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Posts Tagged ‘Notre Dame’

Final Look: Notre Dame

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014


Gardner vs ND(MGoBlue.com)

Last season, Michigan pulled off a big win over Notre Dame in the Big House, a performance that garnered some (premature) national championship talk. A week later, lowly Akron came to town and nearly pulled off a monumental upset. In fact, Michigan needed a last second goal line stop to stave off defeat.

This time around, Michigan heads into a matchup with lowly Miami (Ohio) with its tail between it legs, fresh off of a humiliating 31-0 defeat in South Bend. Before we fully turn our attention to Miami, let’s take one last look back at the big plays, numbers, stats, and observations from Michigan’s loss last Saturday.

Three key moments

Typically, this will feature three big moments that helped Michigan win the game, but that doesn’t mean they will always be positive. In the case of Saturday’s loss to Notre Dame, there isn’t much positive to glean, so here are three key moments that shaped the game.

1. Matt Wile’s missed field goals

Notre Dame won the coin toss and elected to receive, thinking that they could set the tone of the game by marching down the field and scoring. But Michigan’s defense held firm and forced a punt. The Michigan offense took the field full of confidence and wasted no time moving the chains. On the second play, Devin Gardner hit Devin Funchess for 12 yards. On the next play, Dennis Norfleet rambled 13 yards and Michigan was already to midfield. Michigan converted a fourth down and then Funchess caught a seven-yard pass at the ND 30. But the drive stalled there as a pass to Norfleet lost two, and on 3rd-and-5, Derrick Green picked up three. Matt Wile trotted onto the field to attempt a 46-yard field goal to give Michigan an early three-point lead. But it missed wide right. Notre Dame answered with an eight-play, 71-yard touchdown drive to take an early 7-0 lead.

Matt Wile's missed field goals on Michigan's first two drives were demoralizing in a tough road environment (MGoBlue.com)

Matt Wile’s missed field goals on Michigan’s first two drives were demoralizing in a tough road environment (MGoBlue.com)

Michigan got the ball back, and on the third play, Gardner found Funchess for 27 yards to get into Irish territory again. On first down from the ND 34, center Jack Miller false started, moving Michigan back five yards. Three plays later, Michigan faced 4th-and-6 instead of 4th-and-1, so Wile came in to attempt another field goal, this time from 48 yards out. His plant foot slipped and the kick never had a chance. Six points left on the field.

Notre Dame didn’t score on its next possession, instead punting it back to Michigan, but this time the offense was unable to string together a drive. We will never know how the game would have changed had Wile made those two field goals, but Michigan would have at the very least led 3-0, trailed 7-3, then pulled within 7-6 early in the second quarter. In reality, it snowballed from there and Michigan’s offense that moved the ball fairly well on its first two possessions went into desperation mode. Even after the Irish scored again, heading into the half down 14-6 would have been much more manageable, until…

2. Notre Dame’s third touchdown

After Notre Dame went up 14-0, Michigan got a seven-yard run by Norfleet on the first play of its ensuing possession. But then the Devin Gardner tuck rule that wasn’t the tuck rule fumble occurred and Michigan lost 12 yards. Facing 3rd-and-20, Nussmeier elected to go the safe route with a Justice Hayes draw that gained 10. Michigan punted back to Notre Dame.

A 12-yard punt return gave the Irish possession on their own 44 with 1:24 remaining in the half. A few plays later, on 3rd-and-1 at the Michigan 24, Golson lofted a perfect pass into the end zone and William Fuller leapt over Blake Countess for the touchdown. That play was essentially the death blow. At halftime, trailing 21-0, the game felt completely insurmountable. Had that pass gone incomplete and Michigan held ND to a field goal, 17-0 would have somehow felt better. And had Michigan made its two field goals, 17-7 would have felt even better, especially since Michigan was getting the ball to start the second half. But that’s a lot of ifs.

3. Gardner’s first interception

While the 21-0 halftime lead felt more like 49-0 because Michigan’s offense hadn’t put up any points and the defense was allowing Golson to pick it apart, there was still a sliver of hope for most Michigan fans because of the comebacks the Wolverines have pulled off against the Irish in recent years. But that was all dashed when Gardner was picked off on the fifth play of the third quarter.

Michigan had picked up a first down on a nine-yard Gardner run and a two-yard Derrick Green run. Gardner then ran for six yards, but on second down, Green was tackled for a three-yard loss, setting up 3rd-and-7 at the Michigan 39. Gardner dropped back to pass and fired across the middle for tight end Khalid Hill, but safety Max Redfield stepped in front and picked it off. He returned it 17 yards to the Michigan 38, and although the Michigan defense forced ND to punt, the Irish downed the punt at the 2-yard line. The interception flipped field position and it paid off for the Irish on their next drive as they punched it in for a 28-0 lead.

Given the ifs above, and if Gardner hadn’t thrown that interception and instead Michigan scored, it could have been 17-13 and we would have had a ball game. But again, if there are that many ifs in a game, you’re not going to win, especially on the road against a good opponent.

The numbers game

365: Michigan’s consecutive games without being shutout, dating back to Oct. 20, 1984, prior to last Saturday’s 31-0 loss at Notre Dame

24-17-1: Michigan’s all-time record against Notre Dame

172: The number of passes Devin Gardner had thrown since his last interception on Nov. 3, 2013 against Michigan State

9: Devin Gardner’s rank on Michigan’s career completions list, passing Steve Smith

Drive Chart
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*Hover over team initials to see drive statistics, Dash indicates direction of drive, Green dash = scoring play, Grey = punt, Red = turnover, Pink = missed field goal, Black = end of half

Vote for the performance of the game

Obviously it was a putrid performance all around, but hey, let’s vote for Michigan’s top performance of the game!
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Big Ten power rankings: Week 2

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014


Power Rankings_header

It was a dreadful week for the Big Ten as a conference, as the top teams crumbled against strong competition and the rest of the teams struggled against weak teams. Purdue and Northwestern both fell to MAC schools and Iowa barely escaped Ball State. Nebraska, Illinois, and Maryland were favored by multiple scores but all only won by a single possession. At night the conference’s supposed top three teams lost by a combined 64 points in a week that may have eliminated the Big Ten from playoff contention.

East Division
1. Penn State (2-0, 0-0) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat Akron 21-3 This Week: Sat at Rutgers, 8pm, Big Ten Network

What could be better than crushing Akron to move to 2-0 on the season for Penn State? How about learning that, after an offseason resigning themselves to literal championship irrelevance, the team will be eligible to play in the postseason after all? The news comes for a Penn State team that looks dangerous behind sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg and could make a run at the East Division crown.

2. Michigan State (1-1, 0-0) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #3 Oregon 27-46 This Week: Bye (9/20 vs Eastern Michigan)

Very few teams in the country have the talent to beat Oregon on its own turf, and Michigan State is not one of those groups. But that doesn’t mean the Spartans can’t make a run at the first college football playoff. Losing by 19 points should never satisfy a fan base that hopes to support an elite program, but Michigan State certainly looked like the class of the Big Ten when it led 27-18 in Autzen.

3. Maryland (2-0, 0-0) – Up 4
Last Week: Beat South Florida 24-17 This Week: Sat vs West Virginia, 12pm, Big Ten Network

After demolishing James Madison in Week 1, Maryland still had everything to prove in its first year as a member of the Big Ten conference. On Saturday it was more of the same as the Terrapins went on the road and beat a South Florida team that finished 2-10 last season.

4. Indiana (2-0, 0-0) – Up 2
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat at Bowling Green, 12pm, ESPNU

Scheduling a bye may have been the best possible move for Indiana in a week when nearly every Big Ten powerhouse lost by more than 10 points. The Hoosiers go on the road to face Bowling Green this week before a big matchup in Missouri.

5. Rutgers (2-0, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Howard 38-25 This Week: Sat vs Penn State, 8pm, Big Ten Network

Following a huge road win in Washington State to bring in the new season, Rutgers struggled with Howard when it returned back home. In the end, four touchdown passes from Gary Nova was enough to move Rutgers to 2-0.

