Michigan Pass vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense
hasn't put up flashy stats (50 % comp., 190 yards-per-game,
3-1 TD-to-INT ratio) - he hasn't had to. The lavish run game
has been Navarre's best friend, helping relieve him from much
of the offensive burden. At the same time, it hasn't really
put him into situations where he has needed to step up and
deliver. That should change this week. Notre Dame's pass defense
was slow to show up last week, but strengthened as the game
went along. Still, they were nothing spectacular, giving up
275 yards and 2 TDs through the air. The Irish were susceptible
to the big play, and Michigan poses similar speed and intuition
on the outside and deep-middle parts of the field like Wazzu
brought last week.
the Wolverines to develop their passing game. Being that this
is Notre Dame, I think we'll see the maize-and-blue playbook
turn a new page or two. This is John Navarre's first spotlight
game of the year. He's proven he has the arm to get things
done, but will need to get cooperation and production from
the players around him. That means no afforded dropped balls,
no missed blocks (mainly RBs picking up gap blitzes), no miscommunication
on pass routes, etc. Notre Dame's defense is opportunistic
and feeds on the fear and uncertainty of opposing teams.
Irish will likely stack the box, and bring their safeties
closer to the line to help against the run. This opens up
the deep middle and puts Notre Dame's corners on an island,
in press coverage. Wazzu had success with their TEs last week,
so look for the Wolverines to leak one out here and there.
Expect a solid game from Navarre and the pass game, especially
when the game is on the line.
Notre Dame Pass vs. Michigan Pass Defense
they claim to be a "west coast" offense, Notre Dame
won't wow you throwing the football. Carlyle Holiday isn't
your prototypical "west coast quarterback", but
he knows how to run this offense efficiently enough to win
ballgames. The Irish rarely beat you deep, running an eventually
predictable set of their routes short along the sidelines
and underneath in soft areas of the defense. This offense
runs on timing and it will be up to Michigan's defense to
disrupt that timing.
Dame's offensive line continues to break in four new starters
and they looked extremely battered last week. The Irish gave
up seven sacks against a quick Wazzu defensive line. Michigan
brings notable speed on the outside, and is more physical
than Wazzu was. This could bring problems for the ND passing
will constantly apply pressure to Holiday from the outside,
forcing him up inside the pocket and right into the teeth
of that defensive line. The key for the Wolverines is to keep
contain on this guy. If Holiday breaks outside, he is a dangerous
runner in the open-field. He also fairs pretty well at surveying
the field on the run, eventually making something out of nothing.
Michigan is likely to play a lot of zone coverage, keeping
everything in front of them. The DBs will be sitting and waiting
for Holiday to make a mistake against the blitz and throw
right into harm's way.
the Wolverines to control this passing attack and fluster
Holiday with their pass rush. As long as the Wolverines keep
him in their grasp, they'll be okay. The Irish attack will
aim at the open spots in the middle, vacated by blitzing LBs.
This will work to minimal effect because of the athletic ends
the Wolverines can drop into coverage (i.e. the zone blitz).
Michigan Run vs. Notre Dame Run Defense
Slight Edge: Michigan
Perry comes into the game as the nation's leading rusher,
averaging 8.5 yards a carry and 208 yards per contest. Those
numbers seem outstanding at first glance, but the opponents
were Central Michigan and Houston. Those schools currently
rank 112th and 116th, respectively, against the run - now
comes his first real test. Notre Dame gave up only 55 yards
to a Washington State team that tried to make a more concentrated
effort on running the football. Then again, Wazzu has nowhere
near the caliber of O-line, nor the combination of speed and
power U of M has. The numbers for each side in the run game
can be rendered moot to this point and we'll get a good taste
of who is the real deal after this one's finished.
