Friday, September 5, 2014

Preview: Michigan at Notre Dame

Rush vs. Notre Dame Rush Defense
Michigan got off to as good of a start as possible when they ran 36 times for 350 yards (9.72 yards/carry) in week one, albeit against Appalachian State. That YPC puts them #1 in the country going into week two. It's only one week, but plenty of other schools played patsies in their openers, too. I don't expect Michigan to be a great running team this year, but that's a positive sign. Both Derrick Green (15 carries, 170 yards, 1 touchdown) and De'Veon Smith (8, 115, 2) had outstanding games, with Green as more of a home run threat and Smith as the between-the-tackles bruiser. Notre Dame allowed 141 yards on 3.53 yards/carry last week to Rice, which puts the Fighting Irish in the middle of the pack early. Even without defensive end Ishaq Williams (suspended for academic issues), they have a formidable front seven with defensive tackles Sheldon Day and Jarron Jones, plus defensive end Romeo Okwara and outside linebacker Jaylon Smith. The question mark for them comes up the middle with some questionable talent and little experience at inside linebacker. If Michigan can get past the first level - which still might be a tall task - it could be tough for them to slow down the 220-pounders in Green and Smith. But until I see Michigan perform against a solid defense, I'll say . . .
Advantage: Notre Dame

Pass vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense
Michigan was also outstanding in the passing game, as starter Devin Gardner finished 13/14 for 173 yards and 3 touchdowns before giving way to sophomore Shane Morris (3/5, 37 yards, 1 interception). Junior wide receiver Devin Funchess - who was awarded the #1 jersey prior to the opener - caught 7 of those passes for 95 yards and all 3 touchdowns. While Funchess is the main target, the connections to other receivers - particulary Jehu Chesson, Amara Darboh, and Dennis Norfleet - looked crisp, too. The key for Michigan will be whether their offensive line can block Notre Dame's defensive line and stymie a likely array of blitzes designed to confuse the young, oft-shuffled line. The Fighting Irish sacked Rice twice in their opener, and they intercepted one pass while breaking up two more in 26 attempts. Their personnel in the secondary has dwindled recently with an MCL injury to starting safety Austin Collinsworth and the academic suspension of cornerback KeiVarae Russell. They're piecing together a secondary that includes a bunch of young or unproductive players, including cornerbacks Cole Luke and Cody Riggs, safeties Max Redfield and Elijah Shumate, and combo player Matthias Farley. There's some talent there, but nobody has shown star tendencies. They will have to count on the massive Jones and the quick Day to put pressure on Gardner.
Advantage: Michigan

Rush Defense vs. Notre Dame Rush Offense
Michigan was gashed up the middle several times against Appalachian State, and they did not create stops in the backfield. Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison took some blame for not making adjustments, but also, there's no need to bring out every run blitz to stop a team that you're beating by 38 points. It was not an ideal performance by the Wolverines (156 yards allowed on 29 running back carries), but it wasn't particularly alarming, either. One issue may be that perhaps Michigan's best inside linebacker, senior Desmond Morgan, will miss the game with a broken arm. Junior Joe Bolden and fifth year senior Jake Ryan - who moved from OLB in the off-season - have not shown that they can stuff the run up the middle. Meanwhile, the Fighting Irish have a nice lightning-and-thunder combination with sophomores Tarean Folston (12 carries, 71 yards) and Greg Bryant (8 carries, 71 yards). Folston is a little bit reminiscent of Fitzgerald Toussaint with his acceleration and jump-cut ability, while Bryant is a little more ponderous but can run through defenders if he squares his shoulders. Notre Dame's line is nothing special, but they have experience on the interior and some size up front. With Morgan out and a mediocre performance against Appalachian State, I'll put this category as a notch for . . .
Advantage: Notre Dame

Pass Defense vs. Notre Dame Pass Offense
Michigan has an All-Big Ten corner in Blake Countess, a guy who's supposedly playing his best ball on the opposite side, a 5-star freshman in the slot, and perhaps their best pure cover corner (Jourdan Lewis) coming off the bench. Redshirt sophomore Jeremy Clark played his first extensive time at deep safety last week, and he did fair. Michigan did not get a great pass rush, despite notching two sacks (by Chris Wormley and Taco Charlton), but Appalachian State ran a lot of short routes. Notre Dame should have some longer developing plays, but they also have a better offensive line. The tackles should be the most vulnerable, so Frank Clark's pass rush off the edge should be a key. Notre Dame got some big plays in the passing game against a Rice team that had a pretty solid pass defense last year. Last week's standout was sophomore Williams Fuller (4 catches, 85 yards, 1 touchdown), but five players averaged 17 or more yards a catch, including tight end Ben Koyack (3 catches, 51 yards). Redshirt junior quarterback Everett Golson finished 14/22 for 295 yards and 2 touchdowns. It was a good day, but he will face a stiffer test against Michigan's sticky secondary.
Advantage: Michigan