6. Ohio State (1-1, 0-0) – Down 2
Last Week: Lost to Virginia Tech 21-35 This Week: Sat vs Kent State, 12pm, ABC/ESPN2

Week 1 against Navy was just a fluke, right? Unfortunately for Urban Meyer, his team proved that notion wrong on Saturday night when Virginia Tech walked into the Horseshoe and stomped his Buckeyes 35-21. J.T. Barrett was 9 for 29 with three interceptions in what turned out to be a disastrous performance. Would Ohio State be the best team in the conference with Braxton Miller? It’s certainly possible, but without the former Heisman candidate the team is revealing massive holes at more than just backup quarterback.

7. Michigan (1-1, 0-0) – Down 5
Last Week: Lost to #16 Notre Dame 0-31 This Week: Sat vs Miami (Ohio), 3:30pm, Big Ten Network

In the final matchup with Notre Dame on Saturday night, Michigan proved how much a team can change over the course of a week. After a nearly perfect showing against Appalachian State in the opener, the team completely collapsed in South Bend. Doug Nussmeier’s offense posted the school’s first scoreless effort in 30 years while Greg Mattison’s ‘more aggressive defense’ sat back and let Everett Golson pick it apart like a thoracic surgeon. One loss can’t derail an entire season, but the 31-0 shelling fans witnessed Saturday is as close as it gets. Brady Hoke’s best road win in four seasons at Michigan is over an Illinois team that finished 7-6 after scraping out a victory in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in 2011. Nothing short of wins in East Lansing or Columbus should save this coaching staff.

West Division
1. Minnesota (2-0, 0-0) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Middle Tennessee 35-24 This Week: Sat at TCU, 4pm, Fox Sports 1

Minnesota’s presence atop the West Division standings says more about the rest of the conference than it does about the Golden Gophers. Minnesota has played two cupcake opponents at home, but through Week 2, beating those teams by double digits is enough to earn the top spot.

2. Wisconsin (1-1, 0-0) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat Western Illinois 37-3 This Week: Bye (9/20 vs Bowling Green)

Blowing a 17-point lead to LSU on the national stage almost came back to bite Wisconsin again, as it led Western Illinois just 9-3 at halftime. But the Badgers came back in the second half and scored 28 unanswered points and are the obvious favorite in the West Division.

3. Nebraska (2-0, 0-0) – Down 2
Last Week: Beat McNeese State 31-24 This Week: Sat at Fresno State (0-2), 10:30, CBS SN

Nebraska highlights a host of teams that struggled to beat inferior opponents on Saturday. McNeese State fought the Cornhuskers to the bitter end in Lincoln, losing by just a touchdown.

4. Illinois (2-0, 0-0) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat Western Kentucky 42-34 This Week: Sat at Washington (2-0), 4pm, FOX

Though Illinois beat Western Kentucky by only eight points, quarterback Wes Lunt has emerged as a leader of the offense. Lunt has thrown for 741 yards and seven touchdowns through his first two weeks.

5. Iowa (2-0, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Ball State 17-13 This Week: Sat vs Iowa State (0-2), 3:30pm, ESPN

Iowa was a popular pick to challenge Wisconsin for the West Division title at the beginning of the season, but two poor showings have buried that belief despite a 2-0 start for the Hawkeyes. Ball State nearly upset Iowa in Iowa City, but fell just four points short.

6. Purdue (1-1, 0-0) – Down 3
Last Week: Lost to Central Michigan 17-38 This Week: Sat vs #11 Notre Dame, 7:30pm, NBC

Former Michigan running back Thomas Rawls shredded Purdue for 155 yards and two touchdowns as Central Michigan absolutely rolled the Boilermakers 38-17 in West Lafayette. Purdue trailed the whole game and is clearly inferior to mid-level MAC schools at this point of the season.

7. Northwestern (0-2, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Northern Illinois 15-23 This Week: Bye (9/20 vs Western Illinois)

Two losses to start the 2014 season have left Northwestern with a 2-9 record since the middle of last season as the program continues to unravel underneath Pat Fitzgerald. The Wildcats are the only team in the conference without a win.

Egg Laid: Notre Dame 31 – Michigan 0

Sunday, September 7th, 2014


Gardner hit vs ND(Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images)

The main storyline coming into Saturday’s primetime showdown between Michigan and Notre Dame was the series between two of college football’s most historic programs coming to an end. But it was the end of another streak that hurt the most.

For 30 years and 365 consecutive games, from the final five years of Bo Schembechler’s tenure, through Gary Moeller, Lloyd Carr, and yes, even Rich Rodriguez, Michigan had managed to put at least a safety on the scoreboard. But a year after Brady Hoke accused Notre Dame of chickening out of the series, it was his Wolverines that laid an egg.

Michigan entered Notre Dame Stadium looking to win for the fifth time in the last six meetings, but left with its worst loss and first shutout in series history, 31-0.

After forcing a Notre Dame punt to start the game, Michigan’s offense got to work, efficiently marching from its own 23 to Notre Dame’s 29. The drive stalled there and Matt Wile missed a 46-yard field goal. Notre Dame seized the momentum, driving 71 yards in eight plays for the game’s first score, a one-yard Cam McDaniel run.

Michigan responded with a nice drive that once again stalled just before the Irish red zone. Wile’s 48-yard field goal attempt was blocked, and suddenly an offense that gained 92 yards on its first two possessions had no points to show for it. Two possessions later, Notre Dame hit pay dirt again, this time through the air as Everett Golson found Amir Carlisle from a yard out.

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Final Stats
Michigan Notre Dame
Score 0 31
Record 1-1 2-0
Total Yards 289 280
Net Rushing Yards 100 54
Net Passing Yards 189 226
First Downs 18 20
Turnovers 4 0
Penalties-Yards 5-50 3-20
Punts-Yards 4-170 6-230
Time of Possession 33:04 26:56
Third Down Conversions 4-of-13 7-of-15
Fourth Down Conversions 1-of-2 1-of-1
Sacks By-Yards 1-16 2-16
Field Goals 0-for-2 1-for-1
PATs 0-for-0 4-for-4
Red Zone Scores-Chances 0-of-0 4-of-4
Full Box Score

That’s the way the rest of the night went: Notre Dame methodically picking apart Michigan’s defense and Michigan’s offense unable to find an answer. By the time halftime mercifully came, Michigan had dug itself a 21-point hole that on the stat sheet felt closer, but in reality felt more like 50.

As the second half began, the glimmer of hope that the coaching staff could find an adjustment that would turn things around faded into depression as Devin Gardner was intercepted five plays in. The defense held strong despite Notre Dame starting at Michigan’s 38, but ND punter Kyle Brindza stuck a punt at the two-yard line. It felt like a dagger.

Michigan punted it back and the Irish responded with a  12-yards touchdown pass from Golson to Carlisle. The downward spiral continued as Gardner fumbled on the next possession and threw an interception on the following.

By the fourth quarter, Michigan fans were relegated to simply rooting for the points-scored streak to continue, but it wasn’t so. The Wolverines’ offense, in its second game under new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, failed to reach the Notre Dame red zone and only crossed midfield on four of 11 possessions.

Michigan out-gained Notre Dame 289 to 280, but routinely gave up good field position and the Irish capitalized. Michigan held Notre Dame to just 54 yards rushing on 31 attempts (1.7 yards per carry), but surrendered 226 yards through the air.

After starting 6-of-6 in the first quarter, Gardner finished the game 19-of-32 for 189 yards and three interceptions. Devin Funchess caught nine passes for 107 yards, while Jehu Chesson caught three for 30. Michigan managed 100 yards rushing on 35 attempts (2.9 yards per carry), led by De’Veon Smith’s 31 yards on seven carries (4.3) and Derrick Green’s 28 yards on 13 carries (1.9).

All-in-all, it was a nightmare in every sense of the word as Notre Dame carries the bragging rights into the indefinite series hiatus, Michigan’s 30-year scoring streak came to an end, and it suffered some injuries in the process that could affect the rest of the season.

Raymon Taylor left the game in the first half and reportedly left the stadium in a leg cast. Funchess went down in the fourth, and although he came back in for the final series, he was noticeably limping and also reportedly left the stadium in a boot. Frank Clark had his right arm in a cast and Michigan played the entire game without Desmond Morgan and Jabrill Peppers.

