I'm not ready to buy into Notre Dame as a National Championship contender, but they will knock off an overrated Michigan team on Saturday. Notre Dame's defense was supposed to be one of their weaknesses, but that hasn't been the case.
They have held every opponent they have faced under 20 points, and they have dominated the turnover battle. Despite starting Everett Golson, a quarterback with virtually no collegiate experience, the Fighting Irish have taken good care of the ball.
They are plus-five in the turnover category.
Michigan has been underwhelming in every game this year. They blasted UMass 63-13 in Week 3, but that win did little to restore the shine the Wolverines lost in the first two weeks. After being annihilated in Week 1 by the Crimson Tide, they struggled to a 31-25 win over Air Force at home.
Defensively, they are really missing Mike Martin upfront. He was drafted in the 2012 NFL draft, and he apparently took the Wolverines' run defense with him. They are getting torched on the ground.
The fire started when they gave up 232 yards to Bama in Week 1. Things didn't get better in the next game. They gave up 290 yards on the ground to Air Force in Week 2. UMass even went for 112 yards against them this passed Saturday.
Were it not for these two spectacular runs by Denard Robinson, who knows what would have happened.
As good as Robinson has been this season, he has had some issues taking care of the ball. He's thrown four picks in the three games. The speed on Notre Dame's defense should be able to contain the running game, and force Robinson to beat them with his arm.
Notre Dame must be disciplined in pursuit and containment of Michigan's star. The videos above prove how explosive he can be in the open field. He has the ability to erase a good defensive effort with a cutback and sprint.
If Notre Dame can force Michigan into clear passing situations they will have the advantage on third downs. Teams are just 15-of-43 in third-down conversion attempts against Notre Dame this season.
The Irish must apply pressure to the Wolverines by running the ball effectively. If they can control the clock, it may cause Robinson to press. That will lead to the crucial mistakes the Irish need to win.
Judging by the way Michigan has defended the run thus far this season, running the ball effectively shouldn't be a problem. Notre Dame will improve to 4-0 in a close, and hard fought chapter of the rivalry.
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