Michigan vs. Notre Dame Primer

Michigan’s final scheduled meeting with Notre Dame is rapidly approaching and GoBlueWolverine.com has the latest on what to expect out of the Fighting Irish’s 2014 team.

Michigan (1-0) vs. No. 16 Notre Dame (1-0)

Michigan Schedule
(W) Appalachian State 52-14

Notre Dame Schedule
(W) Rice 48-17

Fighting Irish Players to Watch (week 1 stats)
QB: Everett Golson – 14/22, 295 yards, 2 TDs
RB: Tarean Folston – 12 carries, 71 yards
WR: Chris Robinson – 1 reception, 25 yards
DL: Sheldon Day
LB: Jaylon Smith

Injuries: ”Well, you know, we are not going to talk about any injuries”- Head coach Brady Hoke.

Academic Investigation: In the midst of a school-conducted investigation, the fate of several key Fighting Irish players is in limbo for Saturday. As the investigation progresses, Notre Dame has held the following players out of teem meetings and all football related activities: wide receiver DaVaris Daniels, safety Eilar Hardy, linebacker Kendall Moore, cornerback Keivarae Russell and defensive end Ishaq Williams. Russell, Daniels and Williams were projected to start for the Fighting Irish in 2014. Daniels accounted for 49 receptions, 745 yards and 7 TDs in 2013.

Quote courtesy of CNSChicago.com: "They're physically conditioned, I know they're working out with [strength coach Paul] Longo," Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said. "So they are conditioned and they've been going to class, I know that. And other than that they haven't been taking any football reps but if we were hypothetically to get that call, they'd be running out of that tunnel on Saturday."

If this case is settled later today and the five players in question are cleared to play, based on the statement Brian Kelly gave to the media Thursday all five would contribute against Michigan.

What’s at stake: This is the last scheduled installment in a 41-match series against the Golden Domers first beginning in 1887. A victory would give Michigan ownership of the highest all-time winning percentage in college football.

History: Michigan holds a 24-16 all-time lead over Notre Dame (with one tie). Michigan’s 2006 victory over No. 2 Notre Dame was the last time UM beat a ranked team on the road. Brady Hoke is 0-6 on the road vs. Top 25 opponents in his time as head coach at Michigan—excluding a neutral site victory over Virginia Tech in the 2012 Sugar Bowl. Michigan is 4-1 against Notre Dame since 2009.

Notre Dame Season So Far
Week 1: Rice
In his first game under center since 2012, Notre Dame senior quarterback Everett Golson jumped out of the gates last week against Rice. In the first half alone, Golson accounted for four touchdowns (2 passing, 2 rushing) as the Fighting Irish established a 28-10 lead that would not be relinquished. Notre Dame cruised to a 48-17 victory behind Golson’s five total touchdowns and a staunch defensive performance.

Last Meeting: In 2013, Michigan and Notre Dame squared off for possibly the last time in Ann Arbor as over 115,000 people packed into the Big House for what was a raucous affair. The Wolverines seized a 27-13 first half lead as junior Devin Gardner and senior Jeremy Gallon connected for two touchdowns. Gardner ran for one another score in the half as well.

The Fighting Irish surged in the second half, however, and put a considerable amount of pressure on Gardner. Notre Dame QB Tommy Reese hit Troy Niklas for a 20-yard touchdown to open the half, but Gardner responded with a 13-yard scoring strike to Jeremy Gallon to keep a 14-point lead heading into the fourth.

Notre Dame’s momentum continued to build, however, as Gardner’s only interception of the night proved costly, giving the Fighting Irish a 0-yard pick-six. Tack on a ND field goal in the middle of the fourth and a late push from Notre Dame put the Fighting Irish within four points, the closest margin of the day.

With just over four minutes remaining, Michigan channeled every bit of energy in the Big House as senior Fitz Toussaint played a key role, picking up 55 yards, in the Wolverines’ ten-play scoring drive. Gardner eventually put the game out of reach with a four-yard touchdown pass to senior Drew Dileo. Michigan held off Notre Dame by a score of 41-30.

Notre Dame Offense vs. Michigan Defense

After a spectacular week one performance, Everett Golson will likely be the focal point for the Fighting Irish offense Saturday. Michigan’s prime task will be to limit his effectiveness through the air and on the ground after a five-touchdown week one performance. Golson is noted as being a dynamic quarterback with a strong arm, and the 6-foot, 200-pounder reinforced that notion last week.

On the ground, Notre Dame is expected to split carries between a three-headed running back cavalry of Tarean Folston, Greg Bryant and Cam McDonald. This was the approach Notre Dame employed in their opener as all three backs recorded at least 8 carries. Although a clear starter is yet to emerge, all three have shown flashes of promise in past games.

Attempting to clog the holes before ND runners can advance is the Michigan defensive line, anchored by the likes of senior Frank Clark, redshirt sophomore Chris Wormley and redshirt sophomore Willie Henry. In week 1, Clark made three tackles, one for a loss, Henry had three tackles and Wormley had one, an 8-yard sack. Michigan will need a strong performance out of the whole unit, however, if it hopes to stimy the Notre Dame rushing attack.

Notre Dame is likely to miss their top returning wide receiver, DaVaris Daniels, due to suspension. This forces the Fighting Irish to rely on junior Chris Brown and sophomore Corey Robinson outside who combine for just 26 catches and 422 yards in a Notre Dame uniform.

At 6’4” and 215 lbs., Robinson appears to be the toughest match-up for the Wolverines secondary. Fortunately, the Wolverines have loads of experience covering wide receivers of that size after facing junior Devin Funchess in practice. Last week, Robinson recorded one catch for 25 yards.

If the Michigan pass rush can contain Golson within the pocket, it puts the onus on the Wolverine secondary to make plays in coverage. This is a matchup that Michigan can potentially exploit as Blake Countess, Raymon Taylor, Jourdan Lewis and Jarrod Wilson lead an experienced group of defensive backs. Freshman cornerback Jabrill Peppers is another talented defensive back that Golson must account for on Saturday.

Notre Dame Defense vs. Michigan Offense

With the expected loss of three Fighting Irish defensive backs and a starting defensive end, Notre Dame will have some holes to fill on defense. First, this opens up the passing game for the two Devins (Gardner and Funchess) on offense. After connecting for three scores last week, this is a combination that the Wolverines look to use often. Against Notre Dame that connection should be available with a degree of frequency as both of Notre Dame’s starting cornerbacks (Cole Luke and Cody Riggs) are less than six feet tall.

Notre Dame has its best chance at stifling the Michigan offense by slowing down their rushing attack, a task that was achieved on a regular basis in 2013. Sophomores Derrick Green and DeVeon Smith are expected to lead the UM running game, each coming off a 100-yard performance in the season opener. Notre Dame will find success if it can clog the holes opened by the Michigan O-Line as Green and Smith have shown little escapability thus far. Although Michigan did amass 350 rushing yards in week one, it was done against Appalachian State, which boasts a defensive front much less talented than that of the Fighting Irish.

The return of redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Graham Glasgow adds depth to an offensive line that will be missing sophomore Kyle Bosch as he takes a leave of absence from the program and will be unavailable against Notre Dame. Hoke has not tipped his cap as to what the starting O-Line will look like, however, reinforcing that he has “a plan”.

Now that offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier is in the fold at Michigan with a game under his belt, expect for the playbook to consist of a bit more diverse looks in week two.

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