Sure, the constant conversation all week centered on this being Michigan’s last scheduled battle with Notre Dame is valid but for both teams, the 18 to 22 year old student- athletes that will take the field in South Bend Saturday night, it means very little.
“I think we’re all just focused on Saturday night when we kick the ball off,” redshirt sophomore linebacker Joe Bolden said this week. “Right now, (we’re) focused on x’s and o’s and really getting the job done and really practicing with five days of preparation so, we’re focused on that.”
The two institutions and football programs have a lot of history with one another dating all the way back to 1887 and the winner Saturday will walk away with the title of most winning program in college football history by mere win percentage points.
None of this matters though.
What does matter is how senior quarterback Devin Gardner will fare in a big game and on the road, knowing trips away from Ann Arbor haven’t been too kind to Michigan in recent seasons.
What matters is whether or not Michigan can find the same semblance of a ground game they did in their season opening 52-14 win over Appalachian State because, as is often the case, if a team can run the football, especially on the road, the chances of walking out of enemy territory with a win increase dramatically.
And most of all, what will and does matter heading into a loaded Saturday on the college football scheduling slate, is exactly how Michigan’s defense will plan to contain, even throw off the game of Notre Dame senior quarterback Everett Golson.
“He’s the stereo type of a dual threat quarterback,” Michigan junior linebacker Joe Bolden said. “As you probably saw watching last weeks game, when the play breaks down he makes plays so we truly have to prepare for him.
“But we also have to prepare, they’re deep at every position on offense. They wouldn’t be playing for Notre Dame if they weren’t great athletes and they weren’t great players.”
Returning after missing last season due to academic issues, Golson showed little rust in Notre Dame’s 48-17 win over Rice, completing 14-of-22 throws for 295-yards and two touchdowns to go along with three more scores on the ground.
It’s that type of versatility that makes Golson so dangerous at the quarterback position; the ability to make plays with his feet, not just running the football but also extending plays with his eyes downfield.
“They’ve got an outstanding quarterback,” defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said. “Golson is a really, really good quarterback.”
On Golson, Mattison adding, “To me, watching him on tape, and I didn’t remember three years ago; he has a really strong arm.
“He has thrown so many deep passes on this last game, more than you usually would, that were on the money. I see a guy who is not only mobile but has a really strong arm and he’s becoming a real complete quarterback in my mind.”
Prior to the season Mattison was adomant, even defiant when discussing the progress of his defense, spitting out the phrase "we'll see" and "we're going to find out." Saturday, his group will have a shot to prove they're better and capable of corralling a capable opponent.
Some of the onus will fall on the shoulders of linebackers Jake Ryan and Joe Bolden who admittedly didn’t have the greatest games a week ago.
Whether defensive coordinator Greg Mattison chooses to spy Golson or not, both will need to be well aware of where No. 5 is at all times.
“He had a great game last week,” Ryan said of Golson. “But we’ve seen guys like that over the years, we’ve had Denard (Robinson), Devin, and we’ve practiced against them.
“And I think we’re ready.”
Saturday night at 7:30 p.m./est everyone will find out just how ready Michigan’s defense is.