Notre Dame - Michigan Preview

Wow... Not much more to say. Two of the nations best programs are getting hammered by their opponents, as well as the national media. No matter what happens this weekend, I'm not sure there will be a winner.

 Notre Dame vs. Michigan
Fighting Irish   Wolverines
Saturday, September 15th
Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor
3:30  EDT


I'm not sure where to begin with this preview. Neither team is what I expected them to be at this point. I certainly didn't expect Michigan to be 0-2. I thought Notre Dame could one win one of their first two games, but it certainly wasn't out of the question to imagine the Irish being 0-2 at this point. I certainly expected Notre Dame to compete much better than they have.

So where are we? The two teams that have won the most games in college football history, now look to be two of the most inept teams in the country. Michigan's offense is sputtering, and their defense looks like Notre Dame's from the past several seasons. Notre Dame's offense is non-existent. The Irish defense has actually played well, but the offense simply won't allow them to rest.

The story of this game will be of the two quarterbacks; Jimmy Clausen vs. Ryan Mallet. Mallet wasn't supposed to take over the Michigan program until next season, but an injury to Chad Henne during the Oregon game has now pushed Mallet into action. The two best high school quarterbacks from last year are now going to face off as freshmen. These two players will be cover boys for both programs for the next several years.

Penn State On Offense:

Michigan Offense '07 Rank Per Game ND Defense '07 Rank Per Game
Rushing Offense #37 195.00 Rushing Defense #100 214.00
Pass Offense #56 227.00 Pass Defense #13 126.00
Pass Eff. #100 98.41 Pass Eff. #32 98.84
Total Offense #41 422.00 Total Defense #54 340.50
Scoring Offense #92 19.50 Scoring Defense #93 32.00

Anticipated Depth Chart.

  Ryan Mallet, Fr. 6-17-49 0/1 35.3
  Chad Henne, Sr. 31-60-405 2-2 51.7

Everyone has heard about Ryan Mallet's (6-7, 252 pounds) arm… it is one of the strongest I have ever seen. He is still a freshman quarterback and he will play like one at times. His greatest strength might also be his weakness. He really only has one speed when he throws the football…hard. Against Oregon, Mallet looked good at times, but he also struggled. That is to be expected of a freshmen.

Chad Henne (6-2, 226 pounds) had struggled up until the time he was injured, which was surprising. I expected Henne to have a very good year. There hasn't been an official word on Henne's status. He is likely out for this game, but he might need to play if something happened to Mallet. The other option is sophomore David Cone.

  RB Hgt/Wgt Att - Yards - TDs
  Mike Hart 5-9, 202, Sr. 42-315, 3 TDs
  Brandon Minor 6-0, 212, So. 21-80, 0 TD
  Carlos Brown 6-0, 209, So. 1-6, 0 TD

Mike Hart was banged up in Michigan's first game, but he did play most of the game against Oregon and he should be ready to go this weekend. Hart just passed Tyrone Wheatley to move into third on Michigan's all-time rushing list. If he is able to stay healthy there is a chance he could eventually pass Anthony Thomas and become Michigan's all-time leading rusher.

  WR Hgt/Wgt Stats
  Mario Manningham, Jr. 6-0, 189  11 rcpts/183 yds/0 TDs
  Adrian Arrington, Sr. 6-3, 195  10 rcpts/121 yds/1 TDs
  Greg Mathews, So. 6-3, 207,  8 rcpts/73 yds/1 TD
  Toney Clemons, Fr. 6-2, 192/  - - -
  Junior Hemingway, Fr. 6-1, 202   - - -

The wide receiver group is solid. Manningham is the star. He's the go-to guy. What makes Mario a superstar is that he is also the deep threat so many teams covet. Last year he really didn't have guys that could help draw attention away from him, so most defensive backfields focused their gameplan around stopping him. This year Arrington has stepped up and he's becoming the dangerous receiver many expected when he came out of high school.

Matthews is solid, and that's all Michigan will need from him. Clemons and Hemingway are the future. They will likely se some action, but most of the balls, if not all will go to Manningham and Arrignton.

  TE Hgt/Wgt Stats
  Mike Massey, Sr. 6-4, 231  3 rcpts/36 yds/ 0 TDs
  Chris McLaurin, Jr. 6-3, 232  - -

Mike Massey is solid, but he won't concern many defensive coordinators. He doesn't excel at anything, but he has a solid all around game. McLaurin is a former linebacker. He's basically been a special teams player for Michigan.

  Offensive Line Hgt/Wgt Experience
  LT Jake Long, 5th 6-7, 315
  LG Adam Kraus, Sr. 6-6, 295
  C Justin Boren, So. 6-1, 293
  RG Jeremy Ciulla, Sr. 6-4, 299
  RT Stephen Schilling, So. 6-5, 298

The make-up of the offensive line isn't much different than Notre Dame's. Michigan has two talented seniors in Long and Kraus. Both are on everyone's all-American list. They are the teeth of the Michian offensive line. Boren will be a player. He's tough and physical, but he is still a pup. Ciulla was a highly rated prospect out of high school, but he has been somewhat of a disappointment thus far. If Michigan had other options I'm not sure he would see much time. Schilling is another talented youngster, but he is still very green.