It’s no secret that Hoke doesn’t discuss injuries, and he stressed that in the post game press conference, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that his time in Ann Arbor is ticking down. He by and large managed to avoid true hot seat talk through the offseason and could have quelled it with a promising season, but after Saturday’s goose egg in South Bend, it’s hard to find a believer anymore. He’s now 7-12 away from the Big House and 6-9 in true road games, and with road trips to East Lansing and Columbus still to come, he may need to win one or both to keep his job.

But as disheartening as Saturday’s performance was, let’s keep it in perspective. Michigan is now 1-1 and still has 10 games left to play. Conference play hasn’t yet started, so the team’s number one goal — to win the Big Ten — is still there for the taking. That doesn’t mean it will be easy — far from it — but perhaps Hoke can use this to galvanize the team. Remember 2007 when Michigan suffered a humiliating defeat to Appalachian State and followed it up by getting thumped by Oregon, 39-7? That team pulled itself together and won its next eight, including a 38-0 beatdown of Notre Dame the very next week, and closed the season with an upset of a ninth-ranked Florida team led by Heisman trophy winner Tim Tebow.

The sting of Saturday’s loss to Notre Dame will take a while to go away, but there’s a lot of football left to play this season. We’ll find out in the weeks to come how much resolve this team has. Will it learn from its mistakes and rally the rest of the season behind its beleaguered coach? Or will it wallow in its misery and pack it in? It starts when a bird of a different feather comes to town next Saturday.

M&GB staff predictions: Notre Dame

Friday, September 5th, 2014


StaffPicks_banner

One hundred and twenty-seven years ago, Michigan traveled to South Bend and taught a group of Catholics how to play football. Tomorrow, those two schools that share such history will square off for the final scheduled time. It could be ten years, it could be more before the two all-time winningest programs rekindle the rivalry, but both will be looking to carry bragging rights into the hiatus. Here are our predictions.

Justin

When I watched and re-watched Notre Dame’s season-opening win over Rice, I came away impressed with the Irish offense. Rice is a much better opponent than Appalachian State and Notre Dame didn’t have much trouble with them. Specifically, Everett Golson is a much better quarterback than when Michigan last saw him two years go. In that game, Golson went 3-of-8 for 30 yards and two interceptions before being replaced by Tommy Rees. He spent last season away from the program due to suspension, but used that time to work with quarterback guru George Whitfield and become a better quarterback. That was on display last Saturday when he completed 14-of-22 passes for 295 yards and two touchdowns, and rushed for 41 yards and three touchdowns. Those are Devin Gardner numbers.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Notre Dame
Justin 38 33
Sam 31 26
Derick 31 27
Josh 20 27
Joe 34 28
M&GB Average 31 28

Golson showed very good arm strength and touch on deep throws as his receivers routinely beat the Rice secondary. That won’t happen tomorrow and Michigan’s game plan would be wise to keep all receivers in front of them and force Golson to hit the quick throws, which is where his accuracy struggled last Saturday.

Rice was able to move the ball fairly well against the Notre Dame defense, especially through the air. The Owls ranked 103rd nationally in passing offense last season, averaging just 178 yards per game. Against Notre Dame, Rice threw for 226 yards and had a lot of wide open receivers. Brian Kelly chalked that up to miscommunication and said it has been fixed this week, but Michigan’s receivers are much, much better than Rice’s. Unless Notre Dame defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder can keep Gardner off balance all day long, Gardner will have a big day and lead Michigan to a close victory in a high scoring affair.

Michigan 38 – Notre Dame 33

Sam

Michigan versus Notre Dame doesn’t need much of an introduction. It’s one of the biggest rivalries in the world of sports, a matchup that almost always brings bright and loud fireworks. In two days, the two old-time rivals will go at it for the last time in the foreseeable future and for the all-time college football win percentage lead (ND currently leads by an unfathomably small margin)…as if this Saturday’s game to be played at night at Notre Dame Stadium needed any more hype.

So what should we expect? Fireworks, smoke bombs, firecrackers, and then some. There has not been a runaway victory in this game for quite some time, and I don’t expect one this weekend either.

I think we will see another decently high-scoring affair, with the Devin-to-Devin connection getting things going again early before Everett Golson leads the Irish back to within striking distance and maybe the lead. If Michigan’s offensive line can make ND’s defensive front look like Appalachian State (2014 version), the Maize and Blue will roll behind Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith again. It won’t be that easy, though. In the end, I like Michigan’s front seven to apply a good deal of pressure and Michigan’s offense to have one too many weapons on one too many plays for the shaky Irish secondary to hold up. Funchess scores two more while Amara Darboh finds the end zone for the first time in a Michigan win.

Michigan 31 – Notre Dame 26

Derick

It’s tough to draw conclusions from the performances of Michigan and Notre Dame last week, but two blowout victories have set up a battle between two teams that looked nearly perfect in Week 1.

Michigan showcased a revived rushing attack that crumbled to pieces during the conference schedule in 2013. A healthy Devin Gardner complimented the running of Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith with 13 completions on 14 attempts to round out an incredibly efficient offensive attack.

If Doug Nussmeier can maintain this level of productivity from his sophomore running backs, Michigan’s offense will be nearly impossible for any team to stop.

In the final meeting between the two teams, Notre Dame will struggle to stop that offense and Michigan will come out with a slim win.

Michigan 31 – Notre Dame 27

Josh

Saturday marks the end of a classic (albeit not very often) rivalry. To be honest, I don’t blame Notre Dame for backing out; they’ve lost six of the last eight and Michigan is getting back to being Michigan. With the move to playing five ACC teams every year the Irish don’t want too many good opponents on their schedule after all.

After last week’s showing I feel better about this weekend, though not much better. If this was a home game I’d be much more confident. However, it is not and Notre Dame Stadium is a tough environment. None of Hoke’s teams have shown the ability to win on the road against decent opponents and that is a big red flag for me heading in.

A lot of the college football pundits seem to think this will be a shoot out, I don’t think so at all. Michigan’s defense is much more aggressive than last year and has the athletes to play press coverage, which will allow the front four ample opportunities to create havoc for the running backs and Everett Golson. Michigan only had two sacks and two more TFL’s against Appalachian State, that just doesn’t cut it. The Irish front will be far bigger and stronger than App State was, presenting a challenge. Michigan should be able to hold its own but I don’t think they’ll generate much pass rush or fluster Golson too much. Lack of pass rush will allow the Irish will beat the Michigan defense deep a few times and they’ll put points up on the board. Maybe not a ton, but it’ll be enough.

Devin Gardner looked really good last week, making checks at the line for protection and switching plays. But can he do it again, and against a better team? I’d love to say yes but I really have no idea if he can be consistently good. Funchess is an unstoppable monster on the outside and odds are Notre Dame will double him so Gardner needs to find that second receiver. I think it’ll be Norfleet out of the slot. But if Norfleet can’t step up and Gardner keeps forcing passes to his No. 1 guy it won’t turn out well. For me it’s basically a coin flip over which Devin Gardner shows up but on the road and I have to lean towards inconsistent, prone to turnover Gardner.

The run game, while dominant last week against a weak opponent, still concerns me. Take out the big runs for Green and his yards per carry are a paltry 3.7, which for a man of his size and (alleged) skill is completely unacceptable. De’Veon Smith showed better and has better vision so I’d be willing to bet he gets the nod as 1a, but he still lacks game breaking speed so don’t expect him to hoof it for any more 50-plus gains.

The line had some trouble creating holes against App State and I think that’ll get worse against the Irish. Graham Glasgow will play and we’ll probably see yet another starting five on the line. These guys just can’t get enough time together to jell and if you don’t know what you’re gonna get from the guy next to you it makes your job all the more difficult. Mason Cole, while admirable and fairly technically sound last week, is still just a freshman and as we saw is clearly not strong enough yet. I think he’ll get abused more than once and that could spell doom for Gardner as he is not the best at making decisions under duress. I think the Irish sack him four or five times and force at least one turnover that leads to a score.

Until this team shows me they’ve made marked improvement, can be consistently good week to week and can beat a decent opponent on the road I won’t have much confidence in them. They beat App State like they should have now comes the first test of whether this team has come together and can get it done. I’m not so sure they have and Michigan ends this rivalry with a big fat L and the “Fire Hoke” bandwagon will warm itself up.

