Michigan vs. Notre Dame: 4 Key Matchups to Watch for

Tyler HixsonContributor IIISeptember 21, 2012

Michigan vs. Notre Dame: 4 Key Matchups to Watch for

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    Michigan and Notre Dame, two of college football's most storied programs and fiercest rivals, are suiting up for a huge clash on Saturday.

    The two programs will meet at Notre Dame Stadium with early-season prestige and bragging rights on the line.

    Both programs have started well. Notre Dame has started 3-0 for the first time since 2002, with wins over Navy (a 50-10 blowout), Purdue (squeaked by with a 20-17 win) and Michigan State (solid 20-3 win).

    Michigan suffered an early setback, getting blown out by Alabama in the first game of the season. However, the Wolverines have jumped back, getting wins over Air Force and UMass.

    In their last meeting, the Irish allowed 28 fourth-quarter points to Denard Robinson and the Wolverines. Michigan made a furious rally from a 24-7 deficit to win 35-31.

    The game is going to be fast and furious in light of the history involved, and besides the obvious impact that key players are going to have (Robinson and Everett Golson), let's take a look at some key matchups that could decide the game.  

Kyle Brindza vs. Brendan Gibbons

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    Notre Dame's Kyle Brindza and Michigan's Brendan Gibbons could end up getting a lot of field time if the two stout defenses end up cancelling out each other's high-powered offenses. 

    In the end, it might come down to who is more accurate from 30 or 40 yards.

Stephon Tuitt vs. Taylor Lewan

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    Notre Dame defensive end Stephon Tuitt is a monster. The offensive line is neither an easy nor desirable place to play when you have 302 pounds of pure athleticism running at you.

    However, that's where Michigan lineman Taylor Lewan will be when the offense takes the field. Lewan will be in charge of stopping one of Notre Dame's best penetrators. 

    If Lewan can limit Tuitt's contact with Robinson, Michigan will have an easier time moving the chains and putting points on the board. 

Devin Gardner and Devin Funchess vs. Matthias Farley

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    Converted from quarterback to wide receiver, Devin Gardner and tight end Devin Funchess have been huge for Michigan so far this season, combining for 295 yards and five touchdowns. 

    On the other side of the ball stands Notre Dame's Matthias Farley, a receiver-turned-makeshift safety. 

    With Notre Dame's starting safety Jamoris Slaughter out for the season with an Achilles injury, it's up to Farley to defend one or both of these juggernauts in his first career start.

    Farley's success, or lack thereof, will go a long way in determining how this game will play out. 

Prince Shembo vs. Denard Robinson

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    Denard Robinson is one of the best pure athletes in college football and is a true dual-threat quarterback.

    Prince Shembo is one of the best pass-rushers in college football, and will do anything to get to the quarterback.

    The battle between these two will be one of the main keys of the game, and will be extremely entertaining to watch.

    Shembo seems like he can slice offensive lines at will, while Robinson can will his team forward, either through the air or on the ground.

    Shembo has the ability to stop Robinson on the ground or in the air, and Robinson has the ability to not let him do so.

    It's going to be great to watch these two athletes compete. This will be another exciting chapter in the Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry.