Michigan Preview

After a disappointing loss in Provo, the Irish return home to face Michigan this Saturday. Here is a look at the Wolverines and how the Irish might match up against their rival.

Notre Dame vs. #7 Michigan
Fighting Irish   Wolverines
Saturday, September 11th
Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, IN.
1:30 CDT

Last 5 Games: Michigan leads 3-2   Last 5 Games at ND
2003 Michigan 38-0 Ann Arbor     2002 Notre Dame 25-23
2002 Notre Dame 25-23 South Bend     1998 Notre Dame 38-20
1999 Michigan 26-22 Ann Arbor     1994 Michigan 26-24
1998 Notre Dame 38-20 South Bend     1992 Tie 17-17
1997 Michigan 21-14 South Bend     1990 Notre Dame 28-24

Quick Hitters:
University of Michigan: Ann Arbor, MI.
Conference: Big Ten
Founded: 1817 - Enrollment: 39,031
Head Coach: Lloyd Carr, 9 seasons, 87-26 (.770)
Home: 53-6 (.898): Away: 29-16 (.644): Bowl: 5-4 (.556)
Last year's record: 9-3
Returning Offensive Starters: 7
Returning Defensive Starters: 6
Last year's common opponents: W Purdue 31-3; W Michigan St. 27-20; L USC 14-28;
Michigan Leads the series: 18-12-1
First game played between Michigan and Notre Dame: 1887
Michigan won the first 8 games in the rivalry
Michigan has played Notre Dame more than any non Big Ten team (31)

M: When the Wolverines and the Irish enter Notre Dame stadium on Saturday, the 80,225 fans will be looking upon the two most successful programs in the history of college football. They will also be looking at two very different teams. Notre Dame is reeling. They are the little kid whose mom just handed him money for lunch. Michigan is the bully waiting around the corner to take it. Michigan struggled in their first game, yet they throttled a competitive Miami (OH) team, 43 - 10 in Ann Arbor. Notre Dame struggled in it's first game against a competitive BYU team, and limped out a 17-20 loser.

They are different teams from different programs and the differences are glaring. Michigan hasn't had a losing season since 1964. Notre Dame has had three losing seasons in the past five seasons. Michigan hasn't lost more than four games in a season since 1984. Notre Dame has had more than four losses five times in the last ten years. Michigan has won five bowl games in the last seven seasons. Notre Dame hasn't won a bowl game in ten years. Michigan hasn't been shutout since 1984. Notre Dame was shutout twice last year. It took Lloyd Carr 48 games before he lost his 11th game as Michigan's head coach. Tyrone Willingham lost his 11th game last week - his 26th game as the head coach of Notre Dame.

On Saturday, as the Irish players walk down the stairway, touch the "Play Like a Champion" sign, they better be prepared for what is around the corner. The coaches better understand that there is more at stake than their lunch money.

Rally sons of Notre Dame:
Sing her glory and sound her fame,
Raise her Gold and Blue
And cheer with voices true:
Rah, rah, for Notre Dame
We will fight in ev-ry game,
Strong of heart and true to her name
We will ne'er forget her
And will cheer her ever
Loyal to Notre Dame

On Offense: On offense, there shouldn't be any surprises. Michigan's bread and butter is the "I" formation with one tight end and two wide receivers. The offense will mix in two tight ends or three and four wide receiver sets depending on the down and distance. Last year with John Navarre, Michigan passed on 47 percent of their offensive plays, but with a new quarterback, expect Michigan to concentrate on establishing the run against the Irish. Against Miami (OH) the Wolverines' running game struggled, gaining 115 yards on 40 carries (2.9 yards/attempt). Their longest run from scrimmage, 13 yards, came from the legs of true freshman Mike Hart in the 4th quarter, after the game was well in hand.

Michigan will run a variety of rushing plays inside and outside, but they majority of the work will be done between the tackles. Gone is Doak Walker winner Chris Perry, who rushed for 133 yards and 3 touchdowns on 31 carries last year against Notre Dame. The fullback is primarily a blocker and rarely carries the ball or catches it out of the backfield.

