1) Pressure Clausen: Clausen has had a spectacular outing in two straight games, in his latest going 15-18 for 315 yards and four touchdowns versus Nevada. It's important to keep in mind, however, that his performances were against Nevada who gave up 312 yards per game in the air last year, and Hawaii who was pretty lackluster in terms of defensive pass efficiency in 2008.
We need to limit big plays, especially through the air to Michael Floyd and Golden Tate. If we are going to do this we need to be in Clausen's face all game long, hitting him early and often. The key to a good pass defense is a good pass rush, which is something he hasn't seen since November. We need to also pressure the entire backfield.
2) Big, physical run plays: Yeah, Denard had a 43-yard touchdown run and that was impressive! However, our running backs failed to deliver a run exceeding 12 yards against WMU. If we are going to be competitive with the big boys, we can't rely on freshman quarterbacks making all the plays with their feet because it may not happen every week, at least not to the tune of 43-yard touchdowns.
Consistency is important, as well as the physical downhill style of a Brandon Minor who can deliver the punch. Equally important is getting past the second level a couple of times, and gashing a couple of 20-plus yarders out of the running back spot.
Our running back play was solid for the first game, but not spectacular and it seems somebody needs to step up and take charge. If we can get it done this week that will be a major positive for our young quarterbacks.
3) Selling out: Michigan needs to sell out in all three phases of the game on Saturday. When we block, tackle, run, and pressure the passing game we must sell out. Defensively, this is probably the most crucial thing we can do as a team, not only in pressuring Clausen but in every aspect. If it's press man coverage then the Wolverines have got to sell out, and if it's cover two, cover three etc.
Coach Robinson has got to get this guys to sell out mentally as well as emotionally, so they don't play out of position. In order for the Wolves to beat the Irish it's got to come in the form of avoiding complacency and being aggressive, as setting the tone will be important.
4) Small emotional victories: When I say this I am of course referring, again, to setting the tone, getting the crowd involved, and feeding off of that. This is a home game for Michigan so we are in a good spot to get a crucial victory over a tough rival.
It's not only important to feed off of positive emotional plays, but also recover from plays that might facilitate negative emotions.
If our freshman quarterbacks make a mistake, then they have to be able to maintain composure and put it behind them. We need to take this game as it comes and play one quarter at a time, but be intense, and execute on every play. It's a bit of a dichotomy.
5) Quarterback play: If Tate Forcier can allow the plays to develop like he did last week—by not getting rattled, seeing the field, and reacting to what the opposing defense gives him—then that is another key to victory. I'm also interested in seeing if the game slows down for Denard in his second game. Primarily in terms of throwing the ball a bit better, but also seeing running lanes and utilizing his incredible speed!
You can't teach speed, but I thought there were some plays in both the passing and the rushing game last week that Robinson missed. We do have an advantage over Notre Dame in having faster quarterbacks, and in this case they are both skilled in different ways that you must prepare for. Tate and Shoelace have to outweigh mistakes with good plays in this game...if they do, it increases the chances of winning by far.