Roster Notes
  • Michigan offered the following Notre Dame players coming out of high school: OT Alex Bars, OG Hunter Bivin, CB Devin Butler, WR DaVaris Daniels, DT Sheldon Day, OT Steve Elmer, QB Everett Golson, OT Mark Harrell, DT Jay Hayes, WR Corey Holmes, DT Jarron Jones, OT Christian Lombard, TE Tyler Luatua, CB Cole Luke, DE Jacob Matuska, OT Mike McGlinchey, OT Colin McGovern, OG John Montelus, LB Nyles Morgan, OG Sam Mustipher, LB James Onwualu, CB Cody Riggs, DE Isaac Rochell, S Elijah Shumate, LB Jaylon Smith, TE Durham Smythe, CB Nick Watkins, CB Nic Weishar, DE Jhonny Williams
  • Players from the state of Michigan include: K Kyle Brindza, OT Steve Elmer, DE Jhonny Williams
  • Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly used to be the head coach at Grand Valley State University
Last Year
  • Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees was 29/51 for 314 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions
  • Michigan held the Fighting Irish under 100 yards rushing (19 carries, 96 yards)
  • Devin Gardner had his best career game to that point, finishing 21/33 for 294 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 1 interception, plus 13 carries for 82 yards and another score
  • Blake Countess had 2 interceptions
  • Michigan 41, Notre Dame 30

  • Devin Funchess goes for 120 yards and 2 touchdowns
  • Michigan averages 4.0 yards/carry
  • Graham Glasgow plays left guard, moving Erik Magnuson to left tackle
  • Michigan struggles to stop the run
  • Michigan 34, Notre Dame 31


  1. With that offensive line prediction, how do you think the right side shakes out with Cole, Braden, and Kalis? I assume you think Miller stays in the middle.

    1. I'm not sold on Miller and in fact this game is going to expose his weakness in holding up at the point of attack. He looks like the Pillsbury Doughboy out there.

    2. Not bad for 51 but Kathy is actually from La-La land (Glendale CA).

    3. I think the center will be Miller, right guard will be Kalis, and right tackle will be Braden. Miller did okay - not great, but okay - against ASU's 330 lb. Tyson Fernandez.

    4. Cole getting pushed out then. Not sure how much time he has had at right tackle or other positions. To my untrained eye, he did better than expected for a true freshman, even if he did enroll early.

    5. Think you're wrong here. It would be overtly silly to burn Cole's red-shirt year for just App State. He's starting until such time as he proves inept. I think they'd pull Braden before they pull Cole.

      I don't get all the Miller praise. I saw him get blown off the ball by an App State linemen several times. A big linemen, but an App State linemen nonetheless. I think against ND, you need to have someone who can hold up better, so my guess is Glasgow goes to OC.

      The coaches seem focused on stability, so bringing back the Magnuson-Glasgow-Kalis interior is the most likely scenario, IMO. At least to start. If Kalis struggles I could see Miller inserted back in and Glasgow sliding over.

  2. I too believe Mich should win this game as they appear to be the better team. I think our interior D, will actually improve with a week of working on the issues that caused the gapping holes up the middle.
    The loss of Morgan will hurt but the LB position is one of the deepest on the team so the impact could or should be negligible.

  3. Replies
    1. Ah, I see. I had Hendrix on the brain when I typed it up. It should have said "Rees."

  4. ND's offense looks legit.

    1. They look okay. Michigan won't leave dudes just running free all the way downfield like Rice did. I will say that ND's offense is scarier than their defense.

  5. Last week I nailed it, as App State pulled off the upset and lost to our beloved Wolverines. 1-0 in my goal of going 0-15 in predictions on the year.

    Did you know Notre Dame University has beaten Michigan many times in football? Look it up, they've won like 100 games, literally. Michigan has won lately though, so statistically Notre Dame U is due.

    Also, our best OLmen is a walk-on. Our second best is probably a true freshman at left-tackle. The other guys range from sucks a little bit to sucks a lot. They have Sheldon Day.


    Michigan 20 More Like Notre Dum 29

  6. I would be really happy (and very surprised) if our RBs can manage 4 ypc.

    Gardner and WRs may bump up the average to prove your prediction true regardless. Or Smith and Day may lead a sack-show.

    Here is the first real test for this OL. Looking forward to the game. Go Blue.

  7. That lady didn't even go to Notre Dame U! I looked it up.

  8. Nice touch with the Kathy "Ireland" pic.

  9. Love the Kathy Ireland picture here. It's nice to see one of the all-time greats (and maybe the all-time greatest) showing up here. I am all for your use of more "classics". Good work on the write-up, too, as usual.