Notre Dame 27 – Michigan 20

Joe

The “final” showdown in the storied rivalry between Notre Dame and Michigan is set for primetime on Saturday, and this contest will not be without its fair share of storylines. Fresh off of easy wins and equally impressive showings for each quarterback, each of these teams will be put to the test.  The lingering question for me is this: Which Michigan team will show up on the road? Despite Hoke’s success at home (20-2), the Wolverines have struggled away from Ann Arbor and are a disappointing 7-11. If the offensive line can buy Devin Gardner some time while opening up holes for the duo of De’Veon Smith and Derrick Green to take some pressure off of him, Big Blue will play spoiler on ND’s home turf.  I have no doubt that Michigan’s defense and special teams will step up in this one and keep it competitive, therefore, the bulk of the responsibility rests on the shoulders of the offense. This game will not be decided until the fourth quarter, so enjoy some BBQ, a cold beverage, and a Wolverines victory.

Michigan 34 – Notre Dame 28

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Links: 

For more coverage of this week’s game, see: Michigan-Notre Dame game preview; a First Look at the Irish; our Week 1 Big Ten Power Rankings; this week’s BBQ/tailgate idea, Irish Stout Pepper Beef; a Q&A with Ryan Ritter of Her Loyal Sons; and this week’s Five-Spot Challenge.

Also check out game previews from MGoBlogMaize n Brew, Maize n Blue Nation, and Touch the Banner. MGoFish provides a list of Michigan targets visiting Notre Dame tomorrow. Also, roundtable predictions from Maize n Brew.

From the other side, staff predictions from Her Loyal Sons. Spoiler: they all pick ND and most of them aren’t even close games. Also, a prediction from One Foot Down.

Michigan-Notre Dame game preview

Friday, September 5th, 2014


Game Preview_ND_banner

Although Michigan and Notre Dame have squared off only 41 times in 127 years, it has been a rivalry that just feels like it belongs in college football. But on Saturday night, when the two face off in South Bend in a nationally televised prime-time game, it’s coming to an end. And that’s a shame.

The two programs share so much in common and so much history. Michigan taught the game to Notre Dame in 1887 and won the first eight games of the series before ND finally got the best of their counterparts in 1909. It was that game that inspired one version of the story of how Notre Dame got its “Fighting Irish” nickname, when the Detroit Free Press labeled them the “Fighting Irishmen.”

Michigan canceled the scheduled 1910 rematch when it felt Notre Dame was using ineligible players, and it took 32 years and a feud between Fielding Yost and Knute Rockne, for Yost — who was then Michigan’s athletic director — to reschedule the Irish. The teams split a pair of games in 1942 and ’43, but then-Michigan coach Fritz Crisler carried on the disdain for Notre Dame, refusing to continue the series.

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Quick Facts
Notre Dame Stadium – 7:30 p.m. EST – NBC
Notre Dame Head Coach: Brian Kelly (5th season)
Coaching Record: 209-72-2 overall (38-15 at ND)
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Denbrock (1st season)
Defensive Coordinator: Brian VanGorder (1st season)
Returning Starters: 9 (5 offense, 4 defense)
Last Season: 9-4
Last Meeting: UM 41 – ND 30 (2013)
All-Time Series: Michigan leads 24-16-1
Record in South Bend: Series tied 9-9-1
Last Michigan Road Win: 2010 (0-1 since)
Last 10 Meetings:  Michigan leads 6-4
Last 5 Meetings:  Michigan leads 4-1
Current Streak: Michigan 1

Don Canham took over as athletic director when Crisler retired in 1968 and worked to resume the series. It finally did 10 years later and has been played in 30 of the last 35 years, producing great game after great game. Tomorrow will be the 31st, and while Michigan dominated the first part of the all-time series, the Wolverines hold just a 15-14-1 edge since 1978.

The two schools have similar stadiums — some say Notre Dame Stadium was copied off of Michigan Stadium, which was built three years earlier — similar academics, battle for the same recruits, iconic uniforms and fight songs, and stand first and second in all-time winning percentage. Close enough, in fact, that if Michigan wins tomorrow it will re-take the number one spot that Notre Dame recaptured at the end of last season.

Like Michigan, Notre Dame opened this season with a comfortable win last Saturday over a lesser opponent. Notre Dame’s opponent, Rice, wasn’t quite as bad as Michigan’s (Rice was ranked 62nd in USA Today’s preseason college football countdown, while Appalachian State was 119th), but the Owls did put up a fight for almost 30 minutes.

Rice pulled within 14-10 midway through the second quarter, but Notre Dame struck twice in the final three minutes of the half to break open a 28-10 halftime lead. The Irish then outscored Rice 20-7 in the second half to capture a 48-17 win. It was certainly a more impressive season opener than last season’s offensive dud against Temple.

Let’s take a look at how Michigan and Notre Dame match up.

Michigan defense vs Notre Dame offense: When Notre Dame has the ball

Last week, Notre Dame racked up 576 yards of offense against a Rice defense that ranked a very respectable 30th nationally in 2013. The Irish did it in a balanced fashion with 295 yards passing and 281 yards rushing.

Everett Golson is much improved since Michigan last saw him in 2012 (Joe Raymond, AP)

Everett Golson is much improved since Michigan last saw him in 2012 (Joe Raymond, AP)

Quarterback Everett Golson completed 14-of-22 passes for 295 yards and two touchdowns and also rushed for 41 yards and three more touchdowns. When Michigan faced Golson in South Bend two years ago he was a first-year starter running a simplified offense designed to essentially prevent mistakes because the Irish defense was so good. Now, after a year away from the program spent working with quarterback guru George Whitfield, Golson is much better and more comfortable, and Brian Kelly is able to open up the playbook. And after a slow start last week it looked good. He’s a pass-first quarterback to be sure, but Kelly is able to use him on designed quarterback draws, which is how Notre Dame scored its first touchdown, and he’s a capable runner when the play breaks down, while keeping his eyes downfield.

One of the big questions the ND offense faced heading into the season was who would step up at receiver. Sophomore William Fuller and junior C.J. Prosise answered the bell in Week 1, both contributing big plays. Fuller led the Irish with four receptions for 85 yards and a touchdown. He raced past the Rice secondary for a 75-yard touchdown grab late in the first quarter. Prosise also showed big play potential, catching a 53-yard touchdown pass at the end of the first half. The duo had just 13 catches for 232 yards and a touchdown combined last season in spot duty. Prosise did have some catching concerns in the offseason and dropped what should have been a 55-yard touchdown on Saturday.

Converted running back Amir Carlisle caught two passes for 54 yards and shares the slot duties with Prosise, while sophomore Corey Robinson, the son of NBA great David Robinson, is a tall and rangy receiver at 6’5″ and caught one pass for 25 yards. Tight end Ben Koyack looks to be the next in a long line of great Notre Dame tight ends. The 6’5″, 254-pound senior caught three passes for 51 yards on Saturday. Aside from not having a go-to receiver like Devin Funchess, this receiving corps is much like Michigan’s: inexperienced, but plenty of talent.

The running game was somewhat of a committee last weekend as Kelly is still searching for the main ball carrier. Senior Cam McDaniel got the start and rushed eight times for 40 yards, but isn’t going to wow anybody. Sophomores Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston will likely earn the most playing time as the season goes on. They both rushed for 71 yards on Saturday, but Bryant did it on eight carries, while Folston carried it 12 times. Bryant also scored a  touchdown. They are Michigan’s version of Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith.

The offensive line had to replace its left side due to the departures of Zack Martin and Chris Watt and the two replacing them, Ronnie Stanley and Conor Hanratty, only had 17 combined starts entering the season. Center Nick Martin and right guard Christian Lombard are battle tested, but sophomore right tackle Steve Elmer has started just five games, including last Saturday. Despite the shuffling, these are still talented linemen and they paved the way for 6.7 yards per carry on Saturday and allowed just one sack.

Michigan offense vs Notre Dame defense: When Michigan has the ball

In Week 1, Notre Dame’s defense held Rice to 17 points, but there are some reasons for concern for those in South Bend. Rice passed for 226 yards and had a lot of open space that new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder will need to clean up before tomorrow.

