Thursday, September 20, 2012
Notre Dame-Michigan Preview
Here is the next preview in the weekly (except on bye weeks, of course) Notre Dame Football previews I write, I hope everyone enjoys it.
Notre Dame QB's: Everett Golson has completed 58 percent of his passes for 611 yards, 3 touchdowns and an interception. In addition to that, he has rushed for a pair of touchdowns as well. The redshirt freshman has won all three of his starts this season. Backups Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix have also seen playing time as well this season. Rees led the game-winning drive against Purdue that led to a field goal by Kyle Brindza, while Hendrix played in garbage time against Navy.
Notre Dame Pass Offense vs. Michigan Pass Defense: Michigan is currently 12th in the nation in pass defense, they have allowed opposing teams to complete just 51.4 percent of the passes, while allowing 157.7 yards a game this season and have only allowed 2 passing touchdowns as well. However, in spite of these numbers, Michigan has not had an interception by the defense at all this season. Golson will need to improve on his accuracy after completing under 50 percent of his passes against Michigan St. and build upon his success.
Michigan QB's: Denard Robinson has thrown for 699 yards this season with 6 touchdowns in the air, but has completed just 54.7 percent of his passes and has thrown 4 interceptions as well. Robinson also leads the team in rushing as well with an impressive 351 yards and 4 rushing touchdowns. Robinson is also averaging an impressive 8.8 yards a carry on the ground as well. His backup, Russell Bellomy, a true freshman, has also seen playing time in two games this season, but has completed zero passes (out of 2) and one of the incompletions was for an interception as well, and has 8 rushing yards on 5 carries as well.
Michigan Pass Offense vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense: Robinson is more of a running quarterback over a passing quarterback, but is capable of throwing long passes (his season long completion was for 71 yards), but his biggest threat is in the ability to run. Notre Dame has held all three opponents they have played this season to below 200 yards each. The Irish are 39th in the country and have allowed 192.3 passing yards a game and opposing quarterbacks have completed 54.9 percent of passes as well. The Irish have allowed 3 passing touchdowns on the season and have 3 interceptions. The secondary had suffered a huge blow with the season-ending injury to safety Jamoris Slaughter against Michigan St. and are the youngest and most inexperienced unit that Notre Dame has overall. Figuring out Denard Robinson isn't always easy, but his passing abilities are less of a worry in comparison to his running ability.
Notre Dame RB's: Cierre Wood returned from a two-game suspension with 10 carries for 56 yards and was big for the Irish in the clutch. Theo Riddick leads the Irish currently in rushing yards with 190 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns. George Atkinson has had the best yards a carry so far this season with 9.5 yards a carry and has 142 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns as well. With Wood back from the suspension, look for fourth-string running back Cam McDaniel to have some playing time on defense with the loss of Jamoris Slaughter with his season-ending injury.
Notre Dame Rush Offense vs. Michigan Rush Defense: The Wolverines have been horrible in the run defense department. At 107th in the nation, they have surrendered 211.3 rushing yards a game and 5 rushing touchdowns. They face a Notre Dame ground game that is deep and able to rotate players often and a quarterback in Everett Golson who has run for 2 touchdowns as well. This might be one of the best running games that Michigan faces this season as well. Look for the Irish to have one of their best games on the ground this season against the Wolverines as well.
Edge: Notre Dame
Michigan RB's: Denard Robinson may be the quarterback, but he can also be seen as another running back for Michigan as well. He has a commanding lead in the rushing department in carries, yards, yards per carry, and touchdowns. After missing the first game, Fitzgerald Toussaint is the leading running back and has 92 rushing yards on 23 carries and 1 touchdown. Vincent Smith has 53 yards and 2 touchdowns as well. In addition, Thomas Rawls has also seen playing time with 51 yards on 12 carries.
Michigan Rush Offense vs. Notre Dame Rush Defense: Notre Dame has done a great job on the ground and is 23rd in the nation in run defense. They have allowed 96.3 yards a game and are holding opponents to 3.04 yards a carry as well, and notably have not allowed a rushing touchdown either. The Irish must contain Robinson, who has had impressive games in years past. If Notre Dame contains Robinson on the ground, it will be significantly more easy to stop the running game.
