Notre Dame vs. Michigan Preview 2010

What a difference a year makes! In 2009, we defeated Notre Dame 38-34 with last minute heroics by Tate Forcier who went 23 of 33 for 240 yards, and ran for another 70 yards; this year, he is our 3rd string quarterback and probably won't play. Notre Dame has a new coach, Brian Kelly, and they defeated arch-rival Purdue in their opener, 23-12. Notre Dame is favored by 3 points playing at home, and Michigan is ranked #26 in the AP while the Irish ar ranked #31; in the USA Today/Coaches Poll, Notre Dame is ranked #27 and Michigan is ranked #35. Whoever wins this game should vault into the Top 25 in both polls. Although Michigan holds a 21-15-1 series edge over the Irish, the Wolverines are 8-8-1 in South Bend.

On offense, the Irish feature a new Quarterback in Junior Dayne Crist who threw for 203 yards against Purdue. Crist led a balanced Irish atttack with 20 first downs, 10 on the ground and 10 in the air with 50% 3rd down conversion proficiency, 6 of 12, and was 19 of 26 in passing. He has two of the most outstanding receivers in college football to throw to, Junior Michael Floyd, and Tight End, Junior Kyle Rudolph. Last year, Floyd had 7 catches for 131 yards until he had to leave the game with an injury in the 4th quarter; had he been able to stay in the game, the Irish probably would have prevailed. Rudolph and Floyd had 5 catches each in the first game. It will be Floyd on Floyd with J.T. Floyd having his hands full trying to cover Michael Floyd. Freshman T.J. Jones and Sophomore Theo Riddick are the two other starting receivers to look for. Notre Dame also returns an outstanding running back in Senior Armando Allen. In 2009, Allen shredded the Wolverine defense for 139 yards on 21 carries, and the Irish offense put up 490 yards of total offense against Michigan in Ann Arbor. Sophomore Cierre Wood will also run the ball. Notre Dame did fumble three times in the opener, but only lost the ball once. Notre Dame's offensive line is led by 351 lbs. Senior Left Guard who is currently enrolled in Law School, Chris Stewart, Junior Center Braxton Cave, Junior Right Guard Trevor Robinson, Right Tackle Taylor Dever and Sophomore Left Tackle Zach Martin. Both Notre Dame's offense and Michigan's defense are very young. If Michigan is to thwart the Irish offense, they'll need to put significant pressure on Crist with sacks and hurries. Michigan's game plan will be to stop the Notre Dame rushing attack, and take their chances against their receivers. Notre Dame's game plan on offense will be to mix it up with a balanced passing and running attack, and to do this their offensive line will need to step up and have a great game protecting Crist. Crist will probably be rolling out and throwing on the run most of the time. The matchups with VanBergen against Martin favors Michigan as does Mike Martin against Braxton Cave so I like Michigan's chances to put pressure on the Irish and hopefully this will result in turnovers.

On Defense, Notre Dame has great senior leadership, and several experienced players have returned to lead the Irish. Senior Ian Williams anchors the defensive line at Nose Tackle, Juniors Kapron Lewis-Moore and Ethan Johnson are the defensive ends. Johnson got two sacks and Lewis-Moore got one sack of four total sacks against Purdue. The Inside Linebackers are Sophomores Carlo Calabrese and Manti Te'o and Outside Linebackers are Junior Darius Fleming and Senior Kerry Neal. Calabrese and Te'o had 9 tackles each against the Boilermakers, and Fleming got two quarterback hits. They play a similar 3-4-4 defense so our offensive line will need to be at their best for our running game to work, and to protect Robinson when he's in the pocket. They will be bring the blitz, and they'll want to rock Robinson early with some big hits. We know what we are in store for so the questions are how will our players respond and how will we execute. In the backfield, Senior cornerback Gary Gray leads the group; he had 9 tackles in the first game including one for loss. Senior Darrin Walls is the other corner, Senior Harrison Smith and Junior Jamoris Slaughter are the safeties. Smith led the Irish effort against the Wolverines in 2009 with 11 tackles. Others we can expect to see are: Freshman Special Teams Flyer Bennett Jackson, Junior Cornerback Robert Blanton, Sophomore Safety Zeke Motta, Freshman Linebacker Prince Shembo and Freshman Cornerback Lo Wood. Purdue dominated time of possession by 10 minutes, but couldn only muster a field goal in two red zones against this unit. Purdue Quarterback Robert Marve was 31 of 42, but also two interceptions to Walls and Ian Williams and the longest play the Irish gave up was a 23 yard run by Marve. If Michigan can move the ball on the Irish, maintain a time of possession advantage and win the turnover battle, they'll have a good chance to win. Conversely, if the Irish can stop Michigan's ground game, force Robinson into turnovers and hurries, they will have a good chance to win.

Special teams will be critical for both teams in this one. Last year, Daryl Stonum returned one against the Irish for a 94 yard TD to keep Michigan in the game in the first half. Two years ago, the Irish took advantage of two fumbles on kickoff returns to take a 14-0 lead that they never relinquished while winning 35-17 in South Bend. Stonum, Armando Allen and Cierre Wood are the leading return specialists for both teams. Michigan was not impressive on special teams in their first game. Notre Dame had three field goals from Senior David Ruffer including a 46 yarder. Ruffer also kicked off 6 times for a 61.6 yard average with one touchback. On the dark side, their punter, Sophomore Ben Turk, only averaged 31.7 yards on 3 punts.

This game should be close for all four quarters, and probably not a lot of scoring in the first half or three quarters; however, it will probably be a wild finish. Check your blood pressure and/or pacemaker in this one. Rivalry games are very emotional, and expect this one to be as well!


MICHIGAN WOLVERINES 27 Notre Dame Fighting Irish 26