Sophomore LB Jaylon Smith is an absolute star (Robin Alam, Icon SMI)

Sophomore LB Jaylon Smith is an absolute star (Robin Alam, Icon SMI)

The defensive line lost a very good duo in Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix, who are now playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Houston Texans. The leader of the line is now junior Sheldon Day, who started eight games last season and recorded six tackles, including one for loss, on Saturday. Nix’s replacement is 6’5″, 315-pound junior Jarron Jones, who started one game last season and recorded seven tackles and a field goal block against BYU a year ago. Sophomore Isaac Rochell is the other tackle, while junior Romeo Okwara and true freshman Andrew Trumbetti, an Under Armour All-American, will share the other end spot.

Under former defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, the Irish played a 3-4 defense, but VanGorder has moved to a 4-3. The star of the linebacking corps is sophomore Jaylon Smith, the top linebacker in the country coming out of high school in 2013. He started all 13 games last season and finished third on the team with 67 tackles and second with 6.5 tackles for loss and began this season on pretty much every defensive award watch list there is. He recored three tackles, one for loss, on Saturday. Middle linebacker Joe Schmidt is a former walk-on who has waited his turn and he led the team with eight tackles on Saturday. The third linebacker is sophomore James Onwualu, who converted from wide receiver where he started against Michigan a year ago. True freshman Nyles Morgan is another guy they are excited about and recorded a pair of tackles in reserve duty in the opener.

The secondary is where the concerns lie, especially without junior cornerback KeiVarae Russell, who started 26 games the past two years, but was involved in the academic scandal. Add to that the loss of fifth-year senior safety Austin Collinsworth, who sprained his MCL, and there’s not a lot of experience on the back end. Sophomore Cole Luke and fifth-year senior Cody Riggs, a transfer from Florida, started at cornerback in the opener, while junior Elijah Schumate and sophomore Max Redfield started at safety. Riggs is the most experienced with 26 starts under his belt while at Florida, but the other had just five combined starts prior to last weekend. Matthias Farley, who started eight games at safety last season and 11 in 2012, switched to corner and will have to lead the group. They will have their hands full with Michigan’s receivers, especially Funchess, who is a matchup nightmare.

Kelly attributed some of the secondary mistakes in Week 1 to miscommunications, something he said wouldn’t have happened had Collinsworth been in. Even so, Rice ranked 103rd nationally in passing a year ago, was missing its top receiver on Saturday, and still had guys running free most of the day. Michigan will present a much tougher matchup and unless VanGorder is able to keep Devin Gardner off balance with pressure, he could have a big night.

The other third: Special teams

Senior kicker Kyle Brindza has been around forever and ranks near the top of the Notre Dame record books in nearly every kicking category. He has made 45-of-60 career field goals, including 2-of-3 last week, and is an impressive 4-of-5 from more than 50 yards. He will also be handling the punting duties for the second straight year. Last season, he averaged 41.1 yards per punt, and last week he punted three times for an average of 48 yards.

The return game was underwhelming last season, but showed some flashes last Saturday. Carlisle handles the kick returns and averaged 24.5 yards per return, while Riggs and Bryant split the punt return duties and combined to average 16 yards per return.

Prediction

I was impressed with Notre Dame’s offense against Rice, but not as impressed with their defense. What I saw leads me to believe we will be in for an offensive battle tomorrow. VanGorder will try to put pressure on Gardner and keep him from having time to pick apart the secondary, so a lot will rest on the shoulders of Michigan’s line, which surrendered a million sacks last season but held up well in Week 1. Notre Dame will be a big upgrade in competition compared to App State, but the return of Graham Glasgow should help the interior. I see a big passing day in store for Gardner, much like a year ago. Either he recreates last year’s performance with Funchess playing the part of Gallon or Notre Dame doubles Funchess making for a big day for Amara Darboh, Jehu Chesson, and Dennis Norfleet. They can’t stop them all.

On the other side of the ball, Michigan has a more talented and experienced defense than the Irish do, and that could make the difference tomorrow. Notre Dame’s receivers routinely beat Rice’s secondary and Golson didn’t have any trouble finding them. Michigan’s corners are going to play more press coverage and keep them from creating that much separation. I do think Kelly can take advantage of the aggressiveness of Michigan’s defense, especially if the linebacker issues we saw last Saturday aren’t resolved. Michigan’s defensive line will test the left side of the Irish line, so it will be up to the linebackers to contain Golson and keep him from making big plays with his feet.

When it comes down to it, I think the offenses are pretty equal and Michigan’s defense is better. This will be a back-and-forth game that stays tight throughout and will come down to whichever defense can make the big play. Gardner leads Michigan to a late lead, the defense holds down the stretch, the Wolverines take back the all-time winning percentage, and carry bragging rights into the series hiatus.

Michigan 38 – Notre Dame 33

Notre Dame Q&A with Ryan Ritter of Her Loyal Sons

Thursday, September 4th, 2014


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The past few seasons we have run a weekly feature called Friend vs Foe, in which we asked that week’s opponent blog to explain why their team will win that Saturday. We posted their response and had one of our writers answer the same question about why Michigan will win. This season, we’re changing it to simply a Q&A with the opposing blog as a way of making it more focused and getting some more questions answered. This week, we invited back Ryan Ritter of Her Loyal Sons to provide his thoughts. You can follow him on Twitter at @TXirish.

1. Are you sad to see the rivalry come to an end? Personally, I love the rivalry and wish it would never end, but I know some on both sides of the rivalry feel we each have other bigger rivalries. How do you feel?

In all honesty, yes, I am. I enjoy hate week, even if I do consider Southern Cal our biggest annual rivalry came. I won’t lie though, the prospects of being able to play teams like Texas and Georgia in the future early in the season is incredibly exciting so there will likely be moments were I won’t really miss the game that much.

Still, I’m hoping that college football will adjust to the point that schedules can get a bit more flexible, especially in the B1G. That nine-game conference slate makes out of conference scheduling nearly impossible, especially since Delany wants all conference games at the end of the schedule. Combine that with our eight-game “conference” schedule (5 ACC, Sothern Cal, Stanford, Navy), and something had to give. Michigan State and Purdue have caught the short end of this stick as well and I’m all kinds of shocked that Ohio State managed to squeeze us in (their future schedules are all kinds of ridiculous right now).

2. The recent suspensions didn’t have an impact in Week 1, but what’s your take on it? Will ND feel their absence more this week and as the season goes on, or is it really not that big of a deal?

Any time a starter goes out, it’s a big deal. Any time depth is lost, it’s a big deal. While Notre Dame thankfully has some talent to take over for the big losses, KeiVarae Russell (CB) and DaVarias Daniels (WR), Notre Dame does have some solid talent to fill back in. The Russell suspension looms largest, especially with safety Austin Collinsworth lost for most of the season to a knee injury.

I’m hopeful the academic investigation wraps up soon so we know the final verdict for all five players involved. Not knowing the length of suspension for each has been brutal.

3. How does the offense differ this season with Golson instead of Rees?

Night and day. Notre Dame under Everett Golson is the kind of offense that Brian Kelly wants to run. Kelly depends very, very heavily on his QBs and practically requires a dual threat for his offensive scheme to reach it’s full tempo.

The no-huddle is backed, and increased tempo is back, and the read option is back. Most importantly, Golson has the ability to extend plays for potential big gains as he did against Rice. To put it another way, you remember what Denard Robinson and Devin Gardner have done to us in the past? That’s what Golson can bring to the table.

4. Michigan moved the ball pretty well against ND last season and then fell apart the rest of the season. With only a handful of returning starters on the ND defense, do you foresee Michigan doing the same? What has changed with has the switch to the 4-3 and the new defensive coordinator?

Last season was such a weird outlier for Bob Diaco’s usual “bend don’t break” defensive scheme. Last year, he decided to blitz like crazy and contain of Gardner went right out the window at the worst possible times.

Ironically enough, Brian VanGorder brings that very style to the table for the Irish. In reality, what VanGorder has shown this season looked a lot like what Michigan threw at App State. You’ll see a lot of blitzes, lots of bump and run coverage, and possibly even the potential for some huge plays should things go awry with this young defense.

Despite the loss of so many starters, ND might surprise you, especially in the play of the front seven (I know I certainly was this past week). However, the secondary is the biggest question mark due to the injuries and suspensions. If there is an obvious potential weakness to exploit, it would be the secondary, in my opinion. And it really isn’t due to lack of talent, but more so because they are required to do so much and their mistakes are the most costly.

