Notre Dame Preview

#17/18 MICHIGAN vs. #15/11 NOTRE DAME
Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, IN
September 22, 2012, 7:30 PM

TV: NBC (Tom Hammond, Mike Mayock, Alex Flanagan)
Radio: WWJ-950 AM, WTKA-1050 AM, SiriusXM 129 (Frank Beckmann, Jim Brandstatter, Doug Karsch)
Line: UM +5
O/U: 45
Series Record: UM leads 23-15-1
Last Meeting: 2011: MICH 35 - ND 31
UM Record/Rank: 2-1 (0-0), #17/18
ND Record/Rank: 3-0 #15/11
Gametime Forecast: Mid to upper 50s, rain showers.

Happy Birthday!
Via: WLA
Relevant links from sites we trust
MZone's Know Your Foe, John U. Bacon's appreciation of Denard, MGoAce's Irish FFFF, MLive's Kyle Meinke's 5 Keys, DetNews' Angelique Chengelis takes a look at the QB matchup.

Other Previews
Maize & Brew, Touch the Banner, BWS.


When Michigan has the ball
Michigan State's offense was exposed last week (and the defense to a certain degree), so take that into account when trying to decide just how good Notre Dame's defense really is.

I'd love to come on here and list all the ways Michigan can win this game without the entire offensive emphasis being on Denard Robinson. I love to do that. But honestly, I can't. At least not in this game.

Denard is Irish kryptonite. Plain and simple. Last year, when Michigan had no business being in that game, let along winning it – it was mostly thanks to the playmaking ability of Denard Robinson, despite his 3 interceptions. When his time at Michigan is done, Denard will most likely be remembered for his performances against Notre Dame.

Elsewhere on offense, Michigan has issues to deal with. They must get Fitz involved tomorrow night. That's very important. Through most of the game last year, Michigan's longest drive of the day was 4 plays. That's not going to work in South Bend against a team that is much better at protecting the football then they used to be. The OL must come together and make the running game serviceable against a relevant defense.

Like most defenses, Notre Dame will stack the box to stop Denard and Fitz. It's what good defenses do, and it seems to have decent success against Michigan until they eventually get a big play because of Denard's ability, or Borges is able to expose a vulnerability with the passing game. Hopefully it won't take until the second half for that to happen tomorrow night.

The good news is Notre Dame's secondary is young and inexperienced. Their starting cornerback was injured before the season, and their starting safety was injured last week. They new have a converted WR starting at safety. Michigan fans know this feeling all too well. They key for Michigan is going to be mixing up the playcalling to complete enough passes to loosen up the running game.

If they can do that, we're off to the races. Hopefully Denard can limit his interception count to just 1 tomorrow. Devin Funchess and Devin Gardner will be vital to Michigan's passing game tomorrow night.

When Notre Dame has the ball
The Irish showed against Michigan State's stout defense that they don't mind pounding the football. But while they didn't gouge Michigan State on the ground, they held their own thanks to an offensive line was able to get a strong push against the MSU front 4 for much of the game. Any Michigan fans that were watching took notice of how well the Irish OL played and cringed. Much of the 2011 Michigan-Notre Dame contest was defined by how well Notre Dame controlled the line of scrimmage.

The job of Michigan's front 4 will be to keep the Notre Dame linemen from getting to and blocking our linebackers. This will not be an easy task, but it will be vital for Michigan to control Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood. Expect ND to gain some yards on the ground. Michigan's rushing D is just not good enough yet to shut down an offense like this.

Notre Dame QB Everett Golson is a competent passer. He doesn't have the receiving corps at his disposal that Tommy Rees had last year...most importantly no Michael Floyd. Just looking at the stats through 3 games and you see that Notre Dame is a run-first offense. The pass is there, and Golson is mobile enough to create plays, even take off running, so this Irish offense is no slouch.

For Michigan, the emphasis must be on the front 7. Like I said, keeping the linebackers free to make plays is going to be vital. That's the main responsibility of the defensive tackles. That's a big advantage for Notre Dame on paper.

The main advantage for Michigan is their pass defense against Golson and the Irish receivers. Notre Dame's big threats are TE Tyler Eifert and WRs DaVaris Daniels and TJ Jones. And of course Wood and Riddick out of the backfield are always receiving threats.

Special teams
Michigan must get better at punt coverage. It would help if Hagerup could put a little more air under his kicks, he outkicks his coverage almost every time. Notre Dame's punt return man is Davonte' Neal. Returning kicks is a combination of George Atkinson, Jarrett Grace and Cam McDaniels.

Dennis Norfleet is a huge threat for Michigan on punt returns. I'd like to see him get more involved on kickoff returns and the offense as well.

Make boisterous comments on Twitter if...
• Denard can throw the football (mostly) to players wearing white jerseys
• Fitz is the leading rusher at halftime
• The two Devin's continue their upward trend in the offense
• Tom Hammond is stunned by the speed of Denard Robinson, again

Cancel recording on your DVR if...
• Any of Notre Dame's receivers remind you Michael Floyd
• The Irish OL dominates
• Tomorrow's game reminds you a lot of last year's, without all of the Notre Dame turnovers

I have no earthly idea who is going to win this game. I don't even have any criteria in which to make an educated guess. I got nothing.

That said...Michigan 21 Notre Dame 20

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