ND/Michigan Preview

The Irish defense, led by Manti Te'o, attempt to stop Denard Robinson in last year's game (Getty Images)

This past weekend was a disappointment to say the least.  While I had predicted that the game would be too close for comfort at points, I never could have imagined that we’d cough the ball up five times, drop passes everywhere, and have a QB controversy not even a week after Crist was named the starter.

However, that was last week.  The game is done and no matter how bad it was, it only counts as one loss.  The sky isn’t falling.

…yet.

As I type the Irish are en-route to Ann Arbor and will take on the ever so hated Wolverines under the lights of the Big House.  It will be your featured game for the day.  College Gameday will be on hand, along with Michigan football alum Desmond Howard.  Both teams will don throwback jerseys.  All eyes will be on this game.

To add on, another disappointment has to be fresh in everyone’s mind and that would be last year’s collapse against Michigan.  A game in which the Irish started on fire and quickly saw it spiral out of control when Crist was knocked out of the game.  Rees, this year’s starter, came in and out in just a series.  Nate Montana was then called on to hold it all together.  Despite this QB craziness, Crist came back in and helped the Irish take a late lead, only to watch Denard Robinson torch the Irish on one last drive just as he had done all game.

Another collapse this time around though would be catastrophic, putting the Irish in the hole 0-2 on a season that still has BCS hopes.

Despite these dark clouds though the Irish have a lot to build on, even after last week’s disaster against USF.  Take away the turnovers and you have a stellar outing by the defense and an offense that put on a 500+ yard show.  Logic should state that if the Irish can avoid making mistakes that will make Kelly’s head explode on the sideline, the Irish should be able to handle Michigan.

But of course, there is still that persistent fear of Denard Robinson.  Fears should be somewhat eased though as Robinson did not really light up the stat sheet with a shortened game against Western Michigan.  Robinson went 9/13 for a total of only 98 yards passing and rushed for just 46.  Even playing in a shortened game, Robinson was far from taking that game over.

Instead, we should perhaps shift our fears to Fitzgerald Toussaint who had an impressive 80 yards on only 11 carries for a very stout 7.3 yards/carry.  If Michigan now isn’t a complete one man show on offense, the Irish defense could have quite a test in front of them as they can’t just zone in on Robinson.

For the Irish to be successful, the front seven will have to stop the run and force Robinson’s arm and not his (or Toussaint’s) feet beat us.  This does seem rather obvious, but considering the Wolverines ran the ball twice as much as they did passing last week, it is even more crucial.

Of course, the big question for Michigan is did their defense improve at all?  The answer seems to be no.  Western Michigan managed to put up 279 yards (just 9 less than Michigan’s total).  183 of those yards came through the air.  So yeah, that secondary that was full of holes last year…still full of holes.

The defensive line, which is usually Michigan’s strength gave up 96 yards on the ground.  However, they did not get a single sack in the game.  While there were two sacks against Western Michigan, they came in the 3rd quarter, and were claimed by Jordan Kovacs, a safety.  This is a far cry from the lines that used to give the Irish fits up front.

Much like ND/USF, one of the big stats that pops out are turnovers, and Western Michigan coughed the ball up three times.  The first was an INT that Michigan returned for a TD in which Western Michigan was 2nd and goal on Michigan’s four yard line.  Then, the Broncos coughed up a fumble which Michigan also returned for a TD.  The final turnover was another fumble that occurred right before the game got cancelled.

Turnovers that the opponent turns into points…sound familiar anyone?

If the Irish can just hold on to the damned ball, I really don’t see any reason why they can’t take this one under the lights.  Michigan was far from impressive against Western Michigan and the Irish are far more potent on both sides of the ball than the Broncos.  In fact, if the Irish truly play to potential, I don’t think this game will be close.  The defense will not give Robinson another career day on the field and this front seven can stop the run without a doubt.  The Irish should have no issue taking on a Wolverine defense that is still trying to rebuild as well.

ND should win and win big: 45-14.

But again, I can’t stress this enough: HOLD ON TO THE DAMN BALL!!!

  • Milf

    Perhaps a little overconfident? I think that you’re overvaluing our defense at this point – USF played a pretty conservative game last week, esp. in 3rd and long. They didn’t ask Daniels to win the game, which made it that much easier for our defense to get off the field in those situations. They were pretty good at attacking the edge of the defense with stretch plays and quick passes when their offense kept on schedule.

    I’d expect Michigan to try to replicate that tomorrow, as well as being more aggressive with DR running the football. I also expect a lot of misdirection from them, as well attacking our LBs with play action and bootlegs if they get their run game going.

    Also, last week a senior laden team that’s 1) been through a lot of adversity already, and 2) was well praised for their focus through fall camp, went out and completely sh*t the bed. I honestly don’t know what to expect at this point for tomorrow, but I have my doubts that one weeks’ worth of coaching will solve all ills.

    This will be a tough fight, and the first team to break 30 will probably win.