The reason I write this is that there is a lot of talk about how Notre Dame is going to steamroll Michigan on Saturday. The Irish are fresh off a 41-17 pasting of Penn State that was 41-3 until very late. Michigan has only played Vanderbilt and Central Michigan. Throw in the fact that Michigan has lost every road opener since 1999 and the game is in South Bend and it would seem that all signs point to Notre Dame winning hands down.
But I'm going to suggest that Michigan has a chance. In fact, Michigan has more than a chance, they've got a good chance at sneaking out of South Bend with a victory. Why do I think this? A couple reasons. For one thing, Michigan is better in the trenches on both sides. Check these numbers out:
Notre Dame played Georgia Tech and Penn State.
Georgia Tech vs Notre Dame: 119 yds rushing, 4.2 yds per carry
Georgia Tech vs Samford: 177 yds rushing, 4.7 yds per carry
Penn State vs Notre Dame: 158 yds rushing, 4.8 yds per carry
Penn State vs Akron: 76 yds rushing, 2.8 yds per carry
Georgia Tech vs Notre Dame: 138 yds rushing allowed, 3.4 yds per carry
Georgia Tech vs Samford: 11 yds rushing allowed, 0.7 yds per carry
Penn State vs Notre Dame: 110 yds rushing allowed, 3.1 yds per carry
Penn State vs Akron: 33 yds rushing allowed, 1.0 yds per carry
Michigan played Central Michigan and Vanderbilt.
Vanderbilt vs Michigan: 42 yds rushing, 1.6 yds per carry
Vanderbilt vs Alabama: 80 yds rushing, 3.5 yds per carry
Central Michigan vs Michigan: 16 yds rushing, 0.8 yds per carry
Central Michigan vs Boston College: 123 yds rushing, 4.6 yds per carry
Vanderbilt vs Michigan: 246 yds rushing allowed, 4.8 yds per carry
Vanderbilt vs Alabama: 134 yds rushing allowed, 3.4 yds per carry
Central Michigan vs Michigan: 252 yds rushing allowed, 5.0 yds per carry
Central Michigan vs Boston College: 85 yds rushing allowed, 2.7 yds per carry
Interesting huh? Allow me to try to provide a little bit of a summary. Notre Dame has played Georgia Tech and Penn State who are both solid opponents. Michigan has played Central Michigan and Vanderbilt who aren't quite as solid. However, CMU and Vandy have each played 2 good teams whereas GT and PSU have each played a patsy and Notre Dame. First off, let's compare Michigan's performances to Alabama and Boston College who also played against Vandy and CMU.
Michigan vs Vanderbilt - Michigan hammered Vandy on the ground for 246 yards and 4.8 yards per carry. This same Vanderbilt defense held Alabama to 134 yards rushing and only 3.4 yards per carry. Interesting. Also note that Michigan held Vanderbilt to only 1.6 yards per carry compared to the 3.5 yards per carry they cranked out against Alabama. Basically, Michigan dominated both sides of the ground game in this one, especially relative to what Vanderbilt was able to do against Alabama.
Michigan vs Central Michigan - the Wolverines cranked out 3x the rushing yardage at twice the yards per carry against the Chips that Boston College was able to muster. On the other side, Michigan held CMU to 0.8 yards per carry compared to the very good 4.6 yards per carry they got against Boston College. Michigan really dominated both sides of the rushing attack in this one and was light years ahead of what Boston College did to CMU.
So yeah, Michigan's ground game has been very good and the run D? In a word, dominant.
How about Notre Dame?
Notre Dame vs Georgia Tech - Notre Dame's D "held" Georgia Tech to 4.2 yards per carry which is almost the same as Samford held them to (4.7). On the other side, Notre Dame did muster 3.4 yards per carry against a D that held Samford to 0.7 yards per carry. Notre Dame's run D was roughly the same as Samford, but their rushing attack was much better (as it should be!).
Notre Dame vs Penn State - Penn State got twice as many rushing yards and nearly twice as many yards per carry against Notre Dame then they got against Akron. On the other side, Notre Dame cranked out 110 yards and 3.1 yards per carry compared to the 1.0 yards per carry PSU allowed to Akron. Notre Dame's run D performed far worse than Akron, though their running attack managed to be almost respectable which is a lot more than Akron could say.
As you can see, Notre Dame's rushing D has been porous to say the least considering they have had a worse aggregate performance against their opponents than Akron and Samford did. Their rushing offense has been far better than Samford or Akron, but is that really saying much considering they still only cranked out less than 4 yards per carry in each game?
So what do I take from all this? Notre Dame likely won't be able to muster much of a rushing attack against Michigan and it's reasonable to expect them to get somewhere around 2.5-3.0 yards per carry. As for the matchup? Michigan could go for 200-300 yards on the ground they way both teams have been playing. Penn State does not have much of a ground attack and they still put up 158 yards and 4.8 per carry against Notre Dame. Michigan has a better offensive line and a lot more talent at tailback.
Interesting, no? Might be a little bit closer game than some are expecting if Michigan dominates the trenches. Speaking of dominating the trenches, here are some other nice numbers.
1 - LaMarr Woodley's national rank in sacks (4)
4 - Michigan's national rank in rushing defense (29 yards per game)
5 - LaMarr Woodley and Rondell Biggs' national rank in tackles for loss
6 - Rondell Biggs' national rank in sacks (3)
6 - Michigan's national rank in total defense
10 - Michigan's national rank in rushing offense
19 - the age of Notre Dame's starting right tackle
71 - Notre Dame's national rank in rushing offense
73 - Notre Dame's national rank in rushing defense
Personally, I can't wait to watch LaMarr Woodley take his usual spot at left DE and matchup with Notre Dame's true freshman left tackle Sam Young. Woodley is one of the most dominant and disruptive defensive players in the nation and can be absolutely unblockable at times. If Notre Dame has to give Young help (they will), it will open up the middle for Terrance Taylor and Alan Branch to get some clean runs at Quinn.
What do I think Michigan has to do to win? Well, they need to run the ball on offense. Notre Dame has a poor rush defense and they absolutely must take advantage. To that end, they also need to stretch the D a couple times and let Henne take some shots. On defense, the front four have to get nasty again. They need to be living in the backfield and throwing off Notre Dame's timing to avoid giving Quinn time to find receivers because he is darn accurate when throwing in rhythm.
I'm not doing the prediction thing yet, but Michigan has a chance.
Labels: Michigan Football