Michigan vs. Notre Dame: How do they match up?
Posted: 09/22/2012 at 1:15 am
By: Rachel Terlep
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Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson (center) looks to pass between Michigan State’s Marcus Rush (44) and Anthony Rashad White (98) during the first quarter of Saturday’s game at Michigan State. The Irish will be looking to defeat a second-straight Top-20 opponent and stay undefeated tonight when they host Michigan.
AP Photo/Al Goldis
From goosebump-inducing primer videos, to Michigan trash talk earlier in the week, to green leis in support of linebacker Manti Te’o, one thing is clear: This is no ordinary game.
There’s talk of the rivalry roots, of when infamous Michigan coach Fielding Yost, who maintained a bitter feud with Irish legend Knute Rockne, boycotted the series between 1909 and 1941 and led a movement to keep Notre Dame out of the Big Ten.
There’s promises of 4-0, of revenge, of tying up Denard “Shoelace” Robinson once and for all.
You’d think the national championship game was being played in Notre Dame Stadium tonight.
For all the hype, hopes and expectations placed on the shoulders of the undefeated No. 11 Notre Dame football team, it might as well be.
No. 19 Michigan (2-1) is in town. Let’s look at how they match up.
An improved Notre Dame defense is chomping at the bit to avenge last year’s fourth-quarter fiasco, but they’ll have to contain the elusive Robinson first.
In the two times the Michigan quarterback has faced Notre Dame, he has combined for 948 yards total offense and seven touchdowns — 582 passing yards and five passing touchdowns, 366 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns.
That’s good for 96.3 percent of Michigan’s total offense against Notre Dame in 2010 and 2011.
The Irish front seven, who gave up only 77 yards to Heisman contender Le’Veon Bell last week, are no strangers to containing the run, which will force Robinson to win the game in the air rather than on the ground.
On one hand, increased responsibility will fall on the shoulders of a young Notre Dame secondary playing its first game without five-year veteran safety Jamoris Slaughter. On the other hand, Robinson is prone to mistakes, throwing 15 picks in 2011 and four interceptions to six touchdowns this year.
Receiver Devin Garner has proved a strong target for Robinson, who has hit Garner eight times for 155 yards and three touchdowns. Robby Toma-sized Jeremy Gallon has eight catches for 146 yards.
Though Fitzgerald Toussaint and Vincent Smith are Michigan’s tailbacks on the roster, Robinson is the Wolverine ground game. He ranks 18th in the country with 351 yards and four touchdowns, nearly triple the yards Toussaint and Smith have combined.
Notre Dame was able to contain Michigan for three quarters last year until its self-implosion in the fourth quarter. This year, head coach Brian Kelly expects things to be different.
“You go into the game knowing you can’t defend every element,” Kelly said. “There are obviously some plans that we had that put us in a good position (in last year’s game), but you have to tackle well. I don’t want to lose sight of the fundamentals that we have to execute within the game plan.
“One of the things that Coach (Bob) Diaco has done is keep it simple enough for our guys to play fast. I didn’t want to get into this and try to out-think what we wanted to do. You’ve got to be ready to hit some plays. You’ve got to minimize the big plays and that’s what we really focused on this week.”
After having solid but relatively tame performances against Purdue and Michigan State, expect big things from Notre Dame tailbacks Cierre Wood, Theo Riddick and George Atkinson III.
The Wolverine defense is giving up 211 yards on the ground per game and an average of 26.3 points per game. It also only has three sacks and two takeaways in the first three games.
A week after holding its own against the Spartan’s defense, the Notre Dame offensive line is more experienced and more talented than a Wolverine defensive line that graduated three starters.
Beyond defensive end Frank Clark, who sat out due to suspension against Alabama but combined for four tackles and three pass break-ups against Air Force and UMass, no Wolverine defenders have proven to be consistent threats.
With a pass rush that hasn’t been seen in the first three games, Everett Golson has a chance to shine against the Michigan defense.
In many ways, this is an even bigger game than last week’s. Win, and Notre Dame is in the Top 10. Talk of a BCS game becomes an expectation rather than a lofty goal. Lose, and the 20-3 victory over Michigan State is downplayed, a fluke.
Robinson will get a handful of big-chunk plays, but there’s no way this Notre Dame defense lets him leave South Bend with his third win in as many years.
Notre Dame 28, Michigan 21