Notre Dame Preview

Saturday, September 6 • 7:30 ET • Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, IN (80,795)
TV: NBC • Announcers: Dan Hicks, Mike Mayock, Kathryn Tappen, Doug Flutie 
Line: UM +4 • Series: UM leads 24-16-1 • Last Meeting: Sept. 7, 2013: UM 41 ND 30

ND by the numbers
     1-0, Independent (sorta ACC, though)
Head coach: Brian Kelly
     Career: 209-72-2
     at ND: 38-15, 5th year
Offense: Spread
     Rush: Greg Bryant (8-71 yards, 1 TD) and Tarean Folston (12-71 yards)
     Pass: Everett Golson (14-22, 295 yards, 2 TDs)
     Rec.: Will Fuller (4-85 yards, 1 TD)
Defense: 3-4
     Tackles: Joe Schmidt (8 tackles)
     Sacks: Romeo Okwara (1.0-4 yards)

Related MBN Content
Earlier this week, we posted our B1G power rankings and bowl projections (which really means nothing in week 2, but hey). We also broke down week 2's B1G games. Yesterday we posted our RLFSWT as well as our UM-ND preview stat sheet (see image).

Reasons to be concerned
Going simply off his performance against Rice last week, Notre Dame's QB Everett Golson looks to be every bit of the running and passing threat he was by the end of the 2012 season. As we all know, he was suspended a year ago for academic reasons and missed the entire season, but now he's back and ready to lead the Irish once again.

For Michigan, his ability to run with the football puts added pressure on the linebackers. If you're knee-jerk reaction from game 1 against Appy State was to be concerned about UM's linebacker play...then you might see this as an advantage for Notre Dame. I for one look at Michigan's linebackers and see a ton of talent and experience, and one game isn't going to persuade me otherwise. That said, I'll be watching this group closely tomorrow.

As a side note about the linebackers, word is Desmond Morgan has a broken arm. This has not been confirmed, but there are eyewitness accounts of Morgan walking around campus in an arm cast. We'll know for sure tomorrow during warmups whether Morgan is a no-go.

As far as playmakers on the Irish defense, junior defensive lineman Sheldon Day is probably Notre Dame's biggest playmaker up front and probably the biggest matchup challenge for Michigan as a whole. Sophomore outside linebacker Jaylon Smith is easily the best player of that group. Michigan will need to know where these guys are on every play.

Perhaps the biggest factor at play tomorrow night for Michigan is simply just playing at Notre Dame Stadium. You can call it the 'game within a game' or the mental game if you want...whatever. Its a road game against a ranked rival at night. Recently, that's spelled doom for Michigan Football. If you are looking for a reason to be nervous about tomorrow...that's it.

Reasons to be confident
Maybe I'm looking at this through my maize-colored ray-bans, but the advantages far outweigh the least on paper, for Michigan tomorrow evening.

It would appear that the 5 players suspended by ND 3 weeks ago will not see the field tomorrow. No reports have said that wide receiver DaVaris Daniels, safety Eilar Hardy, linebacker Kendall Moore, cornerback KeiVarae Russell and defensive end Ishaq Williams have practiced at all this week...thus I can guarantee, even if they were reinstated right now, they will not be ready to play in a game tomorrow.

As you can see, this benefits Michigan's offense more than anything as 4 of the 5 are defensive players. It can't be overstated how impactful this is for both teams. These aren't just guys on the depth chart...these are primary contributors.

Devin Funchess presents a huge matchup nightmare for any team Michigan plays and the Irish are no different. He will see double teams frequently...which could open up passing lanes for other guys like Jehu Chesson, Dennis "Fleetwood" Norfleet and a tight end to be named at game time (rumors speculate that Jake Butt has been taking reps with the 1's in practice). Even with a double team, Funchess is still a game-changer (HT: MGoGif)...

Notre Dame's starting cornerbacks, Luke Cole and Cody Riggs are listed at 5-11 and 5-9 respectfully. Funchess is 6-5 and can jump over people. Good luck kids.

Notre Dame is thin all over on defense with the suspensions, but up front they do still have some talented players (as we mentioned above). If, and that's a big if, the offensive line can build off of their opening week performance, and Devin can continue to get the ball to receivers accurately, it should be enough keep the ND defense off balance all night. Nussmeier will throw out multiple looks, like he did against Appy State, but even more so against the Irish. This Notre Dame defense is not good enough to handle a balanced offensive attack.

No question ND has some offensive firepower with guys like QB Everett Golson, RB's Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston and WR Amir Carlisle. They can move the ball and score some points. But the ND offense and the UM defense is a matchup of strength vs strength.

Where Michigan can really exploit an advantage is on offense against a depleted Irish defense. It all comes down to how well the offensive line can keep the pass rush off Gardner. If #98 can start to pick apart the Irish secondary, that will open up the run game. If we can get to that point...Nussmeier will carve up this defense all night long. But that's a big if.

Last May, I predicted this as a loss for Michigan (their only loss, btw). However, that was before the 5 players were suspended for the Irish. Now, I think that changes things.

Tweet obnoxiously if…
• Michigan continues their 9+ yards per play average from week 1.
• The Devin's Show makes their road debut
• A running game emerges as a result
• Golson is forced to beat us with his arm

Commence panic if…
• Golson gouging the UM defense for chunks of yards
• The Michigan OL reverts to 2013 form
• The interception bug bites Gardner like it did Denard 2 years ago
• Anything that causes the announcers to say "luck of the Irish"

Michigan 31 Notre Dame 24

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