Notre Dame WR's and TE's: Despite being held in check the entire game against Michigan St., Tyler Eifert still has the most receiving yards with 120 yards off 8 receptions and has a touchdown as well. Davaris Daniels also had the same situation and has 6 receptions for 119 yards on the season. TJ Jones has 9 catches for 103 yards and a touchdown, while Robby Toma also has 9 receptions for 91 yards (with a rush touchdown as well), and John Goodman had his first touchdown since in 2009 when he was a redshirt freshman. Daniels wasn't 100 percent against the Spartans, but should be more ready after being limited.
Notre Dame WR's vs. Michigan DB's: Michigan has a secondary made up starters that are upperclassmen. They have not intercepted any passes, but the defense has had 6 pass deflections on the season and none are by the defensive backs either. While the receiving unit of Notre Dame is a young one, it is still a talented one and faces a highly ranked pass defense of Michigan. This high ranking in the pass defense for Michigan is in part to playing the highest ranked rushing offense in the nation in Air Force, and thus numbers might be skewed due to facing a run based team. Look for the Irish to use Eifert more often, and continue to involve freshman like Davaris Daniels and Chris Brown for instance. It would be ideal to keep using TJ Jones and Robby Toma in the short game as it has worked very well so far this season.
Michigan WR's and TE's: Devin Gardner leads Michigan with 8 catches for 155 yards and 3 touchdowns, he also is the third-string quarterback as well and is a big target at 6'4” and 205 lbs. Jeremy Gallon has 8 receptions for 146 yards with a long of 71 yards. Devin Funchess has 6 catches for 140 yards and 2 touchdowns, while Drew Dileo has 111 yards off 4 receptions, and Roy Roundtree has 42 yards on 5 receptions.
Michigan WR's vs. Notre Dame DB's: The averages in the receptions by Michigan receivers are high (Gardner with 19.4, Gallon with 18.2, Dileo with 27.8 to name a few) and go up against a young secondary that has managed to hold opponents below 200 passing yards in each game. What the Irish need to do is prevent the big play as that was a major issue late in the 2011 edition of the Notre Dame-Michigan game. With the inexperience of the Irish secondary, despite how well they have exceeded expectations this season, it is still one of the key matchups in this game.
Notre Dame OL: The offensive line for the Irish has opened the way for 155.7 yards a game on the ground for the Irish while they average 4 yards a carry as a team. They also have allowed 8 sacks this season and 20 tackles for loss as well. The unit is an experienced one that is strongest on the left side headlined by Zach Martin and Chris Watt at left tackle and left guard. Opponents have put a little pressure as well with 8 quarterback hurries as well.
Notre Dame OL vs. Michigan DL: One area that has been difficult for Michigan is quarterback pressure with only 2 quarterback hurries and only 3 sacks overall with defensive tackle William Campbell having one sack. However, Michigan has been able to get in the backfield with 19 tackles for loss this season with defensive end Frank Clark leading in that area with 3 tackles for loss. The Irish should be able to keep Golson well protected as Michigan has had difficulty in generating quarterback pressure so far this season.
Edge: Notre Dame
Michigan OL: The Wolverines have allowed just 2 sacks by opposing teams and are paving the way for 192.3 rushing yards a game with there being 5.6 yards a carry. The unit has all upperclassmen starting for it as well with the biggest players being Taylor Lewan (6'8” 302 lbs) and Michael Schofield (6'7” 299 lbs) at offensive tackle. They had one major loss going into the season with the graduation of the Rimington Award winner and first team All-American David Molk at center as well, and now have a senior starter in Ricky Barnum.
Michigan OL vs. Notre Dame DL: The Wolverines face one of the best defensive lines in the country in Notre Dame's, the unit is headlined by a pair of sophomores in Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix III. Tuitt is currently second in the nation with an impressive 5 sacks, while Louis Nix is a force in the middle at nose tackle, the unit is deep with many young players getting time, such as true freshman Sheldon Day. The Wolverines will have quite a task on there hand with a Notre Dame defensive line that is deep and gets to the opposing quarterback with ease as well.
