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Friday, September 9, 2011

Preview: Notre Dame

Finally...Also, did I just sell out to Adidas? Damnit...
Who, What, When, Where, Weather
Who: Notre Dame: Line ND (-3)
When: 8:00 p.m. Eastern
Where: Ann Arbor, MI
Weather: Hi 72, 40% chance of Thunderstorms <--- jokes right?

Offense vs. Notre Dame:
So, South Florida's offense last year came in nestled right between Purdue and Ball State in the national rankings at 105th nationally in yds/gm.  This year they came into South Bend minus their leading rusher and leading receiver from a year ago. They also play in the Big East, which ties with the MAC and C-USA in conferences that are good... Well, probably behind the MAC.  They did bring with them a somewhat experienced line and a returning quarterback who came in with a stunning 1685 yds passing from last season. That was the offense ND held last week in a monsoon to 254 total/yds. Forgive me if I am not superdy-duper impressed.

This ND defense is the same defense that got torched last year by Navy and Tulsa and then had a stretch of success toward the end of the season. Well was it really success? 3 points given up to Army. But seriously, is Army (no shots here towards service men) still D-1? ND held USC to only 16 points in another monsoon vs. the Trojan back-up QB, who couldn't compete with Mallett at Arkansas and transfered to USC. Lastly, Miami looked about as interested in playing in the Sun-Bowl, as I am toward watching a 7 year-old girls ballet instead of Michigan football on Saturdays, when they threw up only 17 on the scoreboard in the their bowl game last year. They finished 51st nationally, so that's something... but again... I dunno, call me a homer but, I'm not impressed. Michigan's Defense got torched by everybody because of every reason under the sun, mainly talent and scheme. ND's defense is stacked with 4-5* talent and got torched by Tulsa and Navy. This game, just like for Michigan in all aspects is going to be a huge barometer of where both teams are in all aspects of their team.

I'm not sure if only running 39 plays last week is a good thing or a bad thing. Both? Michigan obviously didn't show much last week, but they also didn't get to run much against somebody who's not themselves. I don't think they would have shown much on offense either way so, damn you rain... damn you. So we'll go off what we know. Last year, this happened and it'll never get old, so yah...

I remember the gentleman sitting in front of me last year at ND, repeating himself stop Denard and you stop them. Well sir you didn't stop Denard. I think ND's coaching staff will maybe take that note to heart to this year.Denard Robinson alone compiled 502 yds of total offense against the Irish defense last year but you already knew that. The team as a whole had 532. ND will be keying on #16. But how?

I don't think Borges will hold anything back this week offensively and you will see a heavy dose of Denard. However other than a play here or there I don't think Denard packages will be deployed early in the game unless we get down quickly. Michigan will hold the element of surprise in this one as Michigan didn't run much, if anything from under center last year against the Irish, save the Hopkins goal line touchdown.

I'd like to think we will see more toward that 70% shotgun distribution we saw last week before the hurricane rolled through. Look for a good dose of Fitz running power out of the gun with quick dump offs to the receivers. ND has experience all over on defense and there's no need to take risky shots early here.

What To Watch For:
ND's experience vs. Al Borges' mind. Pretty much everybody who will be strapping up for the Irish on Saturday was a witness to the Denard Robinson show last year. One would suspect that this will help them in their endeavor this year. However, Michigan has a new mad genius at offense who will be trying to add some new acts to the show this year. I like the idea of Michigan trying to establish the run early and saving Denard for later. Michigan's offense was able to torch this defense last year and I don't see any glaring reason why they shouldn't be able to emulate much of the same success.

If you come at me with, "but, scheme change", stop it. Just... stop it.

Defense vs. Notre Dame
For all the success that Michigan's offense had last year in this game. ND's offense had 3 more total yds (535). That was last year and this is, this year, which means Notre Dame should put up yards. However, last season the Irish looked much better when led by Dayne Crist and I still place the non Denard Robinson portion of last years victory to Crist's injury. Crist threw for 277 yds on 13-25 passing in limited action for 2 TD's. Nate Montana and tomorrows starter Tommy Rees combined to go 8-19 for 104 yds and 2 INT's.

Rees and Crist had a heated QB battle through spring and fall camp after Rees impressed the second half of last season for ND.That battle ended early in the South Florida game last week with Brian Kelly's head exploding.

Crist was yanked after going 7-15 for 95 yds and 1 INT. Rees came in and promptly went 24-34 for 296 yds 2 TD's and 2 INT's. Rees proved himself last year at the end of the season and I wouldn't look for seeing Crist on the field this year. Brian Kelly will roll with Rees. Flip-Flopping QB's in what many consider a must win isn't ideal. All three interceptions thrown last week were terrible passes. Two of them were late and way behind the receiver and 1 doinked off a recievers head who wasn't looking for the ball. These QB's do have one of the top 3 receivers, in my mind, to throw the ball to in Michael Floyd.

Michigan was getting picked apart by Alex Carder last week until Greg Mattison went blitz happy. Brian Kelly's spread is definitely leaned towards a passing spread and this will be exploited on Saturday truly testing Michigan's revamped defensive scheme. Personal feelings aside, Floyd is a stud and scares the willies right out of me. Michigan's front four will need to apply pressure, something they weren't able to do last week, this will allow the defense to drop more into coverage hopefully, and I do mean hopefully, stopping Rees to Floyd happening on the regular and making Rees turnover prone like he was last week. Avery/Floyd and Woolfolk will have their work cut out for them. I would think with Woolfolk's speed and experience he will be the guy matched up over Floyd mostly.

Notre Dame's rushing offense was 87th last season. Cierre Wood will lead the attack this season.  The season on the ground started out respectable this year with 117 yds on the ground for 4 ypc. The running game did add to the turnover fest that took place with a fumble that resulted in 6 points for the Bulls. Notre Dame hasn't been a smash mouth running team since before the days of Weis (man I miss that guy), so don't expect them to pound the rock when Michigan's secondary is what it is, unless ND can find success on the edge. Here's to hoping that Craig Roh and whomever lines up opposite Roh at DE can keep contain.

What To Watch For:
Pay attention to 2 things. First Michigan's front four applying pressure vs. Tommy Rees. It will only be a good thing if Mike Martin and gang can apply pressure so that Kovacs and the like don't have to come down into the box. This is most likely not going to happen as ND has an experienced line and it didn't get done last week against JuCo transfers against Western. If they can apply pressure look for Rees to make a bad decision or two resulting in a couple takeaways for the defense.

The latter is dependent on if the first happens or not. If the front four can't apply pressure watch to see how Mattison can adjust his gameplan. Figuring out a way to apply pressure without leaving Floyd and the other receivers painstakingly open will be clutch.

Special Teams:
Just hold onto the ball. A field goal or two would be nice.

What to Watch For:
Kickoff coverage vs. big plays. Last week was scary, lets not do that again K? Thnx.

First ever night game at the Big House, around 115k going bonkers...  if the Wolverines have ever had a home field advantage due to the game time atmosphere tomorrow is it. Notre Dame has scared me for the past 2 years and this year is no different and I don't know why. They should've blown USF out but turned the ball over 5 times and didn't. Notre Dame also wasn't able to defeat Michigan for the past 2 years when M was ummm, subpar to say the least.

Denard Robinson, I believe, is going to get his probably not 502 yds of getting his, but will be very effective. You don't tear someone up for 502 come back the next year against the same guys and get shut down. I said it in my preseason prediction that this game was a toss-up to me and it still is. After the last 2 seasons, until ND beats Michigan, I don't think it will happen. Michigan is going to squeak out another thriller. Michigan Wins: 31-27

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