U-M vs. ND: The Key Matchups & Comparisons

U-M running game versus the Notre Dame front seven; U-M passing game versus the Irish; ND running game versus the U-M front seven; ND passing game versus U-M; Special Teams, turnovers, penalties, 3rd down conversions, red zone efficiency, and more.

Michigan running game versus the Notre Dame front seven:

The Wolverines rushed for 208 yards last Saturday against a supposedly stout NIU front seven. Mike Hart had 117 yards on 27 carries (4.3 yards per carry). The U-M offensive line did a good job, with Adam Kraus impressive in his first-ever start at OC and Mike Kolodziej (and Rueben Riley) filling in for the ankle-injured Jake Long.

Against Pitt last Saturday, Notre Dame allowed just 103 yards rushing, but their leading tackler was CB Ambrose Wooden. The Irish front seven is talented: DE's Victor Abiamiri and Chris Frome, DT's Trevor Laws and Derek Landri. Star Irish linebacker Brandon Hoyte had 5 tackles for loss.

Edge: toss-up. This could be THE KEY to the game. An effective U-M running game could keep the suspect Wolverine defense off the field.

Wolverine passing game versus the Irish:

Against NIU, Chad Henne was 20 for 31 for 227 yards and 2 TD's. He was effective except on his deep pass attempts to Steve Breaston. WR Jason Avant made 9 catches for the Wolverines for 127 yards and a touchdown.

Against Pitt, the Notre Dame front seven had 5 sacks (LB Brandon Hoyte had 2), but the defensive backfield gave up 220 yards on 20-35 passing (5.5 yards per catch); safety Tom Zbikowski, the only returning ND DB starter, had an interception. The Irish CB's, Ambrose Wooden and Mike Richardson, are suspect against the pass.

Edge: Michigan. The key here will be whether the Wolverine O-line can pass-block for Henne; if there are 1 or 0 sacks, the Wolverine passing attack should roll.

Notre Dame running game versus the Michigan front seven:

Notre Dame rushed for 275 yards against Pitt (5.5 yards per carry), led by Darius Walker's 100 yards on 20 carries. The Irish O-line is a strength (OT's Ryan Harris and Mark LeVoir, OG's Dan Santucci and Dan Stevenson, and OC Bob Morton).

Michigan's rushing defense against NIU was suprisingly porous, surrendering 211 yards on 6.6 yards per carry (76 yards were on one play; other than that the yards per carry were 4.4). LB Chris Graham made 10 tackles in his first start and Lamar Woodley played fairly well (1 tackle-for-loss and 1 sack), but the rest of the U-M front seven was disappointing.

Edge: Notre Dame. However, the U-M front seven should be a strength -- we'll see if they step it up this Saturday.

Notre Dame passing game versus Michigan:

Notre Dame's Brady Quinn passed for 227 yards on 18-27 (8.4 yards per pass) with 2 TD's and 1 int. The ball was evenly spread around, with TE Anthony Fasano making 4 catches (42 yards) and 3 each for Rhema McKninght (51 yds), Jeff Samardzija (34 yds), Darius Walker (52 yds).

Against NIU, Michigan gave up 200 yards passing on 17-25 (8 yards per attempt). Leon Hall had an interception and Lamarr Woodley had a sack. Michigan spent the game in a zone defense and did not blitz.

Edge: Notre Dame. It can be assumed that U-M will upwrap it's blitzing packages for the Irish; how effective U-M blitzes are in getting to Brady Quinn is the SECOND KEY to the game.

Special Teams:

Notre Dame: D.J. Fitzpatrick averaged 45.7 yards punting in 3 attempts vs. Pitt. He did not attempt a field goal. Justin Hoskins returned two kickoffs for a 17.5 yard average, and Tom Zbikowski returned 1 punt for 23 yards.

Michigan: Ross Ryan had 1 punt for 42 yards. Garrett Rivas kicked 23 and 38 yards field goals but missed on a 48 yarder. The Wolverines averaged 16 yards on 3 kickoff returns; they had no punt returns.

Edge: Michigan. U-M's Steve Breaston is the edge here.

Miscellaneous Comparisons:
-- Michigan had 1 turnover versus NIU (Kevin Grady); Notre Dame had none vs. Pitt.
-- Notre Dame had 10 penalties for 94 yards vs. Pitt; Michigan had 4 for 31 yards vs. NIU
-- Against NIU, Michigan was 11 for 17 on 3rd down conversions and 1 of 2 on 4th down conversions; they were 4-6 in the red zone. Notre Dame was 10-15 on 3rd down conversions and 5-6 in the red zone.

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