The Irish will be facing a Michigan team that will present a different challenge than last week's opponent, the Pitt Panthers. In the eyes of the fans and alums from both schools, this Saturday's game is huge. And you would expect the Irish preparation to be different, but Coach Weis thinks differently.
"I really think it's important from how I have learned how to coach to treat every week the same," he said. "You know that in the rivalries between schools, you understand the significance of rivalries with different schools, but if you ever treat any team differently, you are just setting yourself up for a fall. You have to treat every week the same. You have to prepare the same, no matter who you are playing. You have to treat them with the same concerns, and that is really the way I have been taught to do it, and that is the only way I know."
The Irish leader said it took him awhile to learn to treat each week's opponent equally.
"When I first went to South Carolina, I was so into the South Carolina-Clemson rivalry, and I thought that was just the greatest. Then when it gets driven into your head from Parcells and Belichick how every game every week is just that week, you put all your energies into that week and when that week is over, you either come down from your high or get up from your low and let's go. Especially when you are the leader, you have to make sure you keep them humble when they win, and you also have to be ready to pick them up when they lose. If you are ever going to be a consistent football team, which everyone wants to be consistent, you have to treat every week the same."
With the Irish coming off such a big victory on Saturday, Weis said it's very important to make sure his team has the correct focus heading into Saturday's game.
"I liked today better than yesterday," he stated. "A couple of elements that go into Tuesday's practice, besides that being the first day of installation for the new team, you also have Monday off. Usually after a day off, now you have to get them going again. It's not running around, but running around with attention for detail is a little different. Today I found the team to be very focused where yesterday we were more concerned with what the installation was and running plays, and today I thought we were really trying to execute the plays."
Playing in front of a jam-packed stadium on the road can present concerns about crowd noise and Weis shared his thoughts on this issue.
"I think it all depends upon how the opponent's offense handles the noise," Weis said. "I don't think it affects the defense at all, because if the crowd is an intelligent crowd, they aren't making noise when you are on offense at home. I think if we can handle the noise, it becomes a lot less of a factor if your offense has composure and can handle the noise. Our goal is to minimize the noise if we can."
Weis also admitted his Irish team will have their hands full this weekend when they try to pull off a victory in Ann Arbor.
"Offensively they do a good job of recognizing where their skilled people are and try and get them the ball," Weis said of the Wolverines. "There have been years when they have thrown it a lot, but they have always wanted to run the ball. They obviously have guys that have the ability to do that. The ultimate goal of anyone calling plays is to get the ball into the hands of the playmakers and they do a good job of that.
"Defensively, it is a little bit of a transition because last year they were predominately a 34 odd configuration team. This year in the first game they were a 4-3 configuration team, and you don't know if they are going to be in a 34 or 4-3 based off their history. You have to be ready for both those deals because you are not really sure which mentality they will bring into the game. So for this early, before teams have sort of developed a personality, there are still a lot of unknowns at this stage in the season."
Weis and Irish defensive coordinator both believe one of the keys to the game will be slowing down Michigan running back Mike Hart.
"Even though he is not the biggest person, he runs inside and outside and he has quicks and speed," Weis said of Hart. "When you take that combination, it is a lethal combination and you take care of the football on top of it. The big difference last week with Northern Illinois was five turnovers to one turnover."
"Every week our aspirations on defense are to be productive in stopping the running game," Minter said. "We have to stop the run and, of course, that is inclusive of the running game, the run after a catch, and not let the quarterback beat us on the run in scramble situations. I think it is all about stopping the run and try making the game one-dimensional."
Minter has many years of coaching experience and he said Michigan is one football program you have to respect as a coach..
"I have been in the Midwest a long time and really one of the programs through the years traditionally that you just really gain a lot of respect for is Michigan," Minter said. "I worked for a Michigan man for seven years at Ball State, and I just have an understanding how things are done, and this team looks to be no different. They are a hard-playing team and they're together, and they do a lot of good things and they have good players. It's everything you want in a football team. They are well coached, and they are a talented football team."They average about 30-35 points a game historically year after year. They are always a top 10-15 school in the country and vying for the title. A lot of times it comes down to their last game of the year to see if they go to the Rose Bowl. They do that with tradition, good coaching, and it's just one of those programs that have a lot of good things going for it."
Minter says his defensive goals will be the same as every game heading into Saturday's contest.
"Our goal going into every game is no points," he stated. "We don't have a minimum standard, but our team goal is do whatever it takes to win. I think we have a complimentary attitude around here towards each other offense-defense. Our goal when you break us down independently is not ever to give up points. That's just what they send us out there to do is to get the ball and don't give up points."
A concern for the Irish fans is the lack of veterans returning to the defensive side of the ball, but Minter said that situation has improved.
"It's good to have a game under our belt," Minter said. "You no longer can say we only have three returning starters as now we have 11 from last week. Some of our kids are battle-tested now, and maybe not the greatest in America, but at least they have been in the war now and have tasted some good plays and some adversity along the way, and there are some things we have to work on to get better."