Why is this game always so astringent? My guess is what's usually at stake. Traditionally, the winner goes on to have a great season. They victor also usually wins the majority of important recruiting battles between both schools, and that's why there's bitterness between the fans of both schools.
I'm going to guess this game won't be any different, and the fallout after these two teams collide will likely add to the friction.
So who wins?
I think Michigan will enter Saturday's game with one of their most complete offensive units in recent memory (provided all our healthy). The Wolverines have a great quarterback in Chad Henne, two great backs in Mike Hart and Kevin Grady, a good tight end in Tyler Ecker (Massaquoi is said to be out) and some talented receivers in Jason Avant and Steve Breaston. I can't remember a recent Michigan offense that possessed this much firepower and potential.
But it won't matter if they don't get solid play from their offensive line. Michigan traditionally always brings a solid and physical offensive line into this game. I'm not certain this unit is one of their better units, or even an average Michigan line at this point. I really think how this unit performs could be a huge factor in the game.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Michigan defense appears less effective than in recent years. There's plenty of athleticism with this unit, but production doesn't seem to be their strong suit at this point. I do expect them to improve over last week, however.
The Irish have problems as well. The Pitt game showed Notre Dame hasn't completely fixed their problems in the passing game, and we'd be shocked if Michigan didn't try to expose that weakness.
With both defenses somewhat suspect, I expect a high scoring game.
This game is going to boil down to two major factors. Which team turns the ball over the most, and which offensive team has the most success in the red zone.
I fully expect the Irish to try to slow down the powerful Michigan offense. I don't expect to see Notre Dame's corners on an island trying to cover Breaston or Avant too often in this game—and rightfully so.
So it's going to come down to the red zone and turnovers--whichever defense can limit the opposing offense to three points versus seven.
I've got to believe that the Irish offense will have more success against the Michigan defense in this area than the Michigan offense will against the Irish defense.
Turnovers is the one thing that has me concerned, but I also believe that Notre Dame's experience on offense and experience in playing big games will give them the edge. I also think the Irish have an edge in coaching in this game, but one must remember that Michigan is always very difficult to beat at home.
Batten down the hatches boys, this is going to be a close one.
Mike Frank Prediction
Somehow the Irish get it done. Notre Dame: 31 Michigan: 28