2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 2 - Notre Dame at Michigan
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Sept. 10 at Michigan 35 … Notre Dame 31
CFN Analysis: COMING
(AP) ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Denard Robinson stunned Notre Dame in the final minute again.
Michigan's star quarterback threw a 16-yard pass to Roy Roundtree with 2 seconds left, lifting the Wolverines to a 35-31 heart-pounding win over Notre Dame on Saturday night.
In the first prime-time game at the Big House, matching up storied programs trying to restore their luster, Michigan coach Brady Hoke could have chose to kick a field goal to force overtime.
But Hoke gave Robinson a shot, and it proved to be good idea.
"Coach took a stab," Roundtree said.
On a night when Michigan Stadium was vibrant, with a boisterous crowd of 114,804 waving maize pompoms, the Wolverines took their first lead on Robinson's 21-yard pass to Vincent Smith with 1:12 left.
Then they lost it.
Tommy Rees threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Theo Riddick with 30 seconds left, but the Fighting Irish left Jeremy Gallon wide open on a pass that let Michigan go from its 20 to the Notre Dame 16.
"That was an exciting football game," Hoke said. "Both teams fought for 60 minutes. It wasn't pretty at times on both ends, but as I told my players, it's great to win."
The Wolverines (2-0) have won three straight against the rival Irish (1-1) on late-game plays by their quarterbacks. Last year at Notre Dame, Robinson ran for a touchdown with 27 seconds left and Forcier threw a TD pass against the Irish two years ago with 11 seconds left.
Its the first time Michigan has beaten Notre Dame three straight times since 1908.
Robinson didn't match his game last year against Notre Dame, when he had a school-record 502 yards, but Notre Dame couldn't stop him when it mattered.
He was 11 of 24 for 338 yards with four TDs and three interceptions and ran 11 times for 108 yards and a score.
That one came on a fortunate bounce, when he scooped up Stephen Hopkins' fumble inside the Notre Dame 1 and trotted in. Junior Hemingway, wearing a patch on his No. 21 jersey in honor of Desmond Howard, caught three passes for 165 yards and a TD.
Notre Dame was doomed by turnovers for the second straight week.
Rees threw two interceptions, one near the end zone, fumbled deep in Michigan territory. Cierre Wood, who gave Notre Dame a