Still, Michigan boasts a host of returning players who've had great success vs. the Irish during Michigan's recent control of the series. Below are a collection of Wolverines for Irish fans to monitor in Saturday night's contest:
1 -- #32 Safety Jordan Kovacs: Eight tackles and an interception last season; 10 tackles and a pick in 2010. The former walk-on and current 5th-year senior safety has feasted on the Irish offense over the last two years. Kovacs has ascended from recruiting afterthought to Bronco Nagurski Trophy watch list member (awarded to the nation's best defensive player).
2 -- #47 Outside Linebacker Jake Ryan: The redshirt-sophomore from St. Ignatius (Ohio) has a nine-game streak with at least one tackle for loss to his credit. Prior to that streak, Ryan posted a tackle for loss vs. Notre Dame among his four tackles in just his second career contest during last year's 35-31 Wolverines win.
3 -- #10 Wide Receiver Jeremy Gallon: Beat the Irish punt return team for a key 21-yard return that set up a Michigan touchdown in the wild fourth quarter of 2011 (35 points scored, 28 by the Wolverines). Gallon also caught the back-breaking 64-yard pass when left uncovered down the right sideline to set up Michigan's game-winning touchdown pass with two seconds remaining. It was the 5'8" Gallon's cut-back in space on the deep ball that provided an extra 35 yards of field position to set up the winning score.
4 -- #21 Wide Receiver Roy Roundtree: The 5th-year senior target has caught a touchdown pass in consecutive seasons vs. the Irish secondary, last year's winning the contest with two seconds remaining. The 6'0" 180-pounder led the Wolverines in receiving during the team's 28-24 win over Notre Dame in South Bend in 2010, finishing with eight grabs for 82 yards and a 31-yard score in which he ran unencumbered down the post for an easy six. Roundtree has just five receptions this season, but his past successes vs. Notre Dame's current defensive staff could prove valuable Saturday night.
5 -- #21 Cornerback J.T. Floyd: Points haven't been the problem for Notre Dame over the team's last three matchups (an aggregate 97 scored in three defeats) so it seems odd to list three defenders among the quintet to watch, but the 5th-year cornerback Floyd has made plays vs. the Irish passing game, totaling 11 stops with two interceptions and two other pass breakups in the last two meetings. Floyd's pick of quarterback Tommy Rees last season at the Michigan goal line kept the Wolverines alive early when already faced with a 14-7 deficit.
One more to watch -- #88 Defensive End Craig Roh: Shut out last season vs. the Irish, Roh wreaked havoc in the 2010 matchup in South Bend, registering a tackle-for-loss, pass breakup, and two QB hurries in the first half.
Two other developing Wolverines skill position players of note are true freshman tight end Devin Funchess (#19) and converted quarterback Devin Gardner. Funchess registered 106 receiving yards on four catches in Michigan's September 8 win over Air Force and the first five receptions of Funchess's career covered more than 20 yards. He leads the team with 70 receiving yards per contest entering his first battle vs the Irish.
Now a wide receiver, the 6'4" Gardner has eight receptions for 155 yards and three touchdowns in his first foray at the position.
Likewise not involved in previous games vs. the Irish is Michigan's 2011 leading rusher, Fitzgerald Toussaint (#28). Suspended for the season-opener vs. Alabama three weeks ago, Toussaint amassed more than 800 rushing yards and six touchdowns in conference play last season, finishing with a 5.9 yards per carry average. He has 92 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries this fall.