Although Carr will want to get the ground game churning, the Wolverines will still put the ball in the air at least 25 times. Their passing attack is diverse, so they will throw to all the areas on the field. They'll run some bootleg and move the pocket around with a quarterback that is much more mobile that Navarre was. When they do run the bootleg, they like to find the tight end dragging from the opposite side.

When they are in the red-zone Michigan loves the fade pattern. Michigan tends to run a reverse once a game to keep the defense honest. Michigan's offense starts with the run. Once Michigan establishes the run they will pick you apart with the pass. Regardless of the advantages their receivers have against the Irish secondary, Notre Dame must stop the run to have a chance in this game.

Anticipated Depth Chart. Returning starter = +.

  Chad Henne Fr. 14-24-142 2/1 58.3
  Matt Gutierrez Jr. 13-19-153 1/0 68.4 (03')

Henne got the surprise start last week due to Gutierrez' shoulder injury and performed extremely well for a true freshman. Unless Gutierrez is 100 percent, I expect Henne to get the start again. He didn't receive much pressure from the Miami defense, so he was able to wait for receivers to come open. He has a strong arm, good composure and very good mobility. The only criticism would be that he occasionally took a too much time to get rid of the ball. I expect the Michigan coaches worked with him on that this week.

If Gutierrez is healthy, I would expect both quarterbacks to play. Gutierrez has some game experience and he has performed well. He is similar to Henne in that he's got a good head on his shoulders and has good mobility; he has a good arm but not as strong as Henne.

It is possible that Michigan could put Steve Breaston at quarterback in certain situations. Breaston was a high school quarterback. If this does happen you should expect to see the option. Breaston is an outstanding athlete and is very dangerous with the ball in his hands.

  RB Hgt/Wgt Rushes-Yards
  David Underwood Sr. 6-0/216 22-64, 2 TDs
  Pierre Rembert Jr. 6-0/209 21-85 (career)
  Jerome Jackson So. 5-11/198 29-187 (career)
  FB   Experience
  +Kevin Dudley 5th 6-1/236 Started 12 games

Carr would like to find one running back and stick with him, but this is the weak spot for Michigan and Carr has yet to find his man. Three or four running backs could carry the ball this Saturday. Underwood is steady, but unspectacular. He's a powerful runner, but has difficulty finding the hole and too often he'll just put his head down and force something that isn't there. He hasn't shown the ability to avoid defenders. Rembert is a little more elusive, but isn't as strong of a runner as Underwood. Jackson is a shifty back and has a nice burst of speed when he hits the hole, but he doesn't always run with authority and is inexperienced. True freshman Mike Hart did get some carries and looked good when he was in, but I don't think he'll be a factor.

None of the backs appear to be great receivers, but Michigan likes to throw to their backs, so ND will need to respect their presence. ND should expect to see a couple screens. Dudley is a plus player. He's a very solid blocking fullback. He's not a threat to run, but he'll catch the ball out of the backfield once in awhile.

  WR Hgt/Wgt Stats
  +Braylon Edwards Sr. 6-3/208  85 rcpt/1,138 yds/14 TDs (03')
  +Jason Avant, Jr. 6-1/203  47 rcpts/772 yds/2 TDs(03')
  Carl Tabb, Jr. 6-2/194  10 rcpts/103 yds(03')
  Steve Breaston, Jr. 6-1/174  38 rcpts/444 yds/3 TDs(03)'
  J. Gonzales, 5th 6-2/205  7 rcpts/139 yds (career)

Michigan has an extremely dangerous group of receivers, but they have been inconsistent as a group from time to time. There were several games last year where the receivers dropped multiple passes--the trend continued last week, as they dropped several passes the ended drives. When they are on, they could be the best group in the nation, and a very difficult match up for the Notre Dame secondary.

