Notre Dame is facing its second consecutive difficult matchup, as it takes on Michigan at home.
Last weekend, the Fighting Irish defeated No. 10 Michigan State with an inspired defensive performance. The team held the Spartans to just three points, and the victory was good enough to bump the Irish up to the No. 11 spot in this week’s AP Top 25 poll.
But Notre Dame has one of the most difficult schedules in the country, and the team must continue to play at a high level every week if it hopes to keep climbing the rankings.
Here are the players who must perform this Saturday in order for the Irish to stay undefeated.
Manti Te’o, Linebacker
Te’o was Notre Dame’s best defender heading into the season, but his play thus far has exceeded all expectations.
The Irish’s defense has been extremely tough through three games, and Te’o has been at the heart of it. He has led by example and is one of the most dynamic middle linebackers in the country.
He has also been an inspiring presence for his teammates. Te’o lost both his grandmother and his girlfriend leading up to the Michigan State game.
Not only did he play, but he recorded 12 tackles, too.
Te’o will need to maintain his high level of play this week as well in order to contain Denard Robinson, Fitzgerald Toussaint and the explosive Michigan ground game.
Everett Golson, Quarterback
The sophomore quarterback has improved with every game this season, and he must continue this trend against Michigan.
While his statistics are not overly impressive, Golson has been an important part of the team’s success. He has completed 58 percent of his passes for 611 yards, three touchdowns and an interception while also scoring once on the ground.
His numbers in the Michigan State game are lackluster at first glance, as he passed for just 178 yards and completed less than half of his passes while only gaining seven yards on the ground. But he passed for a score and ran for one more, accounting for the only two touchdowns in the entire game.
Golson will need to continue to play mistake-free football while coming through in big moments for his team.
Stephon Tuitt, Defensive End
The 6’6”, 303-pound sophomore has been a destructive force along the defensive line.
He is strong enough to take on interior linemen and fast enough to run around tackles, making him almost impossible to block. Tuitt already has five sacks this season.
If Tuitt can disrupt Michigan’s running game in the backfield, the Fighting Irish can cause the Wolverine’s offense to stall as it did against Alabama.
Notre Dame’s front seven is the key to its victory against Michigan. This game will be won in the trenches, and there is no player on either team more capable than Tuitt of completely dominating around the line of scrimmage.