The prime time match up this Saturday night (7:30pm ET) that should grab the lion’s share of the national attention is a rivalry game featuring the 17th ranked Michigan Wolverines (2-1) of the Big Ten traveling to Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, IN to take on the 15th ranked Fighting Irish (3-0) of Notre Dame. Michigan is 1-2 ATS this season, and comes into this game fresh off of a 63-13 shellacking of UMass at home last week to cover a 45 point spread. The Wolverines lost their opener to top-ranked Alabama 41-14 and failed to cover a 21.5 point line in a 31-25 home win over Air Force in week 2. The Irish are 2-1 ATS this season, sandwiching a win last week against Michigan St. in East Lansing 20-3 as a 4.5 point underdog last week and a 50-10 drubbing of Navy in week 1 as a 14.5 point favorite around a narrow 20-17 win over Purdue ion week 2 when they failed to cover as a 14 point favorite.
The Michigan offense averages 36 points per contest (34th among FBS teams) and 425.3 yards per game (52nd among FBS teams) on the strength of dual-threat quarterback Denard Robinson’s (699 yards passing, 351 yards rushing) athleticism. As Robinson goes, so go the Wolverines. The Michigan defense has been very strong against the pass, allowing 157.7 YPG (12th among FBS teams), but terrible defending the run with an average of 211.3 YPG allowed to rank 107th in the nation in that category.
Notre Dame has surged to a 3-0 start behind a strong defense led by All-American linebacker Manti Te’o that ranks 8th nationally in points allowed with 10 per game, and 20th in total defense with 288.7 YPG allowed against relatively strong competition in the early going. The offense has done enough to win with sophomore Everett Golson under center, averaging 30 PPG (62nd nationally) and 388.7 YPG (73rd in the nation).
Michigan vs. Notre Dame Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
Michigan Wolverines +5
@ Notre Dame Fighting Irish -5
Over 49 (-110)
Under 49 (-110)
Betting odds taken from Bovada.lv
Michigan vs. Notre Dame Pick:
Michigan has won the last 3 meetings between the two teams outright, including a 35-31 win in Ann Arbor last season to cover a 3.5 point line. The Wolverines are 10-4-1 ATS in their last 15 non-conference games, 7-19-1 ATS in their last 27 games against a team with a winning record and 5-15-1 ATS in their last 21 road games. The Irish are 4-10 ATS in their last 14 September games. The under is 4-1 in Michigan’s last 5 road games and 4-0 in their last 4 road games against winning teams. The under is 15-5 in Notre Dame’s last 20 home games and 18-7-1 in their last 26 games against winning teams. In head-to-head play, Michigan is 5-1 ATS in their last 6 meetings and the home team is 4-1 ATS in their last 5 meetings. The over is 5-1 in the last 6 meetings in South Bend.
These two teams are very familiar with each other, and most of their games have been high scoring affairs in recent years, with 3 of the last 4 going over the total. Last season the teams combined for almost 1,000 yards of total offense in a wild shootout in Ann Arbor that the Wolverines were able to pull out at the end. This year Notre Dame will almost certainly not throw the ball as much with Golson at QB instead of last year’s starter Tommy Rees, wide receiver Michael Floyd departed to the NFL and the Wolverines pass defense much better than it was a year ago. Michigan will also find the points much tougher to come across than last season with ND’s defensive line a much improved unit and Te’o playing like a man possessed. This should be a ball-control type of game with much less scoring than we are used to seeing from these teams. The Irish have tightened things up on defense this season, and they have been very effective stopping the run which should negate Robinson’s big play ability with his legs. Michigan has shored up the issues in their secondary somewhat, and Notre Dame does not have an explosive offense, this should lead to a tight, defensive-oriented game. Take the under here.