Edwards is on every All-American list and he could become only the 9th player in DI football to exceed the 1,000-yard receiving mark three times in a season. Edwards is big and athletic. He has good speed, tremendous body control and will make the spectacular catch. Avant is more of the possession receiver. Breaston can fly and is a water bug type runner--very dangerous. Carl Tabb is another speed receiver. Tabb played high school football with Irish running back Jeff Jenkins. Gonzalez is a converted quaterback and has limited playing time. True freshman Adrian Arrington (6-4, 180) played late in the game last weekend, but probably still has a ways to go to steal minutes from the top four receivers. Freshman Doug Dutch (6-0, 185) and Morgan Trent have looked good in practice, but will need more time to mature.

  TE Hgt/Wgt Stats
  +Tim Massaquoi, Sr. 6-4/247 15 rcpts/199 yds/2 TDs(03')
  Tyler Ecker, Jr. 6-6/249 7 rcpts/98 yds(03')

Massaquoi is the returning starter at tight end, but Ecker will rotate in freely. Last year, the Michigan tight ends weren't really a receiving threat, as they totaled just 21 receptions. Massaquoi (1 rcpt/20 yards vs Notre Dame) came to Michigan as a wide receiver, and has had difficulty settling in at his new position. He has been inconsistent and isn't considered a great blocker. Both tight ends are very good athletes, and could create problems for Notre Dame if they get open downfield.

  Offensive Line  
  LT - +A Stenavich, Sr. 17 starts at left tackle.
  LG - +D Baas, 5th. 6-5/323 28 starts and a AA candidate.
  C - M Bihl, Jr. 6-4/302 Little experience
  RG - +M Lentz, Sr. 6-6/300 14 starts plus spliting time in 7 additional games
  RT - M Kolodziej, Jr. Limited experience, playing in 6 games

Michigan lost two starters from last year's offensive line that racked up 188 rushing yards against the Irish. The offensive line struggled to dominate the inferior defensive line unit of Miami (OH), so the Wolverine running game never got going. They did a very good job of protecting the quarterback, although they did give up three sacks. Baas is outstanding. Stenavich and Lentz are solid. Bihl did a decent job but he didn't dominate his man. Kolodziej is very similar to Notre Dame's Mark LeVoir, but I think LeVoir is a more powerful run blocker. I do expect this group to be improved this week and we may see a standard Michigan offensive line.

On Defense: Michigan switched to a 3-4 defensive scheme during the off-season. Although their lack of bodies at defensive tackle caused the Michigan coaches to alter their defense, they do have an abundance of talent at linebacker that they can now get on the field. Like the 3-3-5 Notre Dame saw from BYU last week, the 3-4 is an aggressive attacking style defense that can shift into several alignments without changing personnel.

The difference between the BYU defense and the Michigan defense is that Michigan tends to get set in a particular alignment and doesn't do a lot of shifting prior to the snap. On first down and obvious running downs, Michigan tends to align in what would amount to a 5-2. The outside linebackers will shift up as standing defensive ends with three down linemen, with two middle backers at linebacker depth. They will also show a 4-3 look and in obvious passing downs they'll align with three down linemen with all four backers at linebacker depth. Michigan will rotate their two-deep in along the front seven, but generally will keep their starting four defensive backs in most of the game.

The key to this defense is for the defensive tackles to control their gaps. Michigan's linebackers are outstanding and will make the play at or behind the line of scrimmage if the down linemen do their job. Michigan didn't blitz multiple people very often against Miami (OH), but they certainly have that luxury because their defensive backs are very talented and experienced. The defense frustrated Miami's quarterback so much that it eventually led to a flood of interceptions (5), one of which was return for a touchdown.

