Everett Golson and Denard Robinson are similar quarterbacks, if you look at their styles of play and the former national powerhouses they now represent.
That's not to say the matchup between Notre Dame and Michigan in Week 4 isn't one that includes two teams that are powerhouses. But it's a far cry from the 1980s and '90s for both teams, when they were perennial championship contenders and produced some of the best NFL talent around.
But on Saturday the stakes are as big for the two programs as they have been since those former decades of glory. At the middle of the two teams is their quarterback play. Each QB has the ability to break the big play and will be the focal point of the opposing defense.
Robinson and Golson are at very different points in their career. Robinson is at the end of the line at Michigan, ending a four-year career that's seen him be a Heisman candidate almost every season. He's now facing one final charge toward a BCS bowl to prove to NFL scouts he can play QB at the pro level.
For Golson, he's just starting his career as QB of the Irish. He's off to a blazing start, going 3-0 in his first three starts and knocking down the door in East Lansing to defeat Michigan State this past weekend.
Notre Dame has a chance to start 4-0 for the first time in the last 10 years. If they're going to do it, they'll rest on their defense to make plays, and for Everett Golson to steal the show from Michigan's senior play-caller.
If Golson's going to do that, he's going to have make the same kind of plays he made on the road at Michigan State. I see three keys for the young man to outplay Robinson on Saturday, and in the process giving the Irish the 4-0 start they seek.
Run the Ball Effectively
Don't let Golson's shoddy rushing stats fool you. This kid can run the ball. Sacks count as rushing yards in college, so he's been the victim of some negative plays that don't reflect his ability to create offense with his feet.
He took a score around the left side in the red zone against the Spartans, which was a big play in the game and helped widen the gap in the second half.
He's going to have to do the same kind of work against the Wolverines, especially with the emphasis on stopping the Irish running backs from getting anything going. If he's a threat to run, that opens up space for his receivers. Although his completion percentage isn't great after three games, it will improve as he becomes more comfortable leaving the pocket.
Robinson is the offense at Michigan, so it's not a surprise he's thrown four picks on the season through three games, although the majority came against consensus No. 1 Alabama on opening night.
Golson, though, has only thrown one interception to three touchdowns. It's that kind of production that allowed them to hang on against Purdue and storm into East Lansing and beat the Spartans.
The Notre Dame defense is going to show up against Michigan. They were able to stop LeVeon Bell and Michigan State, but they'll have a tougher time with the speedier Michigan if Robinson is able to get to the outside.
Golson can keep his defense off the field by limiting turnovers and not letting Robinson have a short field to work with, I think the Irish have a great chance to win the game.
Win Third Down
Notre Dame was 1-for-14 on third downs against the Spartans. That isn't going to cut it against Michigan, who has a high-powered offense and looks for the big play more often than not. If Golson can't keep drives going, he'll have a tough time scoring enough points to hang with the Wolverines.
Fifty percent would be a good number to shoot for, and I think we'll see the maturation of Everett Golson in an Irish victory. One step closer to an undefeated season, and one step closer to returning Notre Dame football to days of lore.
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