Game Prediction

Saturday's game is a big game for both the Notre Dame and Michigan program. Both teams are trying to get back to the top of the college football world, and a victory over the other will certainly be a step in the right direction for the winning team.

Irish head coach Charlie Weis in Thursday's press conference pretty much summed up this game for me:

"To me, the jury is still out as to which team we are going to be," Weis said. "Are we going to be the team that showed spurts of being good and bad for three quarters, or a team that can collectively, in all three facets, play a dominating quarter? The opponent is irrelevant when it comes to that, it's what you're going to do," he said. "My whole point of emphasis when I was talking to them all week is which team are we going to be? Are we going to go back to the first quarter again or are we going pick up from the fourth quarter? I think that we'll have more answers, we might not have all of the answers, but we'll have a better idea of the direction after Saturday."

That's pretty much all that needs to be said about this Irish team. I don't know which team is going to show up on Saturday, so it make this prediction that much harder to make.

Irish Offense versus the Michigan Defense

This is where the battle will be won on Saturday. This Notre Dame offense hasn't been able to produce a lot of yards or points again the Wolverine defense lately. A few names have changed since last season, but not many on either team. The Irish rushed for -6 yards in the game last year, and also turned the ball over four times. They amassed just 79 yards total offense and were 4-of-13 on 3rd down. If the Irish play this poorly again they'll certainly lose.

I don't expect them to play that poorly. Actually, I expect them to play pretty well on offense on Saturday. I think you'll see the Irish come out throwing, and I think that is their best chance to win this game. More importantly, they have to move the ball early on Michigan to gain some confidence. Three or four 3-and-out situations to start the game for Notre Dame would likely be disastrous. Notre Dame has to move the ball and change field position and force the Michigan offense to drive the entire length of the field to score. If the Irish can win the field position battle, they should win this game, but they can't afford to turn the ball over. They did have four turnovers in last Saturday's game.

I did see a spark with the Irish offense on Saturday, however. This unit played with great confidence, and more importantly, execution in that final period, and they looked pretty darn good doing it. If the Irish can protect Jimmy Clausen somewhat, and they can get something out of their running game, they should be able to score enough points on offense to win.

Irish Defense versus the Michigan Offense

I think the addition of Jon Tenuta to the staff will help Notre Dame a lot in this game. As good as I believe defensive coordinator Corwin Brown is and will be, he hasn't had much experience coaching against a spread or an option offense until he came to Notre Dame. Tenuta has seen it plenty of times, and he's faced some pretty darn good spread teams including Rich Rodriquez' spread offense at West Virginia. There shouldn't be too many surprises that the Irish defensive staff didn't expect on Saturday.

The Wolverines haven't exactly set the world on fire on offense thus far under Rodriguez, but that is to be expected. The Michigan offense has averaged just 107 yards rushing in two games, and 135 yards passing. Quarterback Steven Threet is considered the better passer, even though he's only completed less than 44 percent of his passes.

So how will Michigan attack the Irish? My guess is they come out running, and I bet they use a great deal of misdirection in this game to do it. All one has to do is turn on the Navy or Air Force game of last year and see a confused Irish defense when it came to misdirection running plays. Michigan does have some injuries up front, but I believe their best chance to win the game is to establish the run early. Notre Dame's perceived weakness on defense is against the run, and I believe you'll see the Wolverines attack the Irish on the outside with their speedy backs, and try to set up some play-action passing later in the game.

One thing I will say that I don't think a lot of Irish fans account for is the speed of Michigan's skill athletes. Sam McGuffie, Brandon Minor, Michael Shaw, Martavious Odoms, Greg Mathews, Junior Hemmingway and Darryl Stonum can all run. All are on the Golden Tate level when it comes to speed. That is a lot of playmakers on the field, and it's going to be a lot harder than most people think to contain all those great skill athletes if Michigan can get some solid offensive line play up front…..that is the big "if" in this game.

The "X" Factor

Emotion, emotion, emotion….can I see some emotion? Notre Dame can't come out and sleepwalk their way through three quarters of football and expect to win against Michigan. The Irish have struggled two straight games against this team because they haven't matched Michigan's intensity coming out of the locker room. They'll lose again on Saturday if they can't find the emotion and intensity needed to win a big game. Which team shows up? I really don't know......

Mike Frank Prediction

I've got to believe that this team is tired of being pushed around. I've got to believe this team wants to be great. I've got to believe that they'll take their almost perfect 4th quarter against San Diego State and parlay that into another good performance on Saturday. For if you don't believe, what's left?

Notre Dame: 17 Michigan: 14 Top Stories