Edge: Notre Dame
Notre Dame DL: The defensive line has had no drop off from the loss of Aaron Lynch to transfer as it is a deep unit that Notre Dame has. Stephon Tuitt headlines the unit with 5 sacks, 5 tackles for loss, 3 quarterback hurries, a 77 yard fumble recovery for a touchdown and a forced fumble too. Louis Nix III mans the middle and has 3 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and 2 pass breakups too. Kapron Lewis-Moore provides a leadership presence too and the unit sees others play often such as Sheldon Day, Tony Springmann, and Kona Schwenke.
Notre Dame DL vs. Michigan OL: Michigan has only allowed 2 sacks, but part of that can be due to playing with a running quarterback, but the unit had lost a major player (center David Molk) to the NFL. The defensive line of the Irish will give Michigan one of the biggest challenges of the season for them, and if the Notre Dame defensive line continues to dominate as it has all season and get continuous pressure on the Michigan offensive line and Denard Robinson.
Edge: Notre Dame
Michigan DL: The unit lost many notable players like Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen to graduation and are a step down from last years edition. William Campbell leads all defensive lineman in sacks with only 1 and also leads in tackles by a defensive lineman at 12. Craig Roh is the most experienced member in this unit as well and also has half a sack this season as well.
Michigan DL vs. Notre Dame OL: The offensive line of the Irish greatly against Michigan St. after allowing 5 sacks to Purdue, and went down to just 1 sack allowed against the Spartans. The defensive line has had trouble pressuring opposing quarterbacks and is still not as experienced as the previous season's unit. If the Notre Dame offensive line protects Golson as well as they did against Michigan St. and is able to get the ground game going against a weak run defense, it will give the Irish major control over this game.
Edge: Notre Dame
Notre Dame LB's: The linebacker unit is also deep like the defensive line and gives Notre Dame one of the best front sevens in all of college football. Manti Te'o is the best player in the unit and is coming off an emotional performance against Michigan St. after losing his grandmother and girlfriend that week. Te'o leads the entire team in tackles with 30. Te'o also has a tackle for loss, interception, two pass breakups and 2 fumble recoveries. Prince Shembo had a strong game against Michigan St. as well and leads the team in quarterback hurries with 4 of them. Despite missing the first game to suspension, Carlo Calabrese has the third most tackles by a linebacker with 11. The unit became a little deeper when Danny Spond returned from injury.
Notre Dame LB's vs. Michigan: The linebackers will need to heavily account for Denard Robinson and make sure to keep him in check as well, as stopping Robinson on the ground is important as he has accounted for 351 of the 577 rushing yards by Michigan (about 60%). If they stop Robinson and if linebackers and the defensive lineman help put pressure on Robinson, it will force him to easier situations to cause turnovers as Robinson has thrown for 4 interceptions this season.
Michigan LB's: This is one of the most experienced and probably the best unit that Michigan has. It returned all three starters in Jake Ryan, Desmond Morgan, and Kenny Demens. Jake Ryan is 3rd on the team overall in tackles at 20 and has 2 tackles for loss. Desmond Morgan has 15 tackles and is 4th overall on the team, he also has 1.5 tackles for loss on top of that as well. Kenny Demens has 12 tackles on the season as well.
Michigan LB's vs. Notre Dame: While two of the starters are sophomores, they were returning starters from 2011 and give Michigan a deep and strong linebacker unit. They have to not only account for Golson, but the running game as well that has been strengthened with Cierre Wood's return to the unit. This is one of the most important matchups in the game with the deep and experienced unit that Michigan has here.
Notre Dame DB's: The defensive backs of Notre Dame have greatly exceeded expectations despite being the youngest, most inexperienced unit, and injury issues happening. They have not allowed any opponent this season to hit the 200 yard passing mark and are ranked 39th in the nation currently. However, the unit suffered a huge blow with a season-ending injury to Jamoris Slaughter in the second half of the game against Michigan St. Many young players have played, including Matthias Farley, KeiVarae Russell, and Elijah Shumate.