Anticipated Depth Chart. Returning starter = +

  Defensive Line Hgt/Wgt Experience
  DE - Larry Harrison, Jr. 6-3/299 Played in limited role in 11 games
  NG - Gabe Watson, Jr. 6-4/333 Extensive playing time as backup
  DE - Pat Massey, Sr. 6-8/276 Extensive playing time. Nine starts

Harrison is fairly inexperienced and up until now really hasn't been very productive for the Wolverines. He's a good-sized kid and has the potential, but I don't think he's dominant. Gabe Watson is a huge man that came to Michigan with a ton of hype. He's struggled with his conditioning and dedication in the past, but supposedly he refocused during the off-season and is ready to be a force. He had a very good game against Miami(OH) and he was a disruptive force inside. He is the key for the Irish offensive line. If John Sullivan can handle him one-on-one that would be great, but when the Irish double-team him they must be able to move him out if they are going to be successful running the ball. Handling the nose is the key to beating the 3-4. Watson's achilles heal is his endurance.

Massey mans the other defensive end spot. He has the most experience along the defensive front, but he has been somewhat inconsistent. Rondell Biggs, Will Paul and Alex Ofili are the second three. None have very much experience, but they did play considerable minutes last week. Ofili is probably the best of the bunch and can put pressue on the passer.

  Linebackers Hgt/Wgt Experience
  OLB - Roy Manning, 5th 6-2/246 Limtited playing experience
  ILB - +Lawrence Reid, Sr. 6-1/222 18 games with 13 starts
  ILB - Scott McClintock, Sr. 6-2/243 Extensive time as a backup, 1 start
  OLB - +Pierre Woods, Sr. 6-5/245 #2 in tackles with 68

Michigan goes two deep across the linebackers without much drop in talent, which allows them to substitute freely. They all have better-than-average speed and very good athletic skills. Roy Manning got a surprise start at outside linebacker over sophomore Shawn Crable and Manning played well. The majority of his playing experience had been on special teams prior to this year. Woods started at defensive end last year, but has moved to outside backer with the switch to the 3-4. He was second on the team with 68 tackles in 2003 and lead the team in sacks (7) and tackles for loss (14). He's big and athletic. He's a force ND will need to deal with. LaMarr Woodley backs up Woods and is another talented player from the sophomore class.

The inside linebackers are just as good as the outside, and they have very good speed. Reid led the Wolverines in tackles last year with 83 tackles. He has outstanding instincts and is a sure tackler. He played WILL backer in the 4-3 scheme. Prescott Burgess back up Reid, and he is a tremendous prospect that played SS last year, so he's still learning the position. McClintock has experience, but most of it has been in a backup role. He's battled injuries throughout his career, but he also has good speed and is a solid tackler. Jeremy Van Alstyne would be in the mix, but he suffered an season ending knee injury.

  Defensive Backs Hgt/Wgt Experience
  CB - +M. Jackson, Sr. 6-1/196 27 starts - AA candidate.
  CB - +M. Curry, Sr. 5-11/182 16 starts - 12 PBU in 03'
  FS - Ryan Mundy, So. 6-1/200 No Experience
  SS - +E. Shazor, Sr. 6-4/229 11 starts - #3 in tackles

Everyone should be familiar with Marlin Jackson. He's in his fourth year as a starter, although last year Michigan moved him to safety. That really didn't pan out and he's back to his natural position. He has had injury problems last year, and got banged up against Miami. He is expected to be 100 percent, but watch for his tender shoulder. Markus Curry is the other corner. He has 16 career starts and is the smaller corner. He has been in Jackson's shadow most of his career, but he is very solid and has no trouble handling receivers one-on one. Last year, he was credited with 14 passes broken up. Last week Curry had two interceptions against Miami (OH).

Shazor is the returning starter at strong safety where he was third on the team in tackles. He's a monster athlete and a big hitter. Last week he picked off a pass and returned it for a touchdown. It's likely that Shazor will skip his final year of eligibility and head to the NFL. Mundy is in his first year at free safety and is another very solid player. Leon Hall is the nickel back. This is easily the best secondary Notre Dame will face all year. Quinn and the wide receivers had trouble getting open against the BYU secondary, so I expect this week will be an even greater challenge. While the top four or five players are stars, there is a considerable drop off with the second group.

