I am putting 16th ranked Notre Dame on upset alert! A few weeks ago our TBHR staff made rivalry predictions and I picked Michigan to beat the Irish. I am standing by my choice but now with even more confidence. Tomorrow night the Michigan Wolverines (1-0) take the field in South Bend, for possibly the last time, to play the Notre Dame (1-0). Michigan leads the series 25-16-1 and has won four out of the last five.
Last week both teams won pretty easily with Notre Dame beating Rice 48-17 and Michigan walloping Appalachian State 52-14. Both quarterbacks played well with hardly any mistakes, and the defenses looked good, despite playing a lesser quality team than they will face on primetime TV tomorrow. After the win Michigan is still unranked in the AP poll while the Irish moved up a spot. I am sure both teams are focused and motivated to win this last game in a historical rivalry. As an added bonus, whoever wins this game will take over the title as college football’s winningest team.
Here are some FBS rankings going into week two. Michigan is 75th in passing yards with 210, while the Irish are 34th with 295 yards. Michigan ranks 10th in rushing yards with 350 compared to Notre Dames 281 yards, which makes them 25th. In overall offense, Michigan is 15th in the nation with 52 points. Notre Dame is 22nd with 48 points scored. In overall defense, Notre Dame gave up 17 points to put it at 50th in the country. The Wolverines allowed 14 points which gives them the 37th-ranked defense.
Here are a couple things that give me great confidence and concerns for this game. First, the good things. I will start with quarterback Devin Gardner. I was impressed with his accuracy, decision making and his poise in the pocket. If he continues to throw the ball that accurately all year, there will be many W’s in the win column. Next is the defense, and yes I know it was Appalachian St that they shut down. I am talking more about the blitz packages and the new press coverage. With the secondary being so talented, defensive coordinator Greg Mattison can get creative with the blitzing because he knows the defensive backs are doing their job. Now with the corners playing more physically it should create more route disruptions for the opposing wide receivers. My biggest concerns still are the running game and the offensive line. Both Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith ran the ball extremely well but I just wonder if it was because of who they played. The same applies for the line, but I guess we will find out when they face a bigger defensive unit. There could be more changes with the line coming so that could be a hiccup in their progress.
The players to watch and the ones who can help decide the outcome are the big guys in the trenches. Both teams’ offensive and defensive lines will be critical in this game. Michigan needs its line to create holes so they can establish the run and in turn open things up for Gardner to throw down field. The Wolverines’ defensive line has to get pressure on Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson to help create turnovers. On the other side if the Irish defensive line takes away Michigan’s run game, it will be up to the arm of Gardner to win the game. It’s going to be a tough battle up front and exciting to watch.
My prediction is that the Michigan Wolverines will win this last rivalry game, take over again as the winningest team in college football and be 2-0 for the year. Wolverines 31-24!