Tim O'Malley -- PublisherIn early May, I pegged this game as a 7-point Irish win. After the suspension of starting quarterback Everett Golson, I switched the prediction to a heart-breaking loss. With remaining concerns at running back (could easily be proven wrong, here), field safety, inside linebacker, the right side of the offensive line, and most important, the kicking game, I can't switch back.
For Notre Dame to win, I think they'll have to do so going away, and I'm not one to predict a game in this series to be anything but close.
With a game preview forthcoming: Michigan 25 Notre Dame 23
Anna Hickey -- Irish Eyes Recruiting ReporterI've been going back-and-forth all week. If it's in South Bend, Notre Dame wins without a doubt. But, Ann Arbor proposes something different on the road, especially at night and with anticipation leading up to the game being presented on every media outlet this week.
Notre Dame has the obvious advantage up front, but Michigan's quarterback Devin Gardner will ride the Big House's momentum and keep drives alive with his legs. If one of Notre Dame's running backs can go over 120 yards, the Irish win. But, I don't think that will happen. Notre Dame: 13 Michigan 16
Brian Dohn -- Recruiting AnalystTo me, this is a game that will dictate Notre Dame's season. Will the Irish be contenders for BCS game, or is this a nine-win team? It is a huge game that will be played in a high-pressure environment, and against a very talented team. Notre Dame and Michigan is usually back-and-forth, and I see this being the same type of deal. And I think it will take a late drive for the Irish, with quarterback Tommy Rees leading it. His maturity after a trying last few seasons should shine through, and silence the 109,000 or so in the Big House. Notre Dame 19, Michigan 17
SeattleNDFan -- ModeratorThe two most encouraging bits of news for Irish fans regarding this game is that new Michigan center Jack Miller had a rough day against CMU, and Michigan QB Devin Gardner threw two picks against the Chippewa defense, showing what looked like difficulty reading man versus zone defenses. If Michigan cannot fix those two issues by game time, their offense is going to struggle mightily.
Outside of Jeremy Gallon, Michigan does not have a lot of threats at receiver, which may allow the Irish to bracket cover Gallon and/or TE Devin Funchess. The weakness of the middle of the Wolverine line against the strength of the Irish defensive line should produce a result similar to what the Irish produced against Purdue in 2012 when Kawaan Short and Bruce Gaston wreaked havoc right up the middle, where pressure negates even QB's as mobile as Gardner and Everett Golson. That should lead to Michigan scoring between 13-17 points offensively.
I think if Michigan wins this game it will be on defense, either by shutting down the Irish offense or creating turnovers. So as usual, the key for the Irish on offense will be whether their line can create holes for the running backs and protect Rees on play action passing downs. If Rees and the offense can stay ahead of the chains and keep down and distance manageable, they should be in the red zone consistently, and from there we will get to see if the new improved red zone offense pans out.
Michigan's defense is faster than the previous two years so I don't think we'll see the explosive plays we saw against Temple, rather consistent 4-7 yard runs and then Rees over the top at opportune moments. At the same time, a fast but young defense is ripe for plays like sprint draws, jet sweeps and reverses which take advantage of that speed and turn it against the defense.
Michigan wins if the Irish offense turns the ball over. Notre Dame wins if their lines control the line of scrimmage consistently. History backs the underdog in this series and so do I this week. Notre Dame 24 Michigan 17
Amruther24 -- Rookie ModeratorThis is a heck of a week to start moderating here at IrishEyes. Michigan week on the boards is tough, but predicting the game might be tougher. Both Notre Dame and Michigan have made relatively quick turnarounds in the Kelly and Hoke eras, both on the field and on the recruiting trail. As such, both teams have a wealth of young, unproven talent interspersed with strong veteran presences on both sides of the ball. They seem almost equal in talent and the game has been very unpredictable over the last several years (thanks Shoelace!).
Given these factors, I'll have to go with the old cliches that turnovers and QB play are going to be the deciding factors in this game. Those two things have certainly decided every UM game in the Kelly era with an assist from the 2011 Irish secondary. Despite trouncing CMU last week, Devin Gardner looked just okay. He's capable of extending plays with his legs, which could be problematic for an Irish line that looked gassed last week after chasing Connor Reilly all over the field in the first half.