is best when he has room to run between the tackles and can
get into the open field. Notre Dame will likely stack the
box and clutter the middle. This will force Perry outside,
giving the quick Irish LBs - if quick enough - time to adjust,
get to the perimeter and make the play. To counter, I like
the Wolverines to do one of two things. First, they spread
the field using three-wide sets and force the LBs to move
out along the edge and honor the outside. Second, utilize
a two-TE set, similar to what Ohio State does, and use ends
Massaquoi and Mignery to hit and attack those LBs.
on the run-game to be a factor for the Wolverines early. But
Notre Dame, which is a stronger team in the second-half, will
find ways to thwart the blocking schemes and hold Perry to
minimal gains in the mid-to-late stages of the game. As good
as the Michigan line is, they can't block eight guys. Perry
will put up close to 100, but he won't get it nearly as easy
Notre Dame Run vs. Michigan Run Defense
Slight Edge: Michigan
Dame struggled running the ball last week, netting less than
four yards per carry. With an inexperienced offensive line
in front of them, the talents of Ryan Grant and Julius Jones
have to transcend foreseeable barriers and get the job done.
Lucky for them, Michigan's run defense has been under some
scrutiny from head coach Lloyd Carr. Excluding yardage lost
due to sacks, the Wolverines have allowed close to five yards
a pop. That statistic has to improve starting this week.
Dame will look to run right at that Michigan defensive line.
They'll count on their fullbacks and TEs to pave the way to
get the tailbacks into one-on-one isolations against those
Michigan 'backers and safeties. A workable run game is imperative,
especially straight-I lead plays, draws, and counters, which
will in turn set up the play-action pass. Michigan, on the
other hand, will take their strong safety and walk him up
to support the LBs in run situations. The Wolverines have
enough faith in both - their secondary and their pass rush
- to effectively take away this facet of the Notre Dame offense.
we'll see Julius Jones reemerge as the top Notre Dame rushing
threat, giving Michigan's defense problems early on and in
scattered parts of the second half. But remember, the Wolverines'
defense has been challenged by the coaching staff to step
it up a notch. They want this crew to be able to stop the
run and has flat-out questioned their ability to do such.
Folks, stories have taught us - it's not wise to wake a sleeping
giant. I like Michigan to have success halting this ground
game, beating Notre Dame in the trenches.
Slight Edge: Michigan
the Wolverines here simply because of their punt unit. Adam
Finley is averaging over 43 yards per and will do a good job
of keeping the Irish from starting with quality field position.
The Wolverines are well coached in special teams coverage
and should keep Vontez Duff in check. Notre Dame's Nick Setta,
as is usually the case with double-duty kickers, has struggled
so far in punting the football. Michigan's Steve Breaston
is a dangerous punt returner whom the Irish may not be fully
aware. Michigan's placekicking woes have been momentarily
hushed by the rise of freshman Garrett Rivas, who is 2-of-3
on the year.
Michigan and Notre Dame
The game is a college football
signature marking the middle of September. Consider it the
Midwest's version of Florida-Georgia. Neither team is the
other's biggest rival, but they're pretty damn close! The
Irish won last season's back-and-forth game in dramatic fashion,
picking off a John Navarre pass in the final minutes. It was
hard-hitting, exciting and controversial. And now, 366 days
later, we're ready to kick off in Ann Arbor and do it all
the Irish will marginally neutralize Perry and the ground
game, but that will systematically open up the passing game
and lead to some big scores. I like Braylon Edwards to get
back on track in this game and deliver a 10-catch, 150-yard
performance. The Irish, though quick up front, are out-matched
against this offensive line. Their best bet, defensively,
is to pressure Navarre and force him into throwing before
thinking, and taking advantage of mistakes.
other side of the ball, I like the Michigan defense to step
up in a big way and take the Irish run game out of the picture,
ultimately driving Notre Dame out from their game plan. Holiday
is not fashioned as good a passer as he will need to be, and
Michigan can expect great things from their defense this week.
Notre Dame is a slow-starting team and Michigan takes flight
in the second and third quarters. By the time the Irish wake
up, it will be too late. How does that song go? Umm
oh yeah, "Hail to the Victors".
Chappy's Pick: Michigan 28, Notre Dame 10