A rivalry game right out of the box in Week 1, as the Michigan Wolverines make the short trip to South Bend to open the year against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. This is the first meeting between Michigan and Notre Dame since 2014. There was a brief hiatus, but for the next two seasons Michigan and Notre Dame will play a home-and-home series. Next season they’ll meet at the Big House in Ann Arbor for a rematch. We’ll have to wait for tonight to see who will be looking to defend their win and who’s going to be looking for revenge next year.
Michigan and Notre Dame both come in with plenty of expectations, especially the Wolverines who are trying to catch on and get a place in the playoff. A loss to Notre Dame in Week 1 isn’t a season killer, but they have a difficult schedule in front of them. A lot of their hardest games come on the road in 2018, including Northwestern, Ohio State, and Michigan State. That Northwestern game could be a trap week, the Wildcats are a better team than they are getting credit for.
The most pressure this season at Michigan is going to be on Jim Harbaugh. This is his fourth season as the head coach in Ann Arbor and the Wolverines don’t have a Big Ten Championship or trip to the playoff to show for it. He is making mega bucks and Michigan didn’t hire him to lead an average team. They could have kept Brady Hoke around for that. After back-to-back 10-3 seasons, Michigan fell to 8-5 in 2017. Their biggest win was in his first season, a 41-7 smashing of the Florida Gators in the Citrus Bowl.
Michigan were dealing with a young team in 2018, so there wasn’t much expected of them. However, with a year of experience under their belt, notably defensive lineman Rashan Gary, there are lofty expectations with this bunch. It just so happens they have a tough road with this schedule, though. Michigan didn’t have a quarterback last season as well.
They’re hoping that Ole Miss transfer, Shea Patterson, is the answer to their problems. Meanwhile, the Irish are feeling confident in second-year starter Brandon Wimbush. After DeShone Kizer took off for the NFL, Notre Dame landed on Wimbush as their starting QB. We’ll see how he does against a stout Michigan defense tonight. Head below for our free Michigan vs. Notre Dame pick for Saturday night in South Bend.
Michigan Wolverines vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish Betting Odds:
vs. Notre Dame -1(-105)
Betting odds provided by Sportsbetting.ag
Michigan vs. Notre Dame Pick:
The goal for Notre Dame here is slowing down Rashan Gary and a ferocious attack up-front by the Wolvers. They are going to come all night long and not want to give an inch. Even though the defense was young last season, they were exceptional from the front to the back. Michigan brings back nearly everyone from a defensive unit that ranked 3rd in 2017 with 269 yards allowed per game. They were 1st in the nation with 142.7 passing yards per game.
For Wimbush to get a rhythm going, he must be able to run the football with his legs. This Michigan defense is incredibly fast, though. While they ranked 21st in rushing yards allowed per game, I expect them to improve in that regard. Along with Gary, look for Aubrey Solomon to be a disruptive force on the defensive line. I expect them to combine to be a heck of a challenge for Wimbush and the offensive line.
Notre Dame were 7th in the country in rushing in 2017, but were dealt significant blows to their running game. One of the best offensive lines was broken up with Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey moving on to the NFL. Running back Josh Adams, who was responsible for 1,430 yards isn’t around, either. Wimbush completed only 49.5 percent of his passes in 2017, which will have to be much better against Michigan. And that was behind that giant offensive line the Irish had. He’s a mobile quarterback, but I don’t think that element of his game is going to work so well against the Wolverines’ defense.
Shea Patterson gets his first start as a Michigan Wolverine tonight under the lights. Tarik Black, expected to emerge as a No. 1 option at Michigan, will miss several weeks after fracturing his foot. It’s a blow to a Michigan offense that hoped to be healthy going into the opener. Black has had issues staying on the field in his career at Michigan.
He’s a heck of a talent, but if he can’t stay on the field, that’s no help to the Wolverines. The Notre Dame defense ranked 44th in the nation with 367 yards allowed per game. The Fighting Irish get nine starters back in 2018, so expect to see them improve on that this year. They need help in the secondary, but Michigan isn’t a big play offense. They want to wear the defense out and grind to a victory. Patterson will be an immediate improvement from last year, but it’s his first start with Michigan and he might be feeling a bit jittery on the road in this big game. This should be quite the battle between the Wolverines and Fighting Irish. Tough call on the spread, as I think it could be a 3-point final either way. If I had to pick, I’d lean with Michigan. The UNDER looks like the best selection here, though.