Eleven points? Michigan over Notre Dame by 11 points? You’ve got to be kidding, right?

That’s what the Vegas experts are predicting for this classic battle, and believe it or not, if the Irish aren’t able to run the football consistently, it could be a lot more by the end of the game.

Michigan passing offense vs. Notre Dame passing defense: Michigan coach Lloyd Carr loves to run the football, and he’ll do it plenty against the Irish. The problem? Notre Dame excels at shutting down its opponent’s running attacks, as it held Washington State to 55 yards on 31 carries last week. Expect the Irish to pack eight in the box and force Michigan’s “out of sync” passing game to get in sync right off the bat. Michigan may have to open up the running game with the pass in the first quarter in order to establish the run as the game wears on.

Michigan’s Braylon Edwards has some size over Notre Dame cornerback Vontez Duff, but can Edwards match Duff’s intensity and will to win? Edwards’ performance must be more inspired than the first two weeks.

Edge: Even.

Michigan run offense vs. Houston run defense: Michigan running back Chris Perry is determined to have a breakout game against the Irish, and his line – “the Casanova line” – feels exactly the same way. No matter how good Cedric Hilliard and the Notre Dame defensive line is – they’re really good – it will be tough for them to compete with the Michigan offensive line for four quarters.

Edge: Michigan.

Michigan passing defense vs. Notre Dame passing offense: The Michigan secondary better have played “Duck Hunt” when they were kids. If you’ve seen Notre Dame quarterback Carlyle Holiday throw a pass, you understand why. Holiday has struggled in coach Tyrone Willingham’s pro-style attack. Recruited as an option quarterback by former coach Bob Davie, Holiday has never grasped staying in the pocket and going through his reads.

The Irish have some solid wide receivers in Omar Jenkins and Maurice Stovall, who both hurt Michigan last season on play-action passes, but the Michigan secondary is much improved. With cornerbacks Markus Curry and Jeremy LeSueur handling the outside and Ernest Shazor and Marlin Jackson free to roam the field, Notre Dame will have to count on its ground game to move the ball against the Wolverines.

Edge: Michigan.

Michigan passing defense vs. Notre Dame passing offense: The Irish’s only hope to win Saturday’s game is to control the clock with running backs Ryan Grant and Julius Jones. Jones and Grant combined for 170 yards on the ground last week against the Cougars, and they’ll be facing a unproven Michigan rush defense.

The key will be Michigan’s defensive line occupying Notre Dame’s young and inexperienced offensive line so that linebackers Scott McClintock and Pierre Woods can be free to sniff out the Irish tailbacks. Notre Dame will run with some success throughout the game, but Michigan’s traditional “bend but don’t break” defense will be in full force.

Edge: Even.

Special Teams: Notre Dame boasts Duff, a senior punt returner, and Nicholas Setta, a proven senior field goal kicker. Michigan has some exciting young talent at those positions in Steve Breaston and Garrett Rivas, respectively, but there is no way Michigan has the advantage – no matter how many great punts Adam Finley pooched last week.

Edge: Notre Dame.

INtangibles: Remember last season’s 25-23 Notre Dame win that ended Michigan’s hopes of a national title? The Wolverines may say they don’t think about it, but they do. The Wolverines want to show Notre Dame that they still have the upper hand in this rivalry (Michigan leads 17-12-1), and this is more of a statement game for Michigan than it is for Notre Dame. Navarre, 1-4 in rivalry games, needs this game to get the Wolverine faithful off his back. He’ll play one of the most mistake-free games he’s ever played at Michigan.

Michigan 24, Notre Dame 10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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