Notre Dame vs. Michigan Preview 2011

The first night game in The Big House promises to be something special. Notre Dame is favored by 3.5 points even though Michigan has won three of the last four games including two in a row over the Irish, and are playing at home. Michigan is ranked #37 and won their first game against Western Michigan while Notre Dame is ranked #36 (ranked #16 in pre-season) losing at home to South Florida. Michigan holds the edge on the Irish at home with a 12-7 record, and has won 5 of the last 6 at The Big House. Although Michigan holds a 22-15-1 series edge over the Irish, the two winningest teams in NCAA College football history and both teams will be wearing throw back uniforms.

On offense, the Irish will start Sophomore Tommy Rees. Rees came in and was 24 or 34 for 296 yards, 2 TDs and 2 interceptions. Senior Quarterback Dayne Crist started the opener. In 78 offensive plays against the Bulls, the Irish amassed 508 yards in net offense, 6.5 yards per play, 27 first downs, 5 of 14 on 3rd down conversions. Pretty impressive, huh? Unfortunately, they were only 2 of 6 in the red zone and had 4 turnovers, 2 interceptions and 2 fumbles including a 96 yard fumble recovery for a TD to start the game in the first quarter. The Irish has the most outstanding receiver in college football and a sure #1 NFL draft pick to throw to in Senior Michael Floyd who caught 12 passes for 154 yards and 2 TDs in the opener. Floyd is now the leading receiver in catches and TDs in Irish folklore. Sophomore T.J. Jones and Junior Theo Riddick are the two other starting receivers to look for, and their Tight End is Junior Tyler Eifert. Jones and Eifert had 6 catches each in the first game. Senior John Goodman and Junior Robby Toma will also see action at receiver, and Senior Mike Rangone is the back up at tight end.. Notre Dame has an outstanding running back in Junior Cierre Wood; he ran for 104 yards on 21 carries for 1 TD against South Florida. Michigander Jonas Gray is his backup, and at 5'10" 230 lbs., he is built like Thomas Rawls. Notre Dame has its usual big, strong offensive line. They are led by Senior Center Braxton Cave, Senior Right Guard Trevor Robinson, Senior Right Tackle Taylor Dever, Junior Left Guard Chris Watt and Junior Left Tackle Zach Martin; all over over 300 lbs. Senior Andrew Nuss and Sophomore Christian Lombard are backups on the offensive line. We will definitely need to rotate Will Campbell and Quinton Washington in more against this group because they plan to run effectively against us. This offense will be difficult to contain, and they'll be plenty physical; we must hope they'll self-destruct for the second week in a row. We may need to ask NCAA Defensive Player of the Week Brandon Herron to score 3 TDs this week.

On Defense, Notre Dame is starting 8 seniors so they are an experienced, physical group. Their defensive line is anchored by Senior Defensive Ends Ethan Johnson and Kapron Lewis-Moore, and their Nose Tackle is Junior Sean Cwynar. Junior Louis Nix backs up Cwynar, and he had 7 tackles, Kapron-Moore had 8 and Johnson 6 in the first game with 3 tackles for loss. That is 25 tackles as a unit of 3 while our group of 4 had only 9 tackles, zero for loss. The Irish limited the South Florida running attack to a measly 3.0 yards per carry, and held the Bulls to only one TD in three red zone visits. Freshmen Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt are backups who will see action. At Linebacker, the Irish are led by Senior CAT Darius Fleming and Junior MIKE Manti Te'o. Teo had 9 tackles and Fleming 8 in the first game; each had a sack. Te'o had 13 tackles in last year's Michigan game. Sophomore DOG Prince Shembo and Junior WILL Dan Fox are the other two linebackers in their 3-4 scheme. Junior Carlos Calabrese and Freshman Troy Niklas will also see action. They are quick and do a great job filling the gaps and creating pressure. Senior Stephen Filer will also see action. In the backfield, they are led by Senior Cornerback Robert Blanton and Senior Captain and Strong Safety Harrison Smith; each had 6 tackles in the first game. Smith had two back to back facemask penalties in the first game. Senior Gary Gray is the other cornerback and Senior Jamoris Slaughter is the free safety. Sophomore Cornerback Lo Wood and Junior Safety Zeke Motta will also see action. The Irish game plan will be to limit and contain the running of Denard Robinson, force him to throw and count on their blitz and pass rush and senior defensive backs to contain our passing game. I think it is critical that we are able to establish a running game with our running backs and offensive line, and gain time of possession advantage to limit the offensive possession time of the Irish offense. In 2010, another big factor in our win was zero turnovers, we'll need a repeat to be successful against the Irish in 2011.

Theo Riddick is their punt and kickoff returner along with Sophomore Bennett Jackson, Freshman George Atkinson III and Sophomore Austin Collinsworth. Dependable Irish Senior placekicker David Ruffer missed a 30 yard chip shot to begin the season after making his previous 23 of 24 attempts. Junior Ben Turk, only averaged 34.2 yards on 5 punts in the opener. Plymouth Freshman Kyle Brindza is handling kickoffs, and doing a fine job averaging 68.7 yards per boot. Turk could lose his starting job to Brindza this week as punter. Junior Jordan Cowart is their long snapper. Michigan certainly has some work to do to improve its special teams play from their first game.

Be prepared for another wild one in this series! Michigan is always hard to beat at home, but a determined Irish team will pull out all the stops for this one. Irish Coach Brian Kelly was livid after his team's poor performance in the home opener in a twice delayed 6 hour affair that saw 5 Notre Dame turnovers, red zone mistakes and terrible penalties giving the Irish a taste of Murphy's Law. To say that they'll be ready for this one will certainly be an understatement. Kelly is 3-0 against Hoke. One thing for sure, Notre Dame never has to apologize for a lack of talent; they always have a great recruiting class and some of the most talented players nationally. We were trying to recruit several of their players, and they had 12 players on national watch lists for post season awards. Hopefully, Brady Hoke's first game against the Irish as a head coach will be a good one. I'm picking an upset!!!


MICHIGAN WOLVERINES 34 Notre Dame Fighting Irish 33

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