It's game day and that means it's time for ISD's game predictions. There has been a lot said this week, but none of that really matters once they strap the helmet on. Pretty much everyone outside of Notre Dame is picking Michigan today. What about the ISD staff?
I'll be honest. My head is screaming at me today to pick Michigan. Why? Notre Dame's defense didn't play well last week. It's at Michigan. The Irish rarely win in recent history in Ann Arbor. Notre Dame's special teams are far from special. The Irish should have the advantage on both sides of the line, but it was Michigan's big uglies who impressed last week. I could go on and on and on with solid reasons to pick against Notre Dame. And to be honest, I really feel in my head they're going to let one slip away tonight.
However, it was this game last year where I said I simply wasn't going to believe until they showed me. The Irish showed me last year, time and time again. They showed up every week for big games (minus the last one), and I've got to believe they'll do the same this week.
Against my better judgment, I'm taking the Irish simply because of what they did last year in similar situations. I'm going with the heart on this pick instead of the gut……….
Notre Dame: 28 Michigan: 27
All good things must come to an end and that's the way it will go for Michigan's 15-game home winning streak this Saturday. The Wolverines are coming off a lopsided 59-9 win over Central Michigan last weekend, while Notre Dame's 28-6 win over Temple looked much more pedestrian. Despite the closer score, the Irish did things in that game that will make the difference this week.
For starters, Notre Dame did not commit a turnover. Irish turnovers (all five of them) were a major factor in Michigan's 35-31 win in Ann Arbor two years ago. Michigan turnovers (all six of them) were also a major factor in last season's 13-6 ND home win over the Wolverines.
While the Irish failed to turn the ball over in its win last week, Michigan committed three against a vastly inferior Chippewa squad. Two of those turnovers were interceptions by quarterback Devin Gardner. The team that wins the turnover margin typically wins, and Notre Dame is 15-0 under Brian Kelly when it does not turn the ball over.
Michigan also amassed 242 rushing yards with 221 passing yards last week against a weak Central Michigan defense that ranked 93rd in the nation against the run last year. They won't come close to that number against a Louis Nix-led interior line and linebackers who are built to stop the run. The Irish ranked 11th nationally in run defense last year.
The Irish also have more offensive weapons to choose from. Tommy Rees completed passes to six different receivers last year and diverse running back Amir Carlisle could be a huge factor against the Wolverines this week. Notre Dame will take better care of the ball and keep Michigan from making big plays to pick-up the victory.
Notre Dame: 24 Michigan: 17
I have this as a win for the Irish in my season prediction and in one week’s time nothing has swayed me to think any differently. In fact, I don’t think it’s going to be as close as the some people think.
Here’s four reasons why:
1) Tommy Rees – I’m convince he’ll take care of the ball and get the offense in the best play possible, especially on first down. Notre Dame will find themselves in second and medium often, which will open up the playbook and minimalize the games the Michigan defense can play. He’s been in this environment before and played well minus the turnovers, but he’s wiser, more athletic, and will thrive while proving all of his critics wrong.
2) Notre Dame’s offensive line – There’s no question Notre Dame will want to establish the run against the smaller Wolverine front seven and with their size advantage they should be able to. I still think the pass-run ratio will be fairly even, but when they get into the fourth quarter look for a heavy dose of running between the tackles. The kind of runs that demoralize a defense.
3) Notre Dame’s defensive line – Great players play great in big games. Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix III are great players and this is their time to dominate a game together. Tuitt couldn’t ask for a bigger stage going against Taylor Lewan. Nix couldn’t ask for a greener center and guards to showcase his savvy as well as his power. If the two of them don’t show up this game, then what’s the point of showing up to any game this season?
4) Notre Dame’s skilled players – If DaVaris Daniels is 100 percent healthy I don’t know how many teams Notre Dame plays that will be able to match up with him, TJ Jones, and Chris Brown. Michigan’s secondary is pretty solid, but you can’t double-team all of them and still pressure the quarterback. I believe these three will beat their man coverage quite often and make some big plays for the Irish offense.
Michigan’s offense will score, but it won’t be at the frequency they need against the Irish defense. Wolverine quarterback Devin Gardner will get loose a few times and hurt Notre Dame with his legs early. Even so, he’s not the type of player that can stay consistently good for a 10 or 12 play drive. This isn’t Central Michigan’s defense. Michigan will continually test the Irish secondary by trying try to hit the big play, but to no avail.
Notre Dame: 31 Michigan: 13
NOTE: Management apologizes for whatever Sean Mele was smoking before he came up with this score.
The game is actually closer than the score, but a late Irish field goal gives them the final cushion. Tommy Rees does a fabulous job managing the Notre Dame offense and limiting turnovers. He throws to touchdown passes early in the first quarter and early in the third quarter. An Amir Carlisle touchdown run later in the third quarter breaks a 17-17 tie and gives Notre Dame the lead for good.
The Irish defense does an amazing job of containing Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner, but he does get loose for a long touchdown run and a deep pass on the run to set up another. But the Wolverine offense is never able to establish an identity on offense and a KeiVarae Russell interception seals the victory.
Notre Dame: 27 Michigan: 17