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Two old and familiar rivals tangle this Saturday in South Bend, IN where the Michigan Wolverines led by coach Rich Rodriguez travel to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (3:30 pm EST) in the second game of the Brian Kelly era. Both teams come into the game with 1-0 records as Michigan ran all over Big East favorite UConn 30-10 in the Big House and Notre Dame beat Purdue 23-12 at home.
On offense both teams feature the spread offense, with Michigan’s version being led by Sophomore Denard Robinson, who was an impressive 19-22 passing last week for 186 yards and a touchdown while also running a whopping 29 times for 197 yards, the most ever by a Michigan quarterback. Notre Dame’s offense is piloted by Junior Dane Crist, a highly touted recruit who had a solid debut as a starter last week going 19-26 for 205 yards passing against Purdue. Robinson is the ideal triggerman for Rodriquez’s run-heavy version of the spread, and is the type of athlete who has given the Irish fits in the past and has been compared to former West Virginia star Pat White, a spread option legend. When the Irish are offense, Crist will look to throw to stud receiver Michael Floyd and pre-season All-America tight end Kyle Rudolph. Sophomore running back Cierre Wood looked impressive last week, gaining 58 yards on only 7 carries (8.3 yard avg.) and showing the speed that has been absent from the Irish running game in recent years. Under Kelly, Notre Dame will push the tempo by playing a faster game than the Wolverines are used to seeing in the Big 10.
New Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco is the man in charge of coming up with a plan to stop Robinson and the Wolverines offense. The Irish have the athletes in their 3-4 defense to contain Michigan, including linebackers Manti T’eo and Darius Fleming, its just a question of them doing their job and not focusing on following the ball with all of sleight of hand that Robinson will employ. “You can’t start looking for the football. You start looking for the football then all of a sudden you’re overtaken and you’re out of your space and that’s where the ball enters,” Diaco said. This is more conservative approach than the blitzing style they employed last season when the Wolverines went up and down the filed against Notre Dame, and we will see if this approach pays dividends on Saturday. . The key matchup when the Irish have the ball will be the Michigan secondary against Floyd, Rudolph and the talented receiving corp. of Notre Dame. Michigan’s defense looked impressive last week against UConn, holding the Huskies ‘s veteran quarterback Zach Frazier to only ten points by moving and shifting coverages pre-snap to cause confusion. They will look to do the same against Crist, in only his second career start, and in an effort to help their depleted secondary.
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Michigan vs Notre Dame Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
Michigan Wolverines +3.5
@ Notre Dame Fighting Irish -3.5
Notre Dame -165
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Michigan vs Notre Dame Prediction for Week 2 Game:
Spread Prediction (Top Play) – Take the Wolverines on the road in this one, going against the trend of the home team going 6-2 against the spread in the last 8 meetings. This is fitting because Notre Dame will have trouble defending against Michigan’s spread offense and Denard Robinson all day long. Brian Kelly does not have his offense in high-gear yet, and the Irish will struggle to score enough points to keep up with Michigan. Notre Dame had trouble stopping the run last season, and has not done enough to fix their problems on the defensive line this season. The wolverines are rolling in filled with confidence after easily dispatching UConn last week, look for another rout here. PREDICTION (TOP PLAY) – Michigan +3.5
Over/Under Prediction – Take the over in this one as this has all the makings of a barn-burner in South Bend. Notre Dame has not shown the ability to contain top-flight athletes such as Robinson in some time, and he should have a big day against the Irish defense. Similarly, the Michigan defense will have trouble with the Notre Dame receiving unit as well, and if the Irish can protect Crist and he is able to withstand the different looks the Wolverines will throw at him, they should be able tot put up some points as well. Prediction – Over 52.5 Points