Friday, September 21, 2012

Preview: Michigan at Notre Dame

Rush Offense vs. Notre Dame Rush Defense
Michigan is #45 nationally in rush offense, but Denard Robinson accounts for 117 of the team's 192.3 yards/game.  The offensive line has generally struggled to create creases for anyone else.  Meanwhile, Notre Dame is #23 in rushing defense, giving up 96.3 yards/game.  They held Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell to 77 yards on 19 carries (4.1 yards/attempt) and the entire Navy offense to 149 yards, a team that was #3 nationally in 2011 with 358 yards/game.  The Fighting Irish have done a good job of recruiting in recent years, and they now have several very good players in the front seven.  Denard Robinson has shown that he can run on these guys, but I have some concerns about whether the offensive line can hold up.
Advantage: Michigan

Pass Offense vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense
After playing two cupcake defenses and one very good defense, Robinson is completing 54.6% of his passes for 6 touchdowns and 4 interceptions; he's the #39 rated passer in the country, thanks to some long completions.  However, two of those interceptions have been returned for touchdowns.  Michigan has its full complement of wide receivers, and the 6'4" Devin Gardner leads the team in yards, touchdowns, and yards per catch.  Meanwhile, the Fighting Irish are missing starting safety Jamoris Slaughter and starting cornerback Lo Wood for the season; the other starting corner Bennett Jackson had 2 interceptions against Purdue, and safety Zeke Motta isn't much of a pass defender.  Receivers should be able to get open, but the 3-4 defense will probably put some pressure on Robinson in the pocket; Notre Dame sacked Michigan State quarterback Andrew Maxwell four times last week.  Defensive end Stephon Tuitt leads the country with 5 sacks and the team is sacking the quarterback 3.67 times per game.  Big plays will be there both ways, but based on past performance, I think Robinson will make some big things happen through the air or by scrambling.
Advantage: Michigan

Rush Defense vs. Notre Dame Rush Offense
This matchup terrifies me, because Notre Dame has several running backs with a great deal of ability.  Theo Riddick had 107 yards and 2 touchdowns against Navy; George Atkinson is averaging 9.5 yards/carry; Cierre Wood returned last week to run for 56 yards on 10 carries against MSU; and quarterback Everett Golson can run a little bit.  Michigan has struggled on the inside, and both defensive end Brennen Beyer and defensive tackle Richard Ash are questionable to play due to injury.  They're #104 nationally against the run. Riddick and Wood are both capable running backs, but Atkinson is the wild card.  He's fast and physical and could be a huge game-breaker.  I do not see this phase going well for the Wolverines.
Advantage: Notre Dame

Pass Defense vs. Notre Dame Pass Offense
Golson is Notre Dame's starter, but he's backed up by a couple capable guys in Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix.  The youngster is completing just 58% of his passes for 3 touchdowns and 1 interception, so he's not lighting the world on fire, but if the running game produces, he won't have to win it through the air.  The Fighting Irish have a handful of capable receivers, not just one guy to concentrate on like Michael Floyd the past few years.  Tight end/wide receiver Tyler Eifert, receiver T.J. Jones, receiver DaVaris Daniels, receiver Robby Toma, and running back Theo Riddick all have between 6 and 9 receptions.  Eifert, in particular, seems like a matchup problem because of his size (6'6", 251 lbs.) and speed.  Notre Dame gives up 2.67 sacks/game, and Golson holds onto the ball too long sometimes, but Michigan barely gets after the quarterback unless they use Jake Ryan as a rusher.  Without starting cornerback Blake Countess, it might be a struggle for Michigan to cover each of the targets.
Advantage: Notre Dame

Roster Notes
  • Michigan recruited K Kyle Brindza, WR Chris Brown, WR DaVaris Daniels, DT Sheldon Day, LB Dan Fox, QB Everett Golson, OT Mark Harrell, DE Jarron Jones, QB Gunner Kiel, OT Christian Lombard, OT Zack Martin, WR Davonte Neal, DT Louis Nix III, S Elijah Shumate, OG Chris Watt, TE Alex Welch, RB Cierre Wood, and CB Lo Wood.
A Look Back . . . 
Here's my review of Michigan's 35-31 win last season, my awards from that game, and some highlights:


  • Denard Robinson has his worst career performance of the Notre Dame series.
  • Notre Dame gashes Michigan for 190 rushing yards.
  • Big plays go Notre Dame's way this year.
  • Notre Dame 24, Michigan 20


  1. "Notre Dame 24, Michigan 20"

    No. I just don't see it... Notre Dame doesn't look terribly fearsome. They whooped an overrated MSU team, and we are not Purdue.

