By PFC Draft/Michigan writer Matt Moore (@Matt23Moore)
17 Michigan Wolverines 1-0 (0-0) v.s 14 Notre Dame Fighting Irish 1-0 (0-0)
Notre Dame last week: The Fighting Irish defeated the Temple Owls 28-6, last Saturday. Notre Dame struck early, scoring on their first two possessions. The Owls made it 14-6 on a one yard touchdown run by Kenneth Harper. From then on, it was all Notre Dame as they went on to score two more touchdowns and shut down the Owls. Quarterback Tommy Rees looked sharp, throwing for over 300 yards, three passing touchdowns, and no turnovers. Two of Rees’ three touchdown passes were to junior wide receiver DaVaris Daniels, although senior wide receiver TJ Jones lead the Fighting Irish in receptions and receiving yards.
Michigan last week: The Wolverines started their season off on high note, defeating the Central Michigan Chippewas 59-9. Michigan started their day with a blocked for a touchdown on the Chippewa’s opening possession. In a bit of a shaky start to the season, quarterback Devin Gardner threw for two interceptions and only 162 passing yards. Nevertheless, Gardner was responsible for three total touchdowns and showed great athleticism on the ground. Running back Fitzgerald Toussaint returned to action for the first time since his week 11 injury last season. Toussaint ended the day with two rushing touchdowns and a team high 57 yards on the ground. When it was all said and done, the Wolverines piled up an impressive 242 yards on the ground.
Notre Dame Leaders:
Passing- Rees 346 yds
Rushing- Atkinson III 34 yds
Rec- Jones 138 yds
Passing- Gardner 162 yds
Rushing- Toussaint 57 yds
Rec- Gallon 47 yds
Notre Dame National Rank:
Points for- 63rd
Points against- 11th
Michigan national rank:
Points for- 7th
Points against- 23rd
Michigan and Notre Dame have had some thrilling games the past few years. How can anyone forget Tate Forcier’s last minute heroics in 2009, the Wolverines coming back from a 21-7 halftime deficit in 2010, or Denard Robinson chucking the ball up to Roy Roundtree in the final seconds in 2011? This year, the matchup will once again be the focus of the week in college football. “Under the Lights II”, as the game is being referred to, has all the looks of another thriller in the Big House.
The matchup between Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees and Michigan’s secondary will play a vital role in this week’s game. In last season’s Notre Dame Michigan matchup, Rees came into the game and completed 8 of 11 passes for 115 yards, as well as a rushing touchdown. This year, Rees and the rest of the Fighting Irish have already shown productivity in their passing attack. The question is whether Michigan’s secondary can slow Notre Dame down. Michigan only gave up 144 passing yards to Central Michigan last week. Don’t let that statistic lull you into a false sense of security. The Wolverines knocked out starting Chippewas quarterback Cody Kater early in the game and there were many plays where backup quarterback Alex Niznak missed open targets or receivers dropped balls. Surely, Notre Dame will not be so forgiving. Michigan’s secondary needs to tighten up, or it could be a long day in the Big House.
Another thing we learned from week one is: Devin Gardner is human. The Michigan quarterback did not live up the hype that much of the nation heard about. Gardner needs to focus on not turning the ball over. Two interceptions in a 50 point win are not a huge deal, but two interceptions against a high caliber team like Notre Dame could be the difference between a win and a loss. Michigan will most likely draw up some quick passes at the beginning of the game, to get Gardner comfortable. We have seen Offensive Coordinator Al Borges do the same thing Denard Robinson in the past. If the Wolverines can have the same success on the ground as they did against Central Michigan, then more play action pass will most likely occur against Notre Dame. It is likely that Borges did not want to show too many of the roll outs that Michigan has gotten talented at executing.
Can Michigan slow down the powerful defensive line play of Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt. Both Nix and Tuitt were put on the Maxwell and Bednarick Award watch list preseason. Notre Dame senior nose tackle Nix outweighs all of Michigan’s interior lineman by at least 37 pounds. 6’6’’ 312 pound Tuitt has an excellent pass rush and is an extremely smart football player. Tuitt vs. Michigan All-American left tackle Taylor Lewan is a matchup NFL scouts are drooling about. Both players are capable of being first round NFL draft picks and making an impact on an NFL team early. Fifth year senior right tackle Michael Schofield will face the daunting task of blocking Tuitt when the defensive lineman is lined up to his side. It will be interesting to see if Schofield can live up to the challenge.
photo via www.usatoday.com