Notre Dame-Michigan: Suddenly It's a Big Game Again

Erin McLaughlinSenior Analyst IISeptember 7, 2009

ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 15:  Terrance Taylor #67 of the Michigan Wolverines pass rushes against Matt Carufel #73 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on September 15, 2007 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Michigan won 38-0. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Prior to this weekend most college football fans didn't see next week's game between Notre Dame and Michigan as a big game for this year. Although it traditionally is one of the big match-ups in the early part of the season, this year it had a different feel. Both schools were rebuilding and not yet ready to contend.

That was the feeling for most of the college football world. That was until Saturday.

Notre Dame just demolished a very good Nevada team. The Irish shut out one of the best rushing offenses in the country. They were very impressive on offense too. In the end, a 35-0 score left the folks in South Bend very happy for the first time in a long time.

A little northeast in the city of Ann Arbor there was the same euphoria as Michigan really handled Western Michigan. Although I am not really sure how good Western is, it was huge for the Wolverines to have such a strong debut after last year's long 3-9 season.

From where I stood the two games were really mirror images of each other. During college football I always need two TVs when Michigan and Notre Dame play each other. Being an Irish catholic from Michigan I have always loved the traditions of both schools and have never been able to pick a side on this one.

Being that I have had family and friends be athletes in both Ann Arbor and South Bend, that has made picking a side even more impossible. Notre Dame and Michigan has always been my favorite game to watch. It is the one day when I need only one TV.

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After the events of Saturday, my excitement for this game is at an all time high. The only bad thing (and this is always the case) is that one of them has to lose. I do have an idea on how I think it will play out next Saturday, but I don't want to reveal that.

The way I see it there are two key match-ups that will decide this game. The first one is how true freshman quarterbacks Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson respond to the fierce blitzing defense of Notre Dame. Although both guys are young and inexperienced, they are both very elusive and can make it happen on the ground.

It will be interesting to see how that one plays out. The Irish did just face a similar quarterback in Colin Kaepernick. They shut him down very well. At the same time though Forcier and Robinson were both impressive in their debuts. Although Forcier will be the primary guy, the Irish has to prepare for both of them.

Another advantage that Michigan may have here is that Notre Dame has considerably less film on these guys than they had on Kaepernick. Another factor to look at is that although they were successful in their debut, Western's defense is not Notre Dame. This will be a real test for the young quarterbacks.

The other key match-up in this one is Michigan's defensive backs against Golden Tate and Michael Floyd. These guys may be the most explosive receiving tandems in the nation. Then when you throw Kyle Rudolph in the mix, Jimmy Clausen is loaded with weapons.

Defensive coordinators could lose sleep all season trying to figure out how to stop Tate and Floyd. I am curious to see how Michigan's defensive backs match-up to them.

Overall, it has suddenly became a very big game again. I think Notre Dame  is further along in the rebuilding process than Michigan. However, the game is in the big house and that is always a big advantage for them. I just can't wait to see this one.