80,000 screaming fans will be packing the seats in South Bend this weekend with the hope of watching their team win one last game in a classic rivalry. This Saturday marks the 42nd and final scheduled game between the Michigan Wolverines and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, two of the most storied programs in college football history. Kick off is scheduled for 7:30pm (EST) and the game will be televised on NBC.
On the NCAA Football all-time wins list, Michigan football ranks number one with 911 wins and Notre Dame comes in at number four with 875 wins. The rivalry has become one of the most anticipated college football games of the fall since their first game in 1887. Michigan won the first meeting 8-0 by the way and didn’t suffer their first loss to the Irish until 1909 when Notre Dame beat Michigan 11-3. As of now, the Wolverines hold the lead in the series with a 26-14-1 record.
Last year’s matchup under the lights of the big house was definitely exciting with the Wolverines defeating the Irish 41-30. The Notre Dame game last year was one of the few highlights Michigan can look back on fondly from the 2013-2014 season.
For this final matchup, Notre Dame boasts home field advantage and like last year, the game will be played under the lights. Since the season is still so young and their first week opponents were so poor, it’s hard to really see what caliber teams Michigan and Notre Dame are at this point. I think after this game, the world of college football will have a much better idea of what type of teams Notre Dame and Michigan are and if one or both of them should be feared.
In week one, the Irish beat Rice 48-17 in South Bend. Everett Golson looked solid in his first appearance in a little over a year. Golson missed all last season after he was kicked out of Notre Dame because of academic violations. The game last week against Rice was Golson’s first game back with the Irish since playing Alabama in the National Championship in 2013.
Against Rice, Golson accounted for 336 total yards and five touchdowns. Golson has a strong presence in the pocket but can take advantage of his athleticism when he needs to. Three of his five touchdowns last week were rushing and all three were scored in the redzone. Michigan is going to have a tough time trying to contain Golson both on the ground and in the air. He will be especially dangerous in the redzone.
One big problem still haunting Notre Dame is the loss of players due to academic violations. Four players are currently suspended and being investigated for cheating. Three of the four are starting players including cornerback KeiVarae Russell, wide receiver DaVaris Daniels, and defensive end Ishaq Williams. The loss of these guys didn’t show against Rice, I’m thinking it may against better competition in the Wolverines.
Brian Kelly says there is currently no change to the status of the suspended players but if he finds out they are declared eligible by the university, they will play as soon as possible.
Last week the Wolverines looked dominant. After the first few Devin Gardner to Devin Funchess touchdowns, the tiny bit of worry I had about a repeat upset by AppalachianState quickly faded away. Gardner threw for 174 yards and three touchdowns. For as much as we all know Gardner likes to scramble, he didn’t rush much at all against Appalachian State.
Gardner rushed for only nine yards on five attempts. Those numbers are low but it’s exactly what I want to see. He’s maturing and improving under the guidance of Doug Nussmeier. He looks comfortable and because of that, he is playing much more efficiently.
Both Notre Dame and Michigan’s running games looked great last weeks. The two backs for the Irish, Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston, both contributed 71-yard games. The Wolverines running game was a bit of a question mark until we got a better look last week. Michigan rushed for a staggering 350 yards against Appalachian State. Considering that only nine of those rushing yards came from Gardner, the running back corps is definitely pulling their weight.
Both the Wolverines and Irish played sub-par opponents last week. It’s hard to tell how those numbers will translate when they meet this weekend in South Bend. I do know that last week the Irish only committed two penalties losing 10 total yards while the Wolverines committed 4 penalties and lost 44 yards. Both are small amounts of penalties but whichever team wins this weekend will do so in part because they are more disciplined.
Brady Hoke doesn’t want to talk about injuries but there are definitely some issues the Wolverines are currently dealing with. Cornerback Jabrill Peppers left last week’s game with an ankle injury. Linebacker Desmond Morgan is also suspected to be suffering from an injury but Hoke wouldn’t elaborate on the subject or even admit the injury existed. I’m assuming that both players will be full strength for this Saturday’s game.
I know both teams have a lot to play for this weekend. Michigan will attempt to make a statement as an unranked team and Notre Dame will try to prove they are worth their number 15 ranking and end the Michigan Notre Dame rivalry with a win.
As of right now, I believe the Irish are a better overall football team than the Wolverines but without three of their starting players, they lose some of their strength and experience. Running the ball wins games and if Michigan runs the ball anything like they did last week, the Irish defense is going to have their hands full. I think both offenses will play well but Notre Dame’s defense will end up winning the game for the Irish.
I think Notre Dame comes out on top of Michigan in this game; but just barely. The home field advantage will be the key factor for the Irish. There is no way the Irish faithful will let Michigan take the last game in the rivalry. Michigan may have won the first matchup but the Irish know that what everyone will remember is who won the last.