Will history repeat itself? I’m honestly not sure. While Diaco’s blitz-happy gameplan was completely out of character last year, VanGorder has the entire defense completely bought in to this style of play. Mistakes should hopefully be fewer, but if the Irish blow contain once again, it’ll be a long night.

5. Is there anything you’re particularly worried about in this matchup?

Two things. First, as I’ve mentioned multiple times, the Irish secondary. The second is how Everett Golson will react to the aggressive Michigan defense. If Golson can handle the blitzing attack, I think there is a very real potential that he could have one hell of a performance, the likes of which ND fans haven’t seen against Michigan in ages.

6. What’s your prediction? Who will win, score, and why?

I see two potential outcomes. The first is what we’ve typically seen the past few years: a one possession game that comes down to the wire.

The other outcome I see is the one in which Golson is able to exploit an aggressive defense much like Robinson and Gardner have done to ND in the past. In this scenario, the Irish win rather comfortably in a two possession game. Notre Dame, under VanGorder is actually able to pull of the blitzing attack that Diaco failed to do last season.

Now, this is the last time I’ll be able to predict this game for quite a while, so I might as well go full homer and go with the later: 34-20 Irish.

Tailgate Tuesday: Irish stout pepper beef

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014


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Tailgate Tuesday is our exclusive collaboration with Joe from MmmGoBluBBQ. These will be posted each Tuesday throughout the season and each recipe will be themed around that week’s opponent.

Previously: Hot-’n-Fast pulled pork with Carolina mustard slaw.

Now that we’ve got that Mountaineer monkey off our back, it’s time to start focusing on those “Fighting Irish” in Week 2. Since I have a few Guinness Extra Stouts leftover from last week’s drink recipe, let’s put em to good use in this version of Pepper Stout Beef. This was not only easy, but could be my new favorite sandwich. It combines everything I love when tailgating: meat, peppers, onions and beer. Find something in that combo that is not good.  I dare ya.  It’s not only tasty, but very versatile and freezes well. I love it on a toasted ciabatta roll, but could also be served on sourdough, hawaiian bread, french rolls, tortillas or even regular hamburger buns. This is perfect for a night game as it takes about six hours to complete. Here’s what you will need.

Ingredients:

• 4-5 lb chuck roast
• 3 bell peppers. (I used three: one red, one green and one yellow)
• 4 jalapeños (I like it hot, but use two for less heat)
• 1 large red onion
• 6 garlic cloves (crushed)
• 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
• 12-oz bottle of Guinness Extra Stout
• Kosher salt and pepper

Directions:

Start with a four-pound chuck roast and trim a little of the extra fat. If there isn’t any extra, your ready to season it up. What a beautiful hunk of meat. Cover the chuck roast with salt and pepper mix. I love pepper, so I went extra heavy in this area. It adds a nice crust once the roast has been on the smoker or grill for a few hours.

Pepper beef 1-2

Smoke the roast at 275 for about three hours with three chunks of hickory wood (three per hour). Hickory is the perfect wood for red meat.

While the roast is on the smoker/grill, it’s a good time to assemble to the other ingredients.

Cut up the peppers, onions, jalapeños and garlic and add to an aluminum pan along with the Worcestershire sauce and Guinness. Mix ‘em up and let them wait for the meat.

Pepper beef 4-5

After three hours and once the meat reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees, it’s time to take the meat out of the smoker. The higher temp will add a nice crust to the meat along with a pink ring of smokiness.

I want to dig in now, but we are still three hours away from tasty goodness. Don’t worry, it’s a night game, so we have plenty of time. At 165 degrees, its time to add the meat to the veggies. Add the meat and foil tightly.

Pepper beef 6-7-8

Crank up the smoker/grill to 350 degrees and let go for another three hours. Since we are done with the smoke, we can even throw it in the oven at this point. This will make the meat super tender and keep the juices in. After about three hours, give it a look. The meat should be fork tender and the veggies will be soft and juicy. If you don’t have a set of Meat Rakes, get some to help shred. This is one of my favorite BBQ tools. They do a great job shredding and pulling pork and beef. Go ahead and shred and mix it up.

Once the meat and veggies are all mixed up, its time to put everything back in the 350 degree smoker/grill/oven (UNCOVERED) for about 30 minutes until the juice reduces by half. This will help it thicken up.

Pepper beef 9-10

After 30 minutes, it should look like this. Grab a ciabatta, tortilla, french roll or just a fork and go to town.

I went with a ciabatta roll for this one. I had some horseradish sauce in the fridge and decided to add this to the toasted roll.

This is one of my faves! It makes a great sandwich and freezes well. I look forward to making a few PSB tacos, burritos and quesadillas in the near future. This is a WINNER!!! Please let me know how your version turns out. ENJOY and GO  BLUE!!!

Pepper beef 11-12

The original version was done by Larry at The Wolfepit. Add it to your BBQ list.
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This week’s drink: Stout Shout

• 2-oz Chocolate Vodka
• 1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
• 1 Tbsp Simple Syrup
• 6-oz Irish Stout (Guinness)
• Ice Cubes

To prepare simple syrup, add 1/4 cup sugar to 1/4 cup water and boil in the microwave for about four minutes or until sugar dissolves. Chill in the fridge for a few hours.

Combine vodka, lemon juice, and syrup in drink shaker. Add ice cubes and shake (the shaker, not you). Strain into chilled mug and add guinness. Enjoy!!!

Stout ShoutFor more great recipes, photos, and barbecue ideas, follow Joe on Twitter at @mmmgoblubbq. And don’t forget to check out his site, MmmGoBluBBQ, for recipes, product reviews, and more.

First Look: Notre Dame

Monday, September 1st, 2014


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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
NDMichigan Rank Opponent Rank
Points Per Game 48.0 | 52.0 T22 | T15 17.0| 14.0 49T36
Rushing Yards 281350 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 295210 226 | 127
Pass Avg. Per Game 295.0210.0 34 | 74 226.0 | 127.0 69 | 24
Total Offense 576560 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 30:0930:08 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 2-31-2 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%
Everett Golson recorded five touchdowns in the opener (Brian Spurlock, USA Today Sports)

Everett Golson recorded five touchdowns in the opener (Brian Spurlock, USA Today Sports)

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.

Key Players
Passing Comp-Att Yards TD INT Long
Everett Golson 14-22 295 2 0 75
Rushing Attempts Yards TD Long Average
Greg Bryant 8 71 1 17 8.9
Tarean Folston 12 71 0 19 5.9
Everett Golson (QB) 12 41 3 14 3.4
Receiving Receptions Yards TD Long Average
Will Fuller 4 85 1 75 21.2
Amir Carlisle 2 54 0 32 27.0
Ben Koyack (TE) 3 51 0 28 17.0
C.J. Prosise 1 53 1 53 53.0
Defense Solo Assisted Total Tackles TFL-Yds Sacks-Yds
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
Full Stats

Stay tuned for more on Notre Dame in the coming days.

Five-Spot Challenge 2014: Notre Dame

Monday, September 1st, 2014


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Congratulations to the first Five-Spot Challenge winner of the season, BigHouseBrandon. His deviation of 141 blew away the field, 104 points better than second-place tooty_pops. BigHouseBrandon was a two-time winner last season, winning the Penn State and Ohio State weeks. In Week 1, he was the closest to Michigan’s rushing total (350), just 35 yards away. His prediction of 25 yards was the closest to Jabrill Peppers’ total return yards (six). He was also consistent on the other three questions, and he wins a $20 M Den gift card.

Tooty_pops was just two away from Devin Gardner’s passing yards (173), while Chris12qb was the closest to correctly predicting Appalachian State’s total yards (280), just five away, and Michigan’s longest field goal made (18 yards), just 12 away. He came in fourth in Week 1, just two points behind last year’s season-long winner, Maizenblu62, who had a total deviation of 266. Only one contestant, MichiganMack, underestimated Gardner’s total passing yards. Everyone else thought he would throw for more. No one predicted Michigan to rush for as many yards as they did. In fact, after last season’s rushing performance, the average prediction was just 212 yards. Everyone also overestimated Peppers’ total return yards, though his injury and the fact that he didn’t play the second half limited his chances.

UOfMWhitson was the closest to correctly predicting the final score, just three points short on Michigan’s end with a prediction of 49-14. The average score prediction of the 22 contestants this week was Michigan 44 – Appalachian State 10. Click here for the full Week 1 results.

