Michigan and Notre Dame both took care of business against inferior opponents in Week 1 and will now turn their attention to each other. As usual, season openers don’t really tell a whole lot since they are usually against lesser opponents and teams are shaking off the rust, working new players into the lineup, and trying to get some rhythm going without opening up too much of the playbook. This season is no different.
The two most storied programs in college football — the two winningest programs in history — will square off for the last scheduled time on Saturday night in Notre Dame Stadium and you can be sure both want to carry bragging rights into the series hiatus. Michigan has mostly dominated the rivalry in recent years, but has historically struggled in South Bend. Notre Dame opened the week as 5.5-point favorites, but do they really have that much of an upper hand? Let’s take a first look at the Irish.
|Notre Dame Statistics & Michigan Comparison|
|ND | Michigan||Rank||Opponent||Rank|
|Points Per Game||48.0 | 52.0||T22 | T15||17.0| 14.0||49 | T36|
|Rushing Yards||281 | 350||141 | 153|
|Rush Avg. Per Game||281.0 | 350.0||25 | 10||141.0 | 153.0||62 | 69|
|Avg. Per Rush||6.7 | 9.7
||3.5 | 4.2|
|Passing Yards||295 | 210||226 | 127|
|Pass Avg. Per Game||295.0 | 210.0||34 | 74||226.0 | 127.0||69 | 24|
|Total Offense||576 | 560||367 | 280|
|Total Off Avg. Per Game||576.0 | 560.0||16 | 23||367.0 | 280.0||60 | 35|
|Kick Return Average||24.5 | 36.0||T38 | 8||29.0 | 20.5||T109 | T67
|Punt Return Average||16.0 | 23.5||T22 | 12||0.0 | 0.0||T11 | T11
|Avg. Time of Possession||30:09 | 30:08||55 | 57
||29:51 | 29:52
|3rd Down Conversion Pct||46.0% | 62.0%||T53 | 15
||40.0% | 29.0%||T76 | 41|
|Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards||1-8 | 1-8
||T36 | T36
||2-5 | 2-9||T45 | T45
|Touchdowns Scored||6 | 7
||2 | 2
|Field Goals-Attempts||2-3 | 1-2||1-2 | 0-0
|Red Zone Scores||(6-6) 100% | 6-6 100%||T1 | T1
||(2-2) 100% | (2-2) 100%||T60 | T60|
|Red Zone Touchdowns||(4-6) 67% | 5-6 83%||(1-2) 50% | (2-2) 100%|
Statistically, Michigan and Notre Dame had pretty similar openers. Michigan scored four points more and allowed three points fewer, but the quality of opponent was slightly different. While both were “cupcakes”, Rice is projected to have a much better season than Appalachian State is. The Owls went 10-4 in 2013, won Conference USA, and put up a better fight against Texas A&M than they did against Notre Dame on Saturday. USA Today listed Rice at No. 62 in its college football countdown, while they had App State No. 119.
Rice’s defense allowed just two opponents to score more than 34 points last season — Texas A&M in the opener and Mississippi State in the bowl game — but Notre Dame put up 48 against them on Saturday. That’s more points than the Irish scored in a single game in all of 2013. ND did it with a balanced offense of 281 yards rushing and 295 yards passing.
Quarterback Everett Golson had a nice showing in his first game since the 2012 BCS National Championship Game. He missed all of last season due to an academic suspension, but completed 14-of-22 passes for 295 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday. He averaged 21.1 yards per completion thanks to a 75-yard touchdown pass to Will Fuller and a 53-yard touchdown pass to C.J. Prosise. Golson also rushed 12 times for 41 yards and three scores.
The rushing performance was 17 yards better than any single game last season. The Irish averaged just 151 yards on the ground in 2013 and topped 200 yards just three times with a high of 264 against Navy. On Saturday, it was a combined effort as Greg Bryant (eight carries) and Tarean Folston (12) rushed for 71 yards apiece, backup quarterback Malik Zaire ran for 58 (on two carries), Golson 41, and fullback Cam McDaniel 40.
Defensively, Notre Dame surrendered 367 total yards. Last season, the Irish allowed more than that six times, to Michigan, Oklahoma, Arizona State, Navy, BYU, and Stanford. The ND rush defense was okay, allowing 3.5 yards per carry, but the pass defense, which ranked 70th nationally last season, surrendered 226 yards.
This Notre Dame offense certainly looks more potent than last year’s thanks to the return of Golson, and he will be much improved since the last time Michigan faced him at the beginning of 2012. Time will tell whether or not the Irish defense is improved, but Gardner didn’t have much trouble with it a year ago, and the two players who did create some havoc, Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix, are gone.
|Everett Golson (QB)||12||41||3||14||3.4|
|Ben Koyack (TE)||3||51||0||28||17.0|
|Joe Schmidt (LB)||4||4||8||0-0||0-0|
|Sheldon Day (DT)||2||4||6||1-1||0-0|
|Matthias Farley (CB)||4||1||5||0.5-1||0.5-1|
|Jaylon Smith (LB)||3||0||3||1-1||0-0|
Stay tuned for more on Notre Dame in the coming days.