Notre Dame DB's vs. Michigan WR's: This will be an interesting matchup to keep an eye on, mainly due to the events of the 4th quarter in the 2011 Notre Dame-Michigan game. The receivers of Michigan have had very high yards per catch this season, and with the loss of Jamoris Slaughter along with the unit being young and lacking in experience make it one of the most important areas to keep an eye on. If the defensive backs can continue to exceed expectations as they have this season, it will be difficult for Michigan to pass on the Notre Dame secondary.
Michigan DB's: The secondary of the Wolverines can be seen as a bit of an enigma in some ways, it is the 12th ranked pass defense in the nation and is allowing 157.7 yards a game, but but they have not had a single interception this season either, and have played the 1st ranked rush offense (Air Force) and the 50th ranked rush offense notably (Alabama), so the pass defense numbers might be skewed due to playing these teams. Even Massachusetts, who is ranked 120th, had 112 rushing yards against Michigan. To also note, Massachusetts has a total of 193 rushing yards in 3 games, had 112 of the 193 rushing yards against Michigan alone.
Michigan DB's vs. Notre Dame WR's: The defensive secondary of Michigan will face an Irish receiving unit that will be stronger with a healthier Davaris Daniels and Tyler Eifert. Neither recorded receptions against Michigan St., and had injury issues against Purdue. The defensive backs will need to account for TJ Jones and Robby Toma in the short passing game, while Eifert and Daniels will be used on the longer passes and in the endzone as well. This will also be a very interesting matchup to keep on an eye on as well.
Notre Dame Kicking Game: After missing his first field goal attempt against Purdue, Kyle Brindza has made 4 in a row, including the game winner over Purdue and is 4 of 5 on the season. Ben Turk has continued to improve at punting and has punted 15 times for 623 yards with a 41.5 yard average, 5 of his punts have been fair caught, 6 inside the 20 and 4 were over 50 yards. Kyle Brindza has also been great at kickoffs with 9 of his 19 kickoffs being touchbacks as well.
Michigan Kicking Game: Brendan Gibbons is 1 out 1 in field goals and Will Hagerup is averaging 48.5 yards a punt with a long of 62, however, not a single one of his punts has been fair caught and only 1 (out of 11 total punts) has been in the 20. Matt Wile has had 9 of his 18 kickoffs go for touchbacks as well.
Stronger Unit: Notre Dame
Notre Dame Return Game: Kickoff returns have been minimal for the Irish with George Atkinson III having 3 returns for 69 yards, and Cam McDaniel taking one 25 yards. Part of this is due to the Notre Dame defense not allowing many points and 3 of the 8 kickoffs by Notre Dame opponents going for touchbacks. Davonte Neal has returned 7 punts for 28 yards this season, and the punt return unit is still a work in progress, but is improving in comparison to 2011.
Michigan Return Game: Dennis Norfleet is the primary return specialist for Michigan. He has returned 13 kickoffs for 298 yards and 1 punt for 11 yards. Jeremy Gallon has done some returning as well with 1 kickoff for 12 yards and 2 punts for 4 yards.
Stronger Unit: Even
Everything Else: Michigan has won the last 3 games against Notre Dame and all of been close wins for Michigan with late 4th quarter touchdowns as well to win the game. The Notre Dame defense has been its best in a very long time in part to a very strong front seven and a secondary that has performed much better than most would predict as well. The big thing for the defense is to contain Denard Robinson, who has had accumulated great numbers of all purpose yards in the last two games against the Irish. The Irish ought to rely a lot on the run game against a weak run defense that is among the worst in college football and rotate often between Cierre Wood, Theo Riddick, and George Atkinson III as well. Playing to the strengths on offense for Notre Dame (deep running game, short passing game with Jones and Toma, along with using Daniels, Eifert and the tight ends) will be essential to scoring points and taking control of the game. A balanced offense is important, and if the defense takes care of Denard Robinson and prevents him from running and forces him into throwing interceptions will be huge. This is Michigan's first true away game of the season (the season-opening game against Alabama was at a neutral site, and the last two games were home games for Michigan), and will be a night game on top of that. If the Irish stick to a balanced offense and take care of Robinson on defense, they will beat Michigan for the first time since 2008.
Prediction: Notre Dame 31, Michigan 14