Using his running style against UConn as a basis, his style of running is more vertical than it is horizontal, therefore, advantage Denard and Michigan…here’s your forecast as of 10am ET Friday morning.
What Riles and Nettles Thy Minds
Cautious optimism riddles the minds of Michigan fans because of last year’s post-4-0 collapse. I hate South Bend and the freakish turnovers that always seem to fall in the favor of Notre Dame – and with rain in the forecast – I think more of the turnover potential and impact it could have on the game. Notre Dame’s tight end Rudolph and wideout Floyd scare me, because they are scary good and both will be playing on Sundays in the near future. The mix of Michigan’s suspect D and Notre Dame’s talent in the backfield make me feel uneasy. If those guys get in space more than a few times – it could turn in to a long day for Michigan. If it comes down to the kicking game, I’m not all that confident in what Michigan puts out on the field.
On the other hand, Michigan might have a talent on their hands that is unlike anything else in college football. If Denard can duplicate what he did against UConn – lookout for one hell of an exciting day. Michigan seemed to show a collective team speed that wasn’t there a year ago. Michigan has weapons on offense that far exceed that of Purdue, who didn’t look all that bad against ND’s defense.
Notre Domers are confident because…
- Well, they have a new coach and they think he’s the man for the job and he’ll navigate his team to victory
- Michael Floyd
- RR has one road win in his first two years at Michigan
Notre Domers are worried because…
- It appears as though they may have some issues in defending the perimeter, which might incline ND to play a lot of nickel to get more speed on the field.
- The defensive front didn’t get a huge push, at least consistently, against the Purdue offensive line. Michigan’s line is bigger and more experienced than that of Purdue’s.
- Denard Robinson’s legs
- Denard Robinson’s arms
Michigan fans are confident because…
- Denard “Shoelace” Robinson wears #16 for the guys wearing those winged helmets.
- Michigan, as a team, showed signs of improved ball security against UConn and wound up with a +1 in the turnover department.
- Michigan’s team speed seems to be much improved
Michigan fans are worried because…
- 3-8 happened in 2008
- 5-7 happened in 2009
- The Michigan secondary is freakishly young and inexperienced
If Michigan Wins – this is how it’s goin’ down…
Rain or shine – I think Denard Robinson is going to see a similar degree of success against Notre Dame as he did against UConn. Michigan may not sustain drives like they did against UConn, but offensively they should have a productive day. Michigan’s drives won’t stall nearly as often if Denard can continue to convert short and long 3rd downs – yielding more touchdowns than field goals. I think Notre Dame is going to have some success running the ball and using some play-action, but think they will stall inside the red zone and convert field goals. Michigan should have enough of an advantage on both the offensive and defensive fronts to control the line of scrimmage, which will minimize the effectiveness of Crist and his ability to get the ball downfield to Michael Floyd and Rudolph. Turnovers will play a role in this game, but I think both teams will give the ball up once or twice – more or less a washout. Michigan has too many playmakers and too much team speed for Notre Dame to handle. It’s close, but Michigan rides back to Ann Arbor with W #2.
Michigan 36 – Notre Dame 26