Michigan Run Offense vs. Notre Dame Run Defense
The Wolverines lost running backs Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown, but that didn't stop their ground game in week one. Led as always by a veteran offensive line, Michigan ran 61 times against Connecticut for 287 yards.
Michigan was led by quarterback No. 16 Denard Robinson, who had nearly half of the team's carries (29) and finished with 197 yards and a touchdown. Michigan's top two running backs, No. 2 Vincent Smith and No. 20 Michael Shaw, saw 14 and 15 carries respectively, and each finished with a touchdown and over 50 yards rushing.
Slot receiver No. 19 Kelvin Grady also had a carry in the game. So as if containing Robinson and the backs weren't hard enough, the receivers also need to be accounted for.
Inside linebackers Carlo Calabrese and Manti Te'o tied for the team lead in tackles against Purdue. That's great news for the Irish defense, as most of those tackle opportunities would have slipped to the safeties last year.
Gary Gray also tied for the tackle lead, and fellow corner Darrin Walls was just two behind. Most of those tackles came in run support as part of a very good overall effort to keep contain. The corners, outside linebackers, and ends will need more of that this week if they want to beat Michigan. Of course, the corners can't creep up too much and let Robinson pass over their heads at the last second.
The Irish run defense looks pretty sound despite a limited showing. Notre Dame played without Steve Filer and Prince Shembo for most of the game due to cramping, but still showed solid depth at linebacker. Anthony McDonald should also see increased playing time this week, and Manti Te'o will no doubt be ready to make up for all the missed opportunities he had last week.
The key for the Irish defense will be to win first down, and force Robinson and the Wolverines into passing situations in the quarterback's first road start.
Notre Dame Run Offense vs. Michigan Run Defense
Armando Allen and Cierre Wood both made impressive season debuts, with Allen running 18 times for 98 yards and Wood going seven times for 63 yards.
Allen and Wood were aided by exceptionally coordinated pull blocking by the line, and by determined downfield interference from Michael Floyd. Of course, for some refs any blocking done by a wide receiver is immediately called a hold, so the Irish may not always be able to rely on Floyd to help them get to the second and third level.
Michigan's defense is led by its three starting linebackers, No. 88 Craig Roh, No. 45 Obi Ezeh, and No. 8 Jonas Mouton. The three combined for 22 tackles against UConn, but the team as a whole did give up 138 yards on the ground.
Michigan Pass Offense vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense
Denard Robinson certainly was impressive running on UConn, but he was equally effective in the air. Robinson completed 19-of-22 passes for 186 yards and a touchdown against the Huskies.
Of Robinson's 19 completions, 12 went to wideouts, four to running backs, and three to tight end No. 86 Kevin Koger. No. 22 Darryl Stonum led all Michigan Receivers with five catches.
Robinson had only one completion go for over 16 yards; that was a catch by No. 8 Terrence Robinson for 43. Understandably, the Wolverines were probably trying to keep things simple for their quarterback's first start.
Notre Dame's gameplan versus Purdue was to stop the run and the big pass, and allow the underneath pass. So while Robert Marve completed 31 of 42 passes, the Boilers only finished with 12 points and 220 passing yards. Of course, interceptions by Darrin Walls and Ian Williams helped.
Notre Dame Pass Offense vs. Michigan Pass Defense
Dayne Crist at times looked like a seasoned passer, and at times like a kid a little too excited to be making his first career start at Notre Dame stadium.
Crist finished 19-for-26 despite missing a few open receivers in the end zone. Michael Floyd and Kyle Rudolph did their parts in keeping Crist's confidence level high, each making five receptions. T.J. Jones added his first career touchdown, and backs Cierre Wood and Armando Allen combined for three catches.
Michigan switched to a 3-3-5 defense this year, a somewhat puzzling move considering the relative lack of experience in the secondary. Cornerbacks Donovan Warren (who led the Wolverines in interceptions and pass breakups in 2009) and Boubacar Cissoko are no longer with the team. No. 13 Carvin Johnson and No. 29 Troy Woolfolk are expected to miss this game due to injuries, although Johnson - who plays a hybrid safety/linebacker role - is still listed as a starter on the most recent depth chart.
That being said, Notre Dame shouldn't put itself in a position where it needs to pass to win the game. But if the Irish can get a ground game working early, they can use their talented receivers to put this game away.
Michigan is breaking in new placekicker No. 34 Brendan Gibbons, who missed from 43 and made from 24 last week. After Nick Tausch's success last year, it was somewhat surprising when David Ruffer was named the starting placekicker for Notre Dame last week. After a perfect day with makes from 22, 46, and 37, Ruffer will retain his position against the Wolverines.
The Wolverines also have a new punter in No. 43 Will Hagerup. Hagerup punted only once last week, and it covered 51 yards. Ben Turk did not get off to a great start for the Irish, averaging just 31 yards per punt on three tries with a long of 35. On a positive note, none of his punts were returnable.
Darryl Stonum and No. 9 Martavious Odoms return Kicks for the Wolverines. Both had a 19 return last week. David Ruffer kicked off seven times for the Irish last week, averaging 61.6 yards with one touchback. The Irish gave up 13.7 yards per return, for an average start on the 22. That was largely thanks to freshman receiver Bennett Jackson, who made four tackles on 10 special teams appearances.
Cierre Wood is averaging 25 yards per kick return with a long of 38. Brendan Gibbons also kicks off for Michigan. He had six kicks last week, averaging of 54 yards with two touchbacks. Michigan gave up 12 yards per return, for an average start on the 28.
No. 10 Jeremy Gallon is Michigan's punt returner. He had one chance last week and ran for seven yards. Armando Allen returns punts for Notre Dame. He had one return for 38 yards in the opener.
Notre Dame Players to Watch
Dayne Crist, Michael Floyd, Manti Te'o, Steve Filer, Ben Turk, Bennett Jackson
Notre Dame 28, Michigan 24