Notre Dame rushing offense vs. Michigan rushing defense
Notre Dame had just 105 rushing yards against San Diego State last week. That would be bad for the Fighting Irish in a normal season. Consider the Aztecs had seven injuries on the defensive line, and the Michigan defensive front should be licking its chops.
The Wolverines are giving up just 1.1 yards per carry this season. Armando Allen and Robert Hughes, Notre Dame’s top two running backs, have to hope their offensive line can find a way to control the line of scrimmage or create holes. But don’t expect that to happen.
Notre Dame passing offense vs. Michigan passing defense
Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen’s career is well-documented. He was the top quarterback recruit coming out of high school in 2007, struggled in his first season in South Bend, grew his hair out during the offseason and threw two interceptions last week. He has talented receivers in Golden Tate and Duval Kamera. The key is finding them. Last year, Clausen didn’t have enough time, getting sacked 34 times. Michigan already leads the country with nine quarterback takedowns and should get more tomorrow.
In its first two games, Michigan has been vulnerable to short passes and throws over the middle. Clausen should be able to find these spots, and missed tackles in the secondary have led to big plays in each of Michigan’s two games.
Michigan rushing offense vs. Notre Dame rushing defense
Michigan’s running game exponentially improved from Week 1 to Week 2. After gaining just 36 yards against Utah, the Wolverines ran over the RedHawks last week to the tune of 178 yards. Freshman Sam McGuffie rushed for 74 yards, while his classmate Michael Shaw also showed promise with an impressive 30-yard run. Now, the Wolverines’ younger players have to prove they can handle the pressure of playing on the road.
Notre Dame’s defense gave up 345 yards against San Diego State last weekend, and the Aztecs lost to Cal Poly the week before. Michigan should have fun with this one.
Michigan passing offense vs. Notre Dame passing defense
Michigan redshirt freshman quarterback Steven Threet is expected to start for the second week in a row, but neither he nor redshirt sophomore Nick Sheridan has been impressive enough to win the starting job outright.
Last week, against the Notre Dame secondary, San Diego State quarterback Ryan Lindley completed just 49 percent of his passes. That statistic looks a little scary for a Michigan team without an experienced quarterbacks.
Edge: Notre Dame
With Michigan’s offensive struggles this year, redshirt junior punter Zoltan Mesko has been one of the team’s most valuable players. Last week, freshman Boubacar Cissoko showed some potential as a kick returner. But it will be interesting to see how he responds to a hostile road atmosphere.
Notre Dame kicker Brandon Walker hit just half of his field goals last year as a freshman and missed his only chance last week. Allen and Tate share return duties for the Fighting Irish and can be dangerous in open space.
It’s the first time away from home this season for the Wolverines, and there will probably be some road-game jitters. But, then again, Notre Dame almost lost last week to one of the worst teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision. It looks like they really are that terrible.
Score: 13-10 Michigan