    Switch the scores... and maybe tack on a few more points for the good guys.

    1. I agree that Notre Dame doesn't look terribly fearsome. If they did, I would have predicted a bigger differential. But Michigan doesn't look terribly fearsome, either. We've played a good team (and got blown out), a mediocre team (and won a tight one), and a terrible team (and blew them out). That seems to indicate that a fairly good team like Notre Dame might very well come out on top.

    2. I kinda see what you're saying BUT a match-up between a Michigan and a Notre Dame team where neither looks "terribly fearsome", I feel like the edge immediately goes to Michigan due to who's at the helm:


      And a lot of good teams would of won a tight one against Air Force because they're so unorthodox. But Notre Dame blew out a shitty Navy team, barely beat a good Purdue team (which is a mediocre version of any normally good team), and borderline blew out an overrated MSU team.

      Again, I think we've got this. Hope I'm right, and hope Denard goes off on his birthday.

    3. And we didn't play a "good team" and got blown out, Thunder - we played THE BEST TEAM in college football and got blown out... but we're also the only team to score on them so far as well.

      We're better than people think.

  2. My concern is that the "Home Cookin" that ND usually gets from the officials. If the game is called straight up by the officials, then it will go on how Michigan plays; which team will come out of the locker room. Verses Alabama the Michigan players looked like a deer in the headlights for the first quarter and never really recovered although they made "some" progress in the second half. ND will be the second best team Michigan has played thus far this year, while Michigan "may" arguably be the best team ND has played... we will see. Going to East Lansing and winning was a big deal but not as big of a challenge as going to South Bend. I still like Michigan's chances albeit I am a homer.

    Go Blue!!!

  3. I tend to agree with your assessment -- ND is not fearsome, but neither is Michigan.

    There's a huge X variable -- Robinson's passing effectiveness. If he makes the passes he needs to, doesn't throw up any stupid interceptions, and Michigan's receivers are reasonably effective catching the ball, then this game evens up.

    But if this come down to how well Robinson himself can rush against ND's defense ... then it's going to be a long night.

  4. I agree, but go a little further. Against All American/future NFL defensive backs under pressure Denard passed for 200 yards and a TD. Against 2 converted WRs and a converted RB he'll have the worst game of his entire career. Thinking around 0-45 passing and -140 yards due to 8 pick 6's and being sacked on every play. You know, anti-jinx and all.

  5. To contain Denard ND will have to stack the box and play contain. Run blocking may be weak, but pass blocking has been pretty solid. If Denard can burn the secondary with enough consistency to force ND to loosen the box, then we can run. This didn't work against Alabama because their secondary was experienced and very athletic. The ND secondary is nothing like Alabama's. Barring horrible luck, I don't see how we score only 20 points.

    I share your concerns about our Dline and don't see us holding ND to 24. We'll be forced to take chances and we will get burned. We'll also snag a couple of interceptions. Last time I checked the over/under was 51. I'll take the over and go with Michigan 35 and ND 31. If the breaks go against us I'd reverse the score.


  6. So reading this correctly, Michigan's offense has the advantage over ND's defense in both rushing and passing and ND's offense has the advantage over Michigan's defense in both rushing and passing, yet the score will only be 24-20? I'm thinking a higher score, in the 30's for both teams. Guess you are forecasting some TO's in the red zone

  7. Notre Dame is due, I don't have a good feeling about this one.

    Call anytime for informed analysis.

  8. To win, I think we'll need to throw the ball like voting in a Chicago election...early and often. Maybe 35-40 passing attempts, and an effective performance by Robinson in the short to mid-range game, to exploit their thin secondary. We will probably have to top 30 points to win, and I don't see us doing that with our ground game against their front 7, which is fast and athletic. We should come out throwing from our very first series, with a lot of passes on first and second down, and use the run game just enough to keep them honest.

    Don't think that's what Hoke and Borges will do, though...I'm worried that they'll rather futily try to "establish the run" for about the first two quarters, and not start really airing the ball out until we're behind by 2-3 which time ND will be expecting it, of course. ND 30 Michigan 17