The University of Michigan football team travels to Notre Dame for a projected 7:30 p.m. kickoff this Saturday.
Last week, Notre Dame's offense easily outsmarted Michigan State's defense. The Irish nibbled at the edges and sucked the Spartan's defense in while easily throwing in the flat and beyond.
In general, Notre Dame caused Coach Mark Dantonio's team to appear off-balance for the majority of the game. Its highly touted defense surrendered 20 points to the Irish while a sputtering offense garnered only a field goal.
Last Saturday evening proved a humbling loss for State, and under the lights of their own house, no less. Irish nation rejoiced over the 20-3 final score.
Michigan's team faced defeat and humiliation in its season opener against Alabama. Denard Robinson simply didn't receive adequate protection, so he couldn't throw and open up his offense when it was pinned to the turf.
Alabama's superior defense unmercifully shut Robinson down as they hammered, sacked and heaped pain on Robinson's thin body. Coach Saban's game plan serves as a template for how to exploit Michigan's weaknesses—at least at that point in time. Big stage, big loss and even bigger lessons to be quickly absorbed.
Notre Dame also possesses a talented defense and an improved offense, as opposed to last year's team, as well as an adroit third-year coach in Brian Kelly. Following last year's win over Michigan State, Kelly's team ended their season 8-5.
Who Will Win Saturday Evening?
Not exactly up to Irish standards.
Notre Dame's alumni can be brutal and they don't suffer losing, or mediocrity, for long. Kelly needs this win against Michigan and the confidence and momentum to propel his team toward a major bowl. His future may very well depend on this game.
Michigan's 41-14 loss to Alabama is etched in the brains of this year's team. How quickly the glow, from their 11-2 season last year, dissipates.
Coach Brady Hoke pounded that loss's lesson home over and over again in subsequent practices. Rest assured he's demanded his men dig deeper and mature faster to become titans in a game of war and strategy.
Michigan possesses the talent on their team for a great season, they just lack an abundance of experience in key positions.
I like this year's Wolverine team. I also respect the Irish and the quality win they earned against MSU. Michigan State's new starter, Andrew Maxwell, floundered against Notre Dame for a lack of protection and experience.
Michigan's coaches, on the other hand, inherited a gem of an experienced quarterback, the most explosive, exciting player in college football—Denard Robinson. If he's afforded adequate protection, the line opens holes and he stays healthy throughout the game, Robinson could blow this contest up and give fans a game for the ages.
Michigan's offensive line must explode off the ball, trap efficiently, block with intelligence and offer Robinson a sliver of daylight so he's able to do what Denard does best: Move faster than electricity on a stormy day.
He possesses skill and speed to open opportunities for Michigan, but Gardner, the backs and ends must contribute to the cause. As the Alabama game proved, Robinson cannot do the heavy lifting alone, particularly against fast, quality defensive squads.
Notre Dame is sure to key on Robinson all game, but look for Michigan's hard-nosed coaching staff to unleash its creativity, multiple schemes, vision and a few tricks.
This Wolverine team is destined to rise to the challenge tomorrow night. They could be great. Robinson's hungry and needs to prove his mettle to make his NFL dreams come true.
My prediction is Michigan 21, Notre Dame 20. If I lose, I'll surrender me wee lucky Leprechaun.
I was off the mark last week by betting against the Irish. Therefore, I'm doubling down and looking for Wolverine redemption tomorrow evening. "Hey Shamas, fetch me a wee bit a gold dust to sprinkle on them Wolverines."