The marquee game Week 2 of the 2013 college football season features a showcase of one of the most exciting national rivalries in college football. The prime time showcase this Saturday night (8:00pm ET on ESPN) features the 17th-ranked Michigan Wolverines (1-0) of the Big 10 who will host No. 14 Notre Dame (1-0) in the 41st meeting of the series (Michigan leads 23-16-1 all-time) and just the second night game ever at the Big House. This will be the last meeting in Ann Arbor, MI for the foreseeable future as the series will not continue after next season’s meeting in South Bend. Last week Michigan rolled over Central Michigan 59-7 at home while the Irish topped Temple 28-6 in South Bend.
Irish QB Tommy Rees threw a pair of 32-yard touchdown passes to DaVaris Daniels on his first two series. Rees threw for 346 yards and three touchdowns with zero interceptions against Temple. They showed little to no sign of missing suspended quarterback Everett Golson, compiling 543 total yards of offense and overcoming nine penalties Rees played well against the Wolverines in 2011, throwing for 315 yards and three touchdowns. No FBS defense has allowed fewer rushing touchdowns than the 14 by Notre Dame over the last 31 games. Defensive tackle Louis Nix will command double teams, and it will be up to Michigan’s young interior lineman to keep him in check so that Stephon Tuitt and others cannot wreak havoc up front.
Devin Gardner, a dual-threat quarterback, will be making only his 7th career start in this game. As a team, Michigan tossed 5 interceptions and had 6 total turnovers against Notre Dame last season in South Bend, and Gardner will have to avoid a repeat of Denard Robinson’s woeful performance last season to give the Wolverines a shot in this game. In the season-opener against Central Michigan, he tossed 2 interceptions. Michigan had 18 turnovers in their 5 losses last season, so protecting the football will be the key to this game.
Notre Dame vs. Michigan Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
Notre Dame Fighting Irish +3.5
@Michigan Wolverines -3.5
Over 50.5 (-110)
Under 50.5 (-110)
Betting odds taken from Bovada.lv
Notre Dame vs. Michigan Pick
This figures to be a close game as Notre Dame has played 17 games decided by a touchdown or less since the arrival of Coach Brian Kelly in 2010. The Irish went 2-5 in the first 7 games, but have since gone 9-1. The Wolverines won 3 straight match-ups from 2009-11 by scoring in the final 27 seconds of regulation before the Irish got off the snide with a 13-6 win last year in South Bend. Rees did not turn the ball over last week and he will need to protect the ball again this week to win in the Big House. In 2011, the Irish led by 17 in the fourth quarter before the defense coughed up the lead, but Rees had three turnovers – two of which came in the red zone.The Wolverines have revamped their interior offensive line with Miller at center and Graham Glasgow and Kyle Kalis at the guards, and they struggled in spots last week. They must play better against Louis Nix and Tuitt, who are both preseason All Americans.
The call here is that Rees will make fewer mistakes than his counterpart Gardner, and that the Irish defensive line will dominate the interior of the Michigan line. It will be a close game to the end, as have all of the last 4 meetings between these two teams, but in the end the Irish are ahead of the Wolverines when it comes to experience at the key positions on the field. That will be enough to put them over the top, take Notre Dame and the points in this game.