However, his two interceptions against CMU in limited action have to be a concern for UM fans. On the other hand, Tommy Rees looked lights out last week behind an offensive line that dominated Temple up front. Give Rees time and he'll shred a defense, but Mattison and company will likely bring the pressure early and often. ND doesn't need Rees to be great, they just need him to be efficient and smart with the ball to be successful. It will help if his most dangerous target, DaVaris Daniels, is close to full health.
Rees has been here before and played well enough in 2011 to give ND the lead with :30 left. The jury is still out on Gardner. I give the edge to ND and say they leave the Big House with a 23-20 victory.
KurzND -- ModeratorSaturday will be the last meeting in Ann Arbor for the foreseeable future between Notre Dame and Michigan. It'll host game, tons of recruits, and two top 20 teams. It is a huge game for the Irish that will set the tone for the rest of the season.
Working against Notre Dame is that fact that they have only won twice in Ann Arbor since 1993. That previous two trips ended in heartbreaking, last second losses. Another aspect playing against ND is that two years and one game into the Hoke era, Michigan has yet to lose at home. Take all of that into consideration as well has defensive guru Greg Mattison, and an extremely talented QB in Gardner it'll be a tough game to win.
The keys for the Irish to leave with a victory include a much better defensive performance from the D-Line then they showed against Temple. Upon further review, the D-Line did play better then they looked live, but Tuitt and Nix need to play like they can to help slow down Michigan. Nix will be working vs a brand new OC and 2 OGs including a former walk on. Nix needs to draw double teams vs the young interior line and make them pay when they don't.
Michigan has an extremely talented pair of OTs lead by the one of the nation's best in Taylor Lewan. It'll be up to Day and Shembo to beat them when they get matched up one on one. ND got a taste of what Gardner can do when they face Reilly of Temple. Gardner plays the same style, but did show some trouble reading defenses which led to two INT by the CMU defense. The Irish defensive line needs to play better and make Gardner rush his throws and reads and the DBs need to capitalize. Well that, and make sure when there are 30 seconds left to know where Gallon is...
For the offense, Tommy Rees needs to protect the ball. He has some great targets in TJ, Niklas, and Daniels. The offensive line will have a challenge versus a solid Michigan D-Line but benefits greatly from Michigan missing LB Jake Ryan. The Irish will need to be able to run the ball inside to help open up the passing game. I don't think ND will have a problem moving the ball through the air, but if they can't run and are forced to rely on Rees' arm I don't believe it will end well. Look for T.J. Jones to make the plays when they are needed and Amir Carlisle to get tough yards. I also don't expect that Tausch and Brindza to perform poorly like last week.
In the 4th quarter with mere seconds left Michigan will fail to convert and the Irish will prevail. Notre Dame 27 Michigan 23
GaviND -- ModeratorFor the second time in three seasons Notre Dame heads back to Ann Arbor to battle Michigan under the lights. In the 2011 version of this once great regional series, Notre Dame cruised out to an early lead and appeared as though it was going to walk right through the Wolverines on their way back to South Bend.
Then a fourth quarter began and an epic collapse ensued.
Fast forward two years and you have a deep, experienced and talented Irish squad that what it's walking in to.
I look for Notre Dame to get on the board early as they should be able to exploit a talented but inexperienced Michigan secondary...and ultimately never look back.
The key to game will be the battle between Louis Nix and the young Michigan guard duo of Kyle Kalis and Graham Glasgow. If they are able to withstand the constant battering of the mountainous Nix, their offense just might light up the scoreboard.
But I don't see that happening. Notre Dame 31 Michigan 20
BNolan -- ModeratorWhile I was pretty discouraged by what I saw on the field versus Temple, I expect to see a much more intense Irish squad this week. We better. Despite all of the recent rhetoric, playing Michigan is a big deal, quite big. I hate the skunkies as much or more than anyone, but playing at night, in their place, is a hallmark game for the Irish. ND has the horses to win, the defense has to be who they can be, not who they were last Saturday.
A Notre Dame defense playing to its potential can wreak havoc on the Michigan offensive line, and therefore on Gardner. We will need a lot more pressure than what was exhibited against Temple. Speaking of QB's... while I'm not a big TR fan, he can do his job in this game by playing smart and careful. Turnovers will absolutely lose this game. The OL needs to give running backs opportunities and to block long enough for TR to not be forced. Of course UM will go after him. And... in what will likely be a close game, dismal special teams can be costly. While I think it is entirely possible that the Irish blow this one, I'm going to predict a narrow victory, simply because I want to believe. And because I hate Michigan. ND 24 UM 20