Place Kicker: Garret Rivas hanldes the kick-offs and will consistenly kick the ball to the goal line. He has been fairly consistent on field goals, but he did miss two extra points last week. Punter Adam Finley struggled last year averaging about 32.0 yards net punting. He has a very good day against Miami(OH)

Additional information

  2004 Michigan Schedule
  W - H Miami (Ohio) 43-10
  9/11 A Notre Dame -
  9/18 A San Diego State -
  9/25 H Iowa -
  10/2 A Indiana -
  10/9 H Minnesota -
  10/16 A Illinois. -
  10/23 A Purdue -
  10/30 H Michigan St. -
  11/13 H Northwestern -
  11/20 A Ohio State -
  2003 Michigan Schedule
  W - H C. Michigan 45-7
  W - H Houston 50-3
  W - H Notre Dame 38-0
  L - A Oregon 27-31
  W - H Indiana 14 - 18
  L - A Iowa 27-30
  W - A Minnesota 38-35
  W - H Illinois 56-14
  W - H Purdue 31-3
  W - A Michigan St. 27 - 20
  W - A Nwestern 41-10
  W - H Ohio St. 35-21
  L - Rose USC 14-28

2003 Statitical Camparison - Offense
Passing Offense Notre Dame Michigan
Att-Comp-Yrds 411-195-2,149 476-284-3,520
TD/INT 10/19 26/10
Comp. % 47.5% 59.7%
Yards/att 5.23 7.39
Yards/GM 179 271
Pass Off. Rank #92 #22
Pass Eff. Rank #115 #36
Sacks Allowed 24 24
Rushing Offense Notre Dame Michigan
Att. - Yards 472 - 1,887 538 - 2,287
TDs 13 29
Yards/Att. 4.0 4.25
Yards/GM 157.3/GM 175.9/GM
Rushing Rank #56 #38
Totals Notre Dame Michigan
Yards 4,036 5,807
Yards/Play 4.5 5.7
Yards/GM 336.3 446.7
Yards/GM Rank #90 #15
TDs/ FGs 26/21 61/11
Points/GM 20.3 35.4
Pts/GM Rank #93 #12
3rd down conv 31% 49%
4th down conv 40% (12-30) 59% (13/22)
Pass Defense Notre Dame Michigan
Att-Comp-Yrds 194-337-2,556 221-411-2,347
TD/INT 16/13 9/14
Comp. % 57.5% 53.8%
Yards/att 7.6 5.7
Yards/GM 213.0 180.5
Pass Def. Rank #48 #15
Pass Eff. Rank #76 #9
Rush Defense Notre Dame Michigan
Att. - Yards 486 - 1,526 434 - 1,516
Rush TDs Allowed 19 14
Yards/Att. Allowed 3.1 3.5
Yards/GM Allowed 127.2 116.6
Def. Rushing Rank #29 #22
Totals Notre Dame Michigan
Yards 4,082 3,863
Yards/Play 5.0 4.6
Yards/GM 340.0 297.2
Yards/GM Rank #33 #11
TDs/FGs Allowed 38/17 27/10
Points/GM 26.2 16.9
Pts/GM Rank #65 #11
3rd down conv 31% 30%
Sacks 39 29
Give Aways-Fmble/INT 7/19 9/10
Take Away-Fmble/INT 15/13 7/14
Turnover Margin +2 +2
Pnlty yrd/GM 51.0 39.8
Avg/net punting 37.9/33.0 37.5/32.0

2003 Game Stats
  Notre Dame Michigan
First Downs 7 19
RUSHES-YARDS (NET) 25-49 54-188
Passes Att-Comp-Int 24-8-2 24-17-3
Punt Returns-Yards 0-0 5-108
Kickoff Returns-Yards 4-76 0-0
Punts (Number-Avg) 9-43.9 3-31.7
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 3-3
Penalties-Yards 5-31 6-40
Possession Time 22:13 37:47
3rd Conversions 1 of 12 12 of 19
4th Conversions 1 of 2 2 of 2
Sacks By: #-Yards 0-0 2-12

IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories