Michigan Must Stop This Man
Most of the talk about the Michigan D vs. the ND offense has revolved around how to slow down potential All-American wide receiver Michael Floyd. We’ll talk about Floyd later, but I have a completely different take on the key to this game for the D. The way I see it, Michigan’s most critical challenge on defense will be to stop the Irish running game.
The Irish have an outstanding running back in senior Armando Allen. Last year, he ripped the Wolverines for 139 yards on 21 carries and one TD. That’s a nasty 6.6 yards per carry despite a long run of only 24 yards.
Last week, UConn’s featured rusher, Jordan Todman, was able to find running room to the tune of 105 yards on 20 carries and one TD. Although Todman is a solid back, he is nowhere near as physical as Allen. Yet Todman was able to find running room to the tune of 105 yards on 20 carries and one TD. The No. 1 priority for Michigan’s D has to be stopping Allen.
Another advantage that ND has over UConn’s running game is that ND has an excellent second, change-of-pace runner in Cierre Wood. Wood is a sophomore who was rated as the No. 6 running back in the country coming out of high school. Although Allen gets the vast majority of the carries, Wood was able to gash the Boilermakers for almost nine yards a carry last week.
Although Allen and Wood are both extremely dangerous backs, the key to any running game is the battle in the trenches. Make no mistake, ND has some big-time linemen who can really move. Pretty much their whole line is made up of 4-star recruits who are huge and can move extremely well.
In particular, Notre Dame has a double-wide mobile home disguised as their starting left guard. Senior Chris Stewart is a monstrous 6'5", 350+ pounds. Wow. On top of that, he has great mobility for a guy his size. On running plays, I’m not sure how Greg Banks can stand his ground when Stewart gets to rolling.
As such, look for Adam Patterson or big Will Campbell to see more playing time this week. If so, I believe they are likely to play the nose and Mike Martin may battle Stewart (which would be some kind of power matchup!). This is one of those times when DC Greg Robinson's 30+ years coaching experience needs to come through with exactly the right schematic formula.
If Michigan is playing four down linemen, then Banks would be able to slide over to a more favorable matchup with sophomore left tackle Zack Martin. Martin was 260 pounds one year ago and the Irish now list him at 290. I like Banks’ chances a LOT better if the fifth-year senior is matched up against the sophomore instead of the house known as Chris Stewart.
The rest of ND’s linemen are all around 300 pounds and move very well. They opened up huge holes against Purdue, so Kelly and the Irish definitely believe they can run against Big Blue after watching the UConn tape.
Don’t be surprised if Michigan plays four big bodies on first down to slow down the Irish. Frankly, I don’t see how three down linemen will do anything to slow down the Irish running attack that repeatedly opened gaping holes against Purdue.
Michigan absolutely has to find a way to contain the Irish running attack. If the Irish can simply mash it down Michigan’s throats, we’re in trouble.
This is going to be a HUGE test for the Wolverines D. While a lot has been made about the Wolverines lack of experience in the secondary, my biggest question is how the D will match up against the run when facing a huge and talented offensive line? We’re about to find out.