Michigan Defense '07 Rank Per Game ND Offense '07 Rank Per Game
Rushing Defense #109 245.50 Rushing Offense #119 -4.00
Pass Defense #95 260.00 Pass Offense #107 137.00
Pass Eff. #100 98.41 Pass Eff. #32 98.84
Total Defense #108 505.50 Total Offense #119 133.00
Scoring Defense #101 36.50 Scoring Offense #117 6.50

Anticipated Depth Chart. 

  Defensive Line Hgt/Wgt Stats
  DE Tim Jamison, Sr. 6-3, 266  10 tackles/ 1 sacks
  DT Terrance Taylor, Jr. 6-0, 308,  9 tackles/ 2.0 sacks
  DT Will Johnson, Sr. 6-5, 290  7 tackles/ 1.0 sacks
  DE Greg Banks, So. 6-4, 262  0 tackles/ 0 sacks

The Michigan defensive front lost a lot of talent from last last year. The 2007 version has struggled to make plays. The talent is there, but they need to get there feet.

As a freshman, Jamison looked to be a future super-star, but struggled through injuries the last couple seasons. He has a ton of upside, he just needs to mentally get back to where he was. Taylor is another guy with a world of talent. He's still green, but he'll get there.

The other side of the Michigan defensive line is the issue. Johnson is a hard worker, but he isn't going to make a ton of plays. None of the defensive ends are doing much in terms of playmaking. The ability is there.

  Linebackers Hgt/Wgt  Stats
  SLB Shawn Crable, 5th 6-5, 243  18 tackles/4 TFLs
  MLB John Thompson, Sr. 6-1, 237  15 tackles/ 0.5 TFLs
  WLB Chris Graham, Sr. 5-11, 225  14 tackles/ 1.0 TFLs

This group is thin and the starters aren't big-time players, or at least they haven't shown it as of yet. Crable is the best of the bunch. He is a player and he does chase plays all over the field. Graham was a big-time recruit out of Indianapolis, but he has struggled to make an impact.

  Defensive Backs Hgt/Wgt  Stats
  CB Morgan Trent, Sr. 6-1, 184  4 tackles/ 1 INTs
  CB Donovan Warren, Fr. 6-0, 173  8 tackles/ 0 INTs
  FS Brandent Englemon, 5th 5-11, 206  14 tackles/ 1 INTs
  SS Jamar Adams, Sr. 6-2, 214  12 tackles/ 0 INTs

I expected this group to struggle despite returning three of four starters; Trent, Englemon, and Adams. Last year's group was aided by a very good defensive front seven and their ability to put pressure on the quarterback. The problem is compounded by the fact that teams have been able to run the ball on Michigan. That is a really bad Notre Dame fans know all too well.

Trent is a former wide receiver, but he has played corner the past couple of seasons. He has good size, and he is solid, but he doesn't lock down receivers. Trent probably won't have a lot of balls thrown his way this season because he has a true freshman starting on the other side.

Donovan Warren is the freshman. He's qa great kid and I wish Notre Dame would have made a bigger push for him during recruiting. He is very talented, but cornerback might be the most difficult postion for a freshman to play. He'll takes plenty of lumps this year, but I don't loook forward to seeing him later in his career.

The safeties are going to struggle. It isn't that Englemon, and Adams don't have the talent, but if the Michigan front continues to allow opponents to run the football they will be playing a guessing game. Their is a lot of pressure for them to support the run. When that happens, there is indecision. Indecision leads to players being a step or two behind and that leads to big plays. See the Oregon game.

There was supposed to be much more excitement surrounding this game when Clausen and Mallet met for the first time, but that wasn't supposed to happen until next year. I'd like to write something thought provoking about this game, but there really isn't much to say. Both teams are terrible at this point. I think each team can find some things that they are doing well, but those aspects will continue to be overshadowed by all of the negative plays that end up killing them. Each team somehow feels compelled to get a penalty, fumble, allow a sack or tackle for a loss that ends up killing any momentum that they have created.

Both teams will get better as the season moves on. Right now Michigan is probably in better shape than Notre Dame. Their offense at least has their rushing total in positive yardage, and it appears their offensive line understands the fundamentals of pass blocking.

Oddly, Notre Dame is probably a better defensive team at this time. Still, Michigan's defense will only need to be mediocre to shut down the worst offense in DI football. The bottom line is that there is far too much talent on Notre Dame's depth chart to be as feeble as they have been to this point, but they just can't avoid shooting themselves in the foot. I don't see that changing anytime soon.

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