I’m a bit surprised at the coverage surrounding this game. I understand hype, but this is hardly the biggest Notre Dame – Michigan game of all - time. In fact, I’ll venture that last season’s was much bigger because some (me included) thought that Notre Dame had an outside shot at a national title (Yup, I drank that Cool – aid). Neither of these teams are close to being close to a title, but it is one of the best rivalries in the sport and I think the Rich Rod vs Kelly aspect of it is, at the very least, of note. And with that….. 5 keys.
1. Stop Denard Robinson– This has been talked about on the blog at length today, so I’ll touch on it only briefly. Robinson is a dynamic rushing threat, one that the Irish can easily have trouble with. The run defense was not great last week. Although Purdue only had 102 yards on the ground as a team, two players averaged four or more yards a carry. The phrase of the day will be containment. While Michigan has success in the passing game last week, it remains to be seen if that can be a consistent formula for the Wolverines. If Notre Dame forces Robinson to throw the ball, this one will be a game with five minutes to go. If Robinson can scramble at will, it won’t.
2. Utilize Michael Floyd… A lot– The Crist – Floyd relationship has yet to be established. This is a bit surprising considering that Floyd is the Irish’s top offensive weapon. Didn’t these guys practice this summer? Despite five catches last week, Floyd wasn’t part of a fluid offensive game plan. Any questions as to why the offense stalled at points point back to the best player not being involved. This can’t become a trend. If Brian Kelly doesn’t trust Dayne Crist enough to throw the ball down field, then a change must be made. We’ll see about that on Saturday. Floyd torched Michigan for 131 yards on seven catches and a touchdown in last year’s matchup. It would have been worse had he not gotten hurt late in the game. A still suspect Michigan secondary should be feasted on with a heavy dose of Michael Floyd. If attempted, it will succeed.
3. But don’t forget about these guys! – Obviously Kyle Rudolph should always be a highly considered option in the passing game, but watch out for T.J Jones. Jones caught a touchdown against Purdue last week and has a great chance to act in the same ways that Golden Tate did. No secondary is going to be beat by just one guy, unless the running game is ultra – strong. T.J Jones can either be the guy Michigan forgets about or a tremendous asset to Michael Floyd. Both are good options.
4. Give Michigan splinters– It’s a Cierre Wood pun! Get it? Puns!.. Wood looked outstanding last week. Brian Kelly talked this kid up in the offseason and he immediately made Kelly look great. What didn’t make Kelly look great was Wood getting only 7 carries after dominating the first quarter. You can’t get too upset because Armando Allen looked fantastic as well, but it would have been nice to see the good first quarter vibes continue. Because of Allen, Wood won’t get 30 carries, but would 12 in a more spread out fashion be too much to ask?
5. Get off the field on third down – Michigan converted 14 of 19 third downs last week. This is when a running quarterback like Robinson can be most dangerous.
The Pick: Michigan – 35 – Notre Dame – 24……. Few games that can be pinpointed on whether or not one guy can be stopped are picked as losses, but this is one. Nothing against Purdue showed any sort of a killer instinct from the Irish. They let the Boilermakers hang around and got away with it. Michigan isn’t Purdue. Denard Robinson in the kind of player that will rip your heart out if he hangs around. Too much of Notre Dame’s offense is unproven. What is Dayne Crist at this point? How is the Floyd – Crist chemistry? What is the running game balance of carries situation like? It’s just too many questions for this big a game.
About the Author
Written by Jordan Lauterbach
Jordan Lauterbach began his career in sports media when he was just 15 years old at WKWZ - Syosset. He hosted a sports talk show for nearly four years before moving on to WCWP - Brookville in 2006. Lauterbach currently hosts a sports talk show every Wednesday night from 9pm - midnight (eastern) and a College Football talk show on Saturday mornings from 11am - 12:30 (eastern) (can be heard online at wcwpsports.com and on Long Island on 88.1fm). Follow me on twiiter: jlauterbach1