Michigan Wolverines vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish: Complete Game Preview

Phil CallihanContributor ISeptember 4, 2013

Michigan Wolverines vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish: Complete Game Preview

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    ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The No. 17-ranked Michigan Wolverines (1-0) host the No. 11-ranked Fighting Irish of Notre Dame (1-0) at the Big House. Last week, the Wolverines thumped Central Michigan 59-9 in their home opener, while the Irish defeated Temple 28-6. This will be the second night game in the history of Michigan Stadium and the last time the Irish will play in Ann Arbor for the foreseeable future.

    Here's what you need to know:

    Date: Saturday, Sept. 7

    Time: 8 p.m. ET

    Place: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Mich.

    Michigan vs. Notre Dame Series: 23-16-1

    Television: ESPN

    Radio: Michigan IMG Sports Network

    Spread: Michigan by 3.5, via TheSpread.com

    Live Stats: MGoBlue.com

    Last Meeting: Notre Dame 13, Michigan 6 (Sept. 22, 2012)

    Unable to overcome five first-half turnovers, U-M fell to Notre Dame, 13-6, on Sept. 22, 2012, at Notre Dame Stadium. The Maize and Blue cut the Notre Dame lead to a touchdown late in the contest but could not halt the Fighting Irish.

    Source: University of Michigan Wolverine Game Notes

Video Preview

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    A video overview of what to watch for in this clash between the Wolverines and the Fighting Irish. Key players are highlighted along with predictions of who will prevail.

Michigan Keys to Victory

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    Offensive balance

    Last year in South Bend, poor passing decisions and questionable offensive play-calling led to six Wolverines turnovers. After moving the ball well for much of the first half, the offense crawled into a shell. This year, the Wolverines will need to find a way to have an even mix of running and passing to keep the Notre Dame defense off balance.

     

    Maintain swagger on defense

    In their opener, the Wolverines crushed Central Michigan, allowing only three field goals. Last year, they limited the Irish to 13 points but still lost the game. The defense needs to maintain its attack if the offense sputters. 

     

    Taking advantage of quick-change situations

    This game traditionally hinges on big plays: interceptions, fumbles and long kick returns. The Wolverines will have a raucous home crowd behind them and need to make the Irish pay for any turnovers or breakdowns in kick coverage.

    With an average margin of victory of four points during their last three wins over Notre Dame, taking advantage of mistakes could very well decide the game.

Notre Dame Keys to Victory

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    Punish Gardner if he runs

    Gardner toyed with CMU defenders while running the ball in the home opener. The Irish need to keep him in the pocket and challenge him to throw. CMU defenders fooled him and forced bad throws; Notre Dame might be able to do the same.

     

    Take shots downfield

    CMU had receivers open last week but were unable to complete passes. The Irish need to attack the Wolverines through the air and get the ball in the hands of receiver DaVaris Daniels.

     

    Attack the middle

    The Michigan interior offensive line is talented but inexperienced. If the Irish can flood the center gaps with stunts or blitzes, they might be able to force Gardner to make mistakes or blow up running plays in the backfield.

Michigan Players to Watch

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    Quarterback Devin Gardner

    Last week, the Wolverines completely dominated Central Michigan with Gardner leading the way, accounting for 214 yards (162 passing, 52 yards on the ground) and three touchdowns against two interceptions. Last year in South Bend, poor quarterback play sunk the Wolverines while Gardner was at wide receiver.

    Returning under center this year, he will need to make good decisions throwing the ball and maintain his composure to beat the Irish.

     

    Pick a back, any back

    The Wolverines have waves of solid running backs led by senior Fitzgerald Toussaint and freshman bruiser Derrick Green. Look for one to emerge against the Irish by following left tackle Taylor Lewan downfield for chunks of yardage.

     

    Teamwork on the line

    The Wolverines have three new starters on the offensive line. Tackles Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield anchor both ends, but interior linemen Graham Glasgow, Kyle Kalis and Jack Miller will need to plug up the middle to prevent the Irish from disrupting the offense.

     

    Michigan Depth Chart

Notre Dame Players to Watch

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    Quarterback Tommy Rees

    The key on offense for Notre Dame. Rees inherited the job after the suspension of Everett Golson prior to the season and had a great half against Temple. He will need a complete game to beat the Wolverines in Ann Arbor, though.

     

    Defensive linemen Louis Nix, Stephon Tuitt and Sheldon Day

    The keys on defense against Michigan. If the Michigan offensive line can contain them, it will be a long night for the Irish. If Nix is double-teamed, the other defensive lineman will need to break free and pressure Gardner.

     

    Kicker to be named later

    Neither Kyle Brindza nor Nick Tausch has taken control of the field-goal duties. Historically, these games have been low-scoring affairs, and one of these guys may get his chance to etch his name in history with a late field goal.

     

    Notre Dame Depth Chart

What They Are Saying

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    Michigan Coach Brady Hoke via MLive.com

    "The Notre Dame Game, that rivalry, which they're chickening out of." ... "They're still going to play Michigan State, they'll play Purdue; they don't want to play Michigan. I don't know how they made that decision."

     

    Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly via the Chicago Tribune

    "This is a great and historic rivalry that we'll be playing this Saturday." ... "So let's get that out of the way right away, so we don't have to answer any more questions about this rivalry. We're excited about the game, we're excited about playing it."

     

    Michigan Quarterback Devin Gardner via CBSSports.com

    It's gonna be amazing for me especially as the quarterback of Michigan. Obviously, the rivalry's gonna end. They can say what they want, but around here in the state of Michigan and around college football, I'm pretty sure it's one of the biggest rivalries or else GameDay wouldn't be there and it wouldn't be a primetime game. I'm just looking forward to it. It's gonna be amazing for me.

     

    Notre Dame Wide Receiver TJ Jones via the Chicago Tribune

    The Michigan rivalry has become part of playing at Notre Dame. It's one of those things you look forward to. And I've never thought about Notre Dame in the past — before I even got here — as not playing Michigan.

Prediction

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    The Irish stifle the Wolverines early, but quarterback Devin Gardner and his stable of running backs rally to pull out the victory. 

    Final Score: Michigan 27, Notre Dame 24