Michigan Football will host Notre Dame on Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:12pm and the game will be televised on ESPN. This will likely, barring bowl games, be the last installment in this rivalry. As Brady Hoke put it, and I completely agree, Notre Dame chickened out of the series. They had to dump a Big Ten foe off their schedule and they chose the one that presented the biggest threat.
Brian Kelly is a bit confused
“I really haven’t seen it as one of those historic, traditional Notre Dame rivalries,” Brian Kelly said on Sunday. He then referred to it as a big regional game. Two days later, Kelly proclaimed Michigan vs Notre Dame as “a great and historic rivalry.” You must forgive him if he is a little confused. Kelly is still trying to figure out how Temple amassed 25 first downs and 363 yards against the Irish defense last week.
The way I see it, Notre Dame has one tactical advantage heading into this game. That is their stout defensive line, led by the massive 6-foot-3, 340 pound Louis Nix. He will line up against Michigan’s much discussed, inexperienced interior offensive line. Unfortunately for the Irish, Michigan has two tremendous tackles that will negate much of this perceived advantage. Taylor Lewan is quite simply one of the best players in the country and his presence, along with fellow 5th year senior Michael Schofield at right tackle, provides the Wolverines with stability.
A defensive revival in Ann Arbor
Under the guidance of Brady Hoke and Greg Mattison, Michigan’s defense has been on the rise. Last week, the Wolverines limited an admittedly inferior opponent to 210 yards of total offense and that was without two of their best defensive players, Jake Ryan and Thomas Gordon. Ryan won’t play this week, but Gordon will return to the lineup after serving a one-game suspension. Gordon is a playmaking safety with a lot of experience: 27 career starts. His return solidifies the secondary.
In Ryan’s absence, Cam Gordon and Brennen Beyer provided hope that Michigan can survive without their star linebacker for a couple more weeks. Gordon notched 4 tackles, 2 sacks and a pass break up. Beyer recorded 3 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble. Michigan also had a couple of young players produce on defense. Making his first career start at safety, Jarrod Wilson had 4 tackles, 1 tackle for loss and a pass break up. True freshman Channing Stribling was second on the team with 5 tackles and also forced a fumble.
This defense is loaded with talented players and they are going to be good, if not dominant, this year. The Wolverines will match up well against Notre Dame’s offense. Tommy Rees is a fine quarterback, but he doesn’t pose a threat as a runner and has been susceptible to turning the ball over. Look for Michigan to turn up the heat and keep an eye out for Dymonte Thomas as a blitzer this week.
The offense is in good hands
In a little over a half of football, Devin Gardner racked up 214 yards and 3 touchdowns against Central Michigan. He did throw two interceptions, including one inside Michigan’s own 20 yard line. He was 4-4 on third down plays for 73 yards with two touchdowns (1 passing, 1 rushing). It wasn’t a flawless performance, but it did confirm that there is plenty of reason to be excited about Gardner’s potential for this season.
The Wolverines churned out 242 yards on the ground and yet it seemed to be an unsatisfying performance. The rushing attack was paced by true freshman Derrick Green who carried the ball 11 times for 58 yards and a touchdown. Fitz Toussaint chipped in 57 yards and 2 touchdowns. Michigan did have 4 runs over at least 20 yards with Green’s 30 yard rumble being the longest of the day.
The beauty of the Wolverines offensive performance in the opener and what will likely be their calling card all season was balance. The 242 rushing yards were complimented by 221 passing yards. The Wolverines had three players with at least 50 yards rushing (Green, Toussaint and Gardner). They also had four players with at least 40 receiving yards and eight different players scored touchdowns.
After taking a shot to the nether regions, Devin Funchess is fine. Joe Reynolds will play this week and Courtney Avery is available.
Last week I picked Michigan to win 56-10, the final score was 59-9. I think Brady Hoke stays perfect at home this week. It won’t take the miracle comeback that it did in 2011 either. This Michigan team is starting to look like the teams of yesteryear. Even if the Irish defensive line can get pressure on Gardner, that is often times when he is most dangerous with his pocket presence and playmaking ability. Michigan wins 31-17
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