Michigan vs. Notre Dame: X-Factors for Irish and Wolverines' Primetime Clash

Mike HoagCorrespondent IISeptember 22, 2012

September 15, 2012; East Lansing, MI, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish running back George Atkinson III (4) runs the ball as Michigan State Spartan defenders pursue during the first half at Spartan Stadium.    Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-US PRESSWIRE

Michigan and Notre Dame are college football powerhouses on a collision course only fit for prime time on Saturday night. Who, though, will be the deciding factor that propels one school to glory on the national stage?

Everyone knows about Cierre Wood, Tyler Eifert and Everett Golson for the Irish. Who will make the biggest impact that will help the Irish outlast the explosive Wolverines offense?

Conversely, the Michigan Wolverines have a well-known cast of characters who will put up a tremendous amount of points. Who, for the Wolverines, can change the course of the game with just one play?

Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan

Let’s face it, Denard Robinson is the biggest X-factor there is—Well-known or not. He has the ability to change a game with one play and the entire Michigan offense runs through him and how he plays.

He isn’t truly an X-factor as much as he is THE factor in this matchup. Whether he can effectively throw the football under pressure is the biggest question for the Wolverines’ star quarterback.

Notre Dame is going to do everything in its power to make Robinson win with his arm instead of his feet. He’s going to need to step up and make plays in the pocket and on the run in order to guide his team to a big prime time win over the Irish.


Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame

Notre Dame’s sack leader will have a bigger challenge getting after the quarterback this weekend while trying to corral the speedy and elusive Denard Robinson. He may have to play more conservatively in order to solidify the edge of the defensive line instead of blowing up the edges of the Wolverines’ offensive line.

His ability to help contain Robinson and bottle him up before plays develop is one of the single biggest deciding factors at play during this game. He isn’t a one-man army, but certainly has a lot riding on his effectiveness Saturday night. 

Devin Gardner, WR/QB, Michigan

Gardner is a 6'4" converted quarterback who is currently leading the Wolverines in receiving this season. He has eight grabs for 155 yards and three touchdowns (19.4 yards per catch).

The junior wide-out has scored a touchdown in each of his first three games as a wide receiver and has the size and speed to take the top out of the Irish secondary.

George Atkinson III, WR/KR, Notre Dame

Atkinson III is a dynamic and speedy utility player that the Irish can utilize in a multitude of different ways. He can impact the game in so many different facets because of that versatility.

He’s carried the ball 15 times out of the backfield and racked up 142 yards and two touchdowns in the process. That equates to a 9.5 yards per carry average.

Yeah, he’s averaging a first down every time he totes the rock.

As a kick returner last season, he averaged 26.1 yards per return and took two kickoff returns the distance for Irish touchdowns. Thus far in 2012, he’s averaging 23 yards per return but has the speed and explosiveness to take it to the house at any time.

Mike Hoag is a Breaking News Team writer with Bleacher Report and also covers the Cleveland Browns and the NFL for the site.