Michigan and Notre Dame meet in Ann Arbor on Saturday and this year it will actually be a game worth watching. It will also be a game played in one of the only stadiums—The Big House—that is large enough to hold both schools’ massive football egos.
The last two meetings between these teams were sloppy blowout games and neither team ended up having a good season. But this year both squads look to be back on track and the rivalry is being revived.
Last week, Michigan coasted to an easy 31-7 victory over Western Michigan, scoring all of their points in the first half. Freshman quarterback Tate Forcier solidified himself as the starter for the Wolverines while fellow freshman Denard Robinson flashed the speed and big play ability that quarterbacks in Rich Rodriguez’s system are known for having.
Rich Rodriguez’s spread option offense was effective against the Broncos, as Michigan racked up 242 rushing yards from eight different ball carriers. The problem for the Wolverines is they are currently without a go-to running back. Backup quarterback Denard Robinson was the leading rusher with 74 yards.
Charlie Weis and the Fighting Irish look ready to make it back to another bowl game this year, and possibly even compete for a BCS bid. The offense that was in complete disarray two seasons ago is now finally coming together.
Saturday’s matchup between these two bitter rivals is an intriguing one. Both teams have shown vast improvement from last year, but this will obviously be the first real test for each squad with Rodriguez and Weis both seated firmly on the hot seat to bring their teams back to the elite level of college football.
Before we get into an analysis of the matchup, let’s take a quick look at the particulars:
No. 18 Notre Dame (1-0) at Michigan (1-0)
- Notre Dame-Michigan Date: Saturday, Sept. 12th
- Notre Dame-Michigan Time: 3:30 ET
- Notre Dame-Michigan TV: ABC
- Notre Dame-Michigan Location: The Big House in Ann Arbor, Michigan
- Notre Dame-Michigan Point Spread: Notre Dame -4.5
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Notre Dame-Michigan Preview and Analysis
Notre Dame comes into the game a slight favorite and rightfully so. Clausen is starting to fill in the void that was left when Brady Quinn left for the NFL draft. (Side note to Notre Dame fans: please don’t treat Claussen like the “golden boy” as you did with Quinn. Thank you.)
To win the game, the Irish must provide strong pass protection for Clausen and allow him to spread the ball around. Michigan, on the other hand, needs to pressure Clausen and limit his ability to locate WRs Golden Tate and Michael Floyd down the field. If Michigan tries to get in a shootout with Notre Dame, the Wolverines won’t be able to keep up with the Irish’s high-octane offense.
If Claussen can put up 300-plus yards passing Michigan won’t have a chance. Tate, a speedy and talented young receiver, could be the X-factor with his big play potential.
Michigan needs to control the pace and the clock by running the football over and over. Forcier looked good passing the ball last week, although he only put the ball in the air 20 times. He completed 13 of those passes for 175 yards and tallied three TDs. You might look at those stats and think the Wolverines should throw more.
On the contrary, Forcier’s efficient passing was set up by 50 rushing attempts at 4.8 yards per pop. Michigan would do well to follow attain a similar run:pass ratio. Forcier will have to be smart with the ball again when passing plays are called. An improving Irish defense picked off two passes last week and will be licking their chops going up against a freshman making only his second start.
Notre Dame-Michigan Prediction
This game can go either way and will likely be decided by one or two key plays. Notre Dame comes in ranked No. 18, but when playing in the Big House all rankings go out the window. [Editor's note: as do Division 1-A and 1-AA classifications...right App State?]
Rich Rodriguez will have the Wolverines amped up to start the game and the Irish will have to take the fans out of the game early. Luckily for Notre Dame fans and the embattled Weis, the Irish have an experienced quarterback to rely on in Jimmy Clausen, who is no stranger to pressure, expectation, and hostile environments.
In this high profile matchup between two of the all-time giants of college football, Clausen’s experience will most likely be the difference.
My prediction for this game: Notre Dame- 31 Michigan- 24
* – Notre Dame / Michigan helmets image credit: The Onion
* – Charlie Weis photo credit: AP Photo/Carlos Osorio via WSBT-2
* – Denard Robinson / Tate Forcier photo credit: Said Alsalah/Daily via Michigan Daily
* – Jimmy Clausen in high school photo credit: Pre Pro Sports