The Fighting Irish will entertain the Michigan Wolverines on September 13, 2008 featuring the two winningest college football programs of all-time; it is the 36th meeting with Michigan holding a 20-14-2 edge. Notre Dame is seeking its 300th victory at Notre Dame stadium. The Irish sport a 7-8-1 records against the Wolverines at home. Neither team is ranked, but at least neither team's record is the same as last year's "0-2 Bowl" that Michigan won 38-0. Michigan has won the last two meetings, and has an edge of 870 wins to Notre Dame's 825; the Wolverines hold a slight edge in winning percentage as well (.744 to .739)
On Offense, Notre Dame starts with Sophomore Jimmy Clausen from California. Clausen threw to 8 different receivers in the opening win over San Diego State inlcuding two TD passes in the final 10 minutes. The Irish had 20 first downs, 342 total yards of offense, and 4 turnovers. Clauson ended with 21 of 34 with 3 TDs and 2 interceptions; he was 4 of 14 in 3rd and 4th down conversions with one of five in red zone chances. At receiver, the Irish are led be Senior Detroiter David Grimes who had 5 receptions for 35 yards and a TD in the first game; Michigan could not find a scholarship to offer him so one can assume he'll be at his best today. Sophomore Golden Tate from Tennessee led the Irish with 6 receptions for 93 yards and a TD in the first game. Highly regarded Frosh Michael Floyd, a former Michigan recruit from Minnesota, is another top threat at wide out; he caught a 22 yarder for a TD in the opener. Sophomore from New Jersey, Duval Kamara, will also see action. At Tight End, Kyle Rudolph from Cincinnati is the first Freshman to start a home opener at Notre Dame stadium; he caught a 5 yarder against San Diego State. Will Yeatman also caught a pass at tight end.
The Irish running attack is led by Florida Sophomore Armando Allen who had 59 net yards on 17 carries, 3 receptions for 18 yards, 2 punt returns for 35 yards and 2 kickoff returns for 46 yards; this gave him a total of 158 all purpose yards in the opener. His backup is former Michigan recruit from Chicago, Sophomore Robert Hughes. Hughes had 54 net yards on 16 carries, and 3 receptions for 32 yards in the opener. The offensive line led by humongous Junior right tackle, Sam Young, did not allow a Clausen sack in the first game. Notre Dame's offensive line has 4 juniors and one senior. The Irish will try to establish a running game so a Michigan key will be for our defensive line and linebackers to not let that happen.
On Defense, The Irish held the Aztecs to 7 drives of 10 yards or less, and 10 of the 15 drives were 20 yards or less. Notre Dame allowed only 71 yards of net rushing in the first game, but allowed 274 yards in passing. Senior Safety from Youngstown, Kyle McCarthy, led the Irish defenders in the first game with 14 tackles. On cover, they are led by Senior Terail Lambert. Senior JACK Linebacker Maurice Crum got the only Irish sack last week. Free Safety Sergio Brown, Crum and Lambert had 6 tackles each against San Diego State. Their line is anchored by Senior End Pat Kuntz from Indianapolis. Senior Justin Brown mans the other end position. Their other linebackers are big and mobile led by Sophomores Brian Smith, Harrison Smith and Kerry Neal. The defense allowed 5 of 17 3rd and 4th down conversions to the Aztecs who were coached by former Iowa quarterback, Chuck Long. The Notre Dame defensive coordinator is former Michigan Captain Corwin Brown. Notre Dame uses a 3-4 scheme., and had 25 tackles from the safety position in the first game. A key to a Michigan win includes being able to run the ball effectively enough to even out time of possession, or perhaps even gain some advantage. Also, we need to convert more 3rd down situations than we have done in the first game.
Michigan should have the edge on special teams, but they will be challenged by Armando Allen and Golden Tate on punts and kickoffs. Junior Eric Maust from Georgia punted 5 times for a 39.8 yard average, and Findlay Sophomore Brandon Walker missed a 47 yard field goal in the first quarter. Junior Ryan Burkhart kicked off 4 times for a mediocre 60.5 yard average. Hopefully, Mesko will contribute to field position advantage, and Lopata will come through when needed. It looks like Cissoko and Odoms will get more reps on returns, and two true Frosh are quite capable of turnovers. Field position advantage and turnover advantage will be a key to a win today.
Even though Threet will start, rain could turn this game into a ground game that Sheridan is better suited for. We will also need to use Carlos Brown and Brandon Minor more than Sam McGuffie and Michael Shaw against a tough Irish defense. Rodriquez and Magee will have to be creative enough to generate a more even time of possession, better 3rd down efficiency and more red zone opportunities than we've shown in the first two games for us to win in South Bend. Our defense and special teams play will have to be very, very solid for us to prevail.
Apparently the weather could be a factor in this game with rain predicted although the wind factor hasn't been anticipated. Both teams are young especially on offense, senior led on defense, never short on talent, but neither are good football teams and will struggle to finish 6-6 and be bowl eligible. The Irish showed in their first game that they can come from behind, and overcome a two turnover deficit to win at home. I do not like the home field advantage nor the Michigan offense thus far; however, I am not going to predict a loss. It should be a defense dominated, low scoring affair.