This week, Michigan travels to South Bend for the final scheduled showdown with Notre Dame. The Irish looked impressive in beating Rice 48-17 on Saturday. Quarterback Everett Golson threw for 295 yards and two touchdowns and also rushed for three more scores.

Here are this week’s questions:

M&GB season preview roundtable

Friday, August 22nd, 2014


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It has become our tradition at the beginning of each season to preview the upcoming season via a staff roundtable. We answer several questions with our predictions and expectations for what the season will bring. Drew has moved on, but we still have Justin, Sam, Derick, and Josh. We also invited our partner at MmmGoBluBBQ, Joe, to join us for the roundtable. We also invite you to give your answers in the comments below. Tell us what you agree with or disagree with. Next week we will begin our game week coverage.

What are you most excited about this season?

Justin: I’m most excited about what should be a very good defense. With so much talent and experience returning, it should be one of the top defenses in the Big Ten and may have to carry the team, at least in the early going. The best Michigan teams in recent history have featured stifling defenses — most notably 1997 and 2006 — and I think I can speak for most Michigan fans when I say I miss the days of Michigan having a dominating defense. It’s a major stretch to say this year’s unit could be as good as the 1997 one, but anywhere close would make for a very good season.

Michigan's defense won't be as good as the 1997 version, but it is one to be excited about

Michigan’s defense won’t be as good as the 1997 version, but it is one to be excited about

With most of the big questions on the offensive side of the ball, the defense is going to need to be very good, and if it is we have two recent examples that could foreshadow the upcoming season: Notre Dame in 2012 and Michigan State in 2013. Notre Dame’s offense ranked 80th nationally in scoring, 38th in rushing, and 72nd in passing that year but still made it to the national title game thanks to its defense. Last season, Michigan State’s offense ranked 63rd in scoring, 59th in rushing, and 84th in passing but still won the Big Ten and the Rose Bowl thanks to its defense. I’m excited for the possibility that Michigan’s defense, which should be more aggressive this fall, could carry the Wolverines to a special season.

Sam: I’m most excited about…football! After last year’s dreadful, seemingly never-ending season, I never thought I’d be so excited to see the Maize and Blue on the field just a season later, but I suppose hope reigns eternal right now. As far specific excitement about this team goes, I am really looking forward to seeing the whole defense working to live up to its enormous expectations. Every single position has an extremely strong two-deep, and every unit has at least one potential game-changer. With names like Frank Clark, Jake Ryan, James Ross III, and Jabrill Peppers, there’s no telling how good this defense could be. A consistent pass rush could mean a top-10 or even top-five defense nationally.

Derick: The most exciting storyline has to be the beginning of Jabrill Peppers‘ career in Ann Arbor. The No. 2 overall recruit has a chance to be a difference maker on defense and revive a kick return game that has been dormant since Steve Breaston left Michigan.

Josh: The defense and its personnel and scheme changes. I’d much rather see an aggressive, menacing defense with an average offense than an average defense with a high octane/high scoring offense. Luckily for Michigan it appears as though we just might get that menacing defense in 2014. That is something to be very excited about after we had to watch last year’s ‘bend but don’t break’ defense sit back and give up big gain after big gain.

Joe: I have a feeling that Coach Nussmeier will focus on building a strong run game with Green and Smith and help control the ball a little more than in recent years. Michigan has the horses to build an above avg. run game with these 2 and it will be fun to see if we can get back to a little smash mouth football at the big house. I’m also looking forward to some great BBQ on “Tailgate Tuesdays”.

What worries you most entering the season?

Justin: Okay, so this question is pretty rhetorical this year. The offensive line has to be the answer after last year’s meltdown and the loss of Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield. If it’s as bad as last season, even a high-caliber defense won’t save the team. But I really don’t think it will be. Do I expect it to be a mauling, classic Michigan offensive line? Absolutely not. But I do think it will be more cohesive than last season and more sound with a simplified playbook. Even so, until we see it in action, the worry is there.

The huge question obviously lies with Erik Magnuson and the rest of the line (Matthew O'Haren, USA Today Sports)

The huge question obviously lies with Erik Magnuson and the rest of the line (Matthew O’Haren, USA Today Sports)

Sam: If anyone’s biggest concern at this point is not the offensive line, he or she may want a quick crash course in foot-ball (American style). I can say with a straight face that Michigan has some sort of chance of having a First Team All-Conference player at every single position on the field (yes, this is still optimistic, but it’s at least feasible in some universe) besides the offensive line, where Michigan may not have a single Third Team-caliber performer, feasibly. The line is replacing two senior tackles who will most likely start one day in the NFL; even with those stars, Michigan’s big uglies up front last year were atrocious. Most people have been taking the glass-half-full approach in saying that there’s no way it can get any worse; it’s hard for me to look at the names on paper and wonder how in the world it could get any better.

Derick: After watching the spring game and the ‘Under the Lights’ scrimmage, how can the offensive line not be the No. 1 concern? Michigan’s defensive line was average for much of 2013, but looked like an elite unit against their offensive teammates. If Doug Nussmeier can’t improve this group, it won’t matter how much Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith have progressed.

Josh: The entire offense. They say that on defense 10 guys can fail as long as one guy makes the play. But on offense 10 guys can be doing their job and if one fails, then the play is lost. While the o-line clearly needs to be a cohesive unit that plays well, it’s not all on them and there are too many variables to work out before they can be a solid unit. Devin Gardner needs to be consistent and the running backs (whomever they may be) need to run with vision and be decisive. I see Michigan in a similar situation as Michigan State was coming into 2013; a potentially great defense that would be enough to carry them but no identity on offense. Last year the defense played well but faded late in the season as it was completely worn down after carrying the offense all year and it really showed in losses to Ohio State and Kansas State I fear we’ll see more of the same this year.

Joe: The offensive line is a HUGE concern due to the loss of both Schofield and Lewan. It wasn’t exactly a strong point last year and now it looks even more troubling. This group needs to gel quickly and improve on the “tackles for loss” that plagued them last year. 114 is way too many!

Who will be the breakout player on offense?

Justin: I would absolutely love to look into the crystal ball and pick a lineman that breaks out and puts together an all-conference season, and while it’s certainly possible, it’s impossible to predict. I also think Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith will split the workload, keeping either from truly breaking out. Therefore, it has to be a pass-catcher, and I’m going to go with Jake Butt. He’s out for the first couple of games at least, but is progressing very well in his return form a torn ACL. We got a taste of what he’s capable of last season — 20 catches for 235 yards and two touchdowns — and once he returns, he could put up some solid numbers.

We all know Devin Funchess will be the go-to receiver for Devin Gardner, but he’s going to have to find others to distribute the ball to so opposing defenses can’t simply game plan Funchess out. It’s very likely that either Jehu Chesson or Amara Darboh breaks onto the scene, but as a tight end, I see Butt becoming a crutch for Gardner. Butt fits right into Nussmeier’s offensive system and could be primed for a big season as long as he fully recovers from his injury.

Sam: This one is pretty easy for me. I don’t think the offensive line is going to be good enough for Michigan to have a star running back, so I immediately look to the outside. There I find Amara Darboh, a gentlemanly sized 6’2″, 211-pound redshirt sophomore wide receiver who was held out all of last season with a foot injury. Devin Funchess is the closest thing the Wolverines have to a sure thing this year, so Darboh should have plenty of opportunities to take advantage of cheating defenses, and his nice hands, solid size, and football IQ should make him a favorite of Devin Gardner.

Derick: Freddy Canteen will probably have one of the greatest impacts on the offense, but I think Devin Gardner will be the breakout player. Gardner struggled for much of the 2013 season, but pressure from the defense and a non-existent rushing attack made his job much harder. A healthy Gardner should take advantage of a deeper receiving core and become the quarterback fans saw for a few games at the end of 2012.

Josh: I’m really down on the offense heading into this season. True, I’m not in Schembechler Hall, but nothing I’ve seen or read since last season has given me any indication that this offense will be any better than last year’s. A simplified system and zone blocking schemes will help but they haven’t had much time with Nussmeier and development takes time and many reps. Plus the mere fact that a TRUE freshman is in line to start at left tackle tells me that this line is still in shambles and that could derail the entire offense, again. That said, I think Jake Butt (once he returns) is prime for a breakout season. I foresee Gardner looking for a safety valve as he runs for his life behind an inept line and Butt should be that safety valve. We saw glimpses of what Butt could do late in 2013 and I expect him to pick up where he left off.

Joe: I am hoping that an in shape and focused Derrick Green turns into the five-star tailback we recruited two years ago. If he can pound the ball and help control the clock, this offense can put up some big numbers. An effective Green would free up some young receivers and an elite Funchess down field.

Who will be the breakout player on defense?

Justin: Yeah, it’s a pretty generic answer that I’m sure others will give, but I’m going with Jourdan Lewis. The hype coming out of the spring and fall camp is too much to ignore. The coaching staff has talked about being more aggressive defensively, and Lewis fits that mold at corner. If he truly has beaten out either experienced corners like Raymon Taylor or Blake Countess, he’s earned it and it will only make the secondary better.

Can Jourdan Lewis live up to the hype he has garnered throughout the offseason?

Can Jourdan Lewis live up to the hype he has garnered throughout the offseason?

Sam: Defensive breakout players are a little bit harder for me to predict, and I admittedly don’t even know who would rightfully qualify as a “breakout” player this year. Would a senior Frank Clark, who has been solid but never great, qualify? How about a junior linebacker who has been playing plenty of snaps for two full seasons? I’ll assume I’d get picked on for taking either of those guys, so let me go with Jourdan Lewis, a 5’10″, 175-pound sophomore cornerback from Cass Tech. If preseason reports and practices are to be believed, it seems that Lewis has managed to wrestle away a starting spot from either senior Raymon Taylor or redshirt junior Blake Countess, both of whom were pretty solid contributors a season ago. The coaches have been emphasizing increased physicality and aggressiveness on defense, particularly from the cornerbacks, which fits right into Lewis’s strengths. If he indeed plays the first snap on defense against Appalachian State next week, Jourdan Lewis must have something going for him.

Derick: It has to be Jabrill Peppers. If he can’t contribute in the secondary then Michigan will be vulnerable to the pass all season, since Blake Countess is the only proven cornerback that can cover Big Ten recievers.

Josh: Jourdan Lewis, and it’s not even close. Yes, I do think Jabrill Peppers will show us why he was one of the best incoming recruits in recent memory but my money is on Lewis to really make massive strides from last season. He got his feet wet last year while relying on great athletic ability but now he has the technique and mental aspect to add to it. I fully expect him to be an All-Big Ten performer, and one of the best defenders in the conference, by season’s end.

Joe: Can I say Jake Ryan as my breakout player? I know he is a team captain and a stud at linebacker, but after missing five games last year due to a torn ACL, he will shine all season if healthy. He is a must for this team to keep pace defensively.

Michigan will win the Big Ten if…

Justin: The offensive line improves to simply average and the defense is as good as advertised. The defense will have to carry the team early on while the offense finds its feet, but I truly believe this is a team that has a lot of potential. It will all rely on improvement from the offensive line, but like I said above, if the defense lives up to the hype, a 2012 Notre Dame or 2013 Michigan State season is not out of question.

Sam: Michigan will win the Big Ten if the defense doesn’t allow a single point. In all seriousness, the defense has to be elite (probably allowing 15 or fewer points a game in Big Ten play) and the offensive line has to be above-average for Michigan to compete for their first conference championship since 2004. I think the defense can be elite, but I still think the offensive line is going to struggle a little bit too much for the team to reach Pasadena or beyond.

Derick: Michigan will win the Big Ten if the quarterback pressure we saw throughout camp was actually because of the elite defensive line Greg Mattison has assembled. If the offensive line can actually protect Gardner and create holes for the running game then the rest will fall in place.

Josh: Michigan State and Ohio State completely implode and each have multiple conference losses, a miracle happens with the offensive line’s development early on, Devin Gardner finally becomes the consistently good QB we know he can be all while Jabrill Peppers exceeds the hype, plays both sides of the ball and becomes the first true freshman to win the Heisman (read: I don’t think it’s even remotely possible for Michigan to win the B1G Ten this year). I’ve said it many times before and I’ll say it again, Michigan won’t be ready to legitimately compete for the B1G Ten until 2015.

Joe: We can get strong and smart play up front, as well as from our quarterback position. We must eliminate the untimely sack or tackle for loss that killed us on important drives last season. C’mon O-line, make it happen!

What’s your prediction for the season? Record, who will Michigan lose to, what bowl game will Michigan play in?

Justin: Regardless of how much improvement the offensive line shows, I don’t see Michigan winning less than eight games this season. But I think they’ll win more than that and finish the regular season 10-2 with losses to Notre Dame and Michigan State. I don’t think Notre Dame will be that great this year, but early on Michigan will still be trying to get its offense up to speed, and despite a valiant effort from the defense, bad things just happen in South Bend. The latter because Michigan State is still the team to beat in the Big Ten this season and, while Michigan will play closer than they have the past two years, it will be extremely tough to pull one out in East Lansing.

I do think Michigan will go into Columbus at season’s end and pull off a big win, leaving a three-way tie atop the East Division, but Michigan State will get the nod into the Big Ten Championship game. Michigan will go to the Capital One Bowl. I never predict the outcome of bowl games before the season because so many variables come into play about who the opponent will be.

Our predictions range from 8-4 to 10-2 with the Capital One Bowl being the most likely destination

Our predictions range from 8-4 to 10-2 with the Capital One Bowl being the most likely destination

I’m optimistic about this season and think this team will be very close to having a really special season that will surprise some people, but in the end it will come up just short, setting up big expectations for 2015.

Sam: My final prediction for the 2014 Michigan football season is as follows:

Record: 10-2, losses at Michigan State and at Ohio State
Bowl game: Wherever generic 10-2 Big Ten teams end up this season (too many to keep track of).

I think it will be a successful season overall that falls just short of the ultimate goals of conference and national championships. Michigan State’s defense should be able to wreak havoc on the offensive line yet again, and though Ohio State will be without Heisman hopeful Braxton Miller all season, their backup will have enough time to gel by the end of the season that the Buckeyes will edge the Wolverines once again at home.

Derick: I think Michigan’s season should be pretty straightforward. The Maize and Blue are great in Ann Arbor, so an easy home schedule should translate into seven wins. But tough road games at Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State make me shudder, and Brady Hoke’s resume on the road should turn all three games into losses. Michigan should take care of Northwestern and Rutgers on the road, giving it a 9-3 record for the season. Two Big Ten losses isn’t going to cut it for a trip to Indy, so Michigan will end up in the Capital One Bowl. Could Michigan win every single game on its schedule? Absolutely. But until fans see this team play solid football, there’s little reason to believe that more than nine wins are on tap.

Josh: My heart wants to be optimistic but my gut says this team’s lack of sufficient development spells doom in 2014. The offense has too many question marks for me to feel comfortable about having anything but very low expectations for them, which in turn puts more pressure on the defense to carry the team, again. The schedule does not set up in Michigan’s favor, with both MSU and OSU on the road (both of which are all but guaranteed losses in my mind). And as we’ve seen in the past Hoke’s teams consistently lose games they shouldn’t, mostly on the road (at Iowa in ’11, at ND and Nebraska in ’12 and atPSU, Nebraska and Iowa last year). They’ve gotten incredibly lucky against Northwestern the past two seasons and something tells me that luck may run out in 2014. Notre Dame, while losing several key players, is still on the road and that tilts the odds slightly in favor of the Irish. Utah could be a very dangerous trap game, sandwiched Miami (Ohio) and perennial bottom feeder Minnesota. Throw in the perennial inexplicable loss we’ve come to expect from Hoke’s Michigan teams and we’re sitting at 4 or 5 losses.

Right now I don’t see this team being better than 8-4, and not in the hunt for the East division. I see losses to MSU, OSU and then two more out of Notre Dame, Utah, Penn St. and Northwestern. They’ll still end up in a decent bowl because they’re Michigan, so something along the lines of the BWW Bowl like last year. Of course, I hope I’m completely wrong and the offense can come together and prove me horribly wrong but I won’t hold my breath.

Joe: I am predicting a 9-3 record for the Maize and Blue with losses at MSU, Northwestern and Ohio. Don’t ask me to explain the Northwestern loss, I just have a bad feeling. This will put them in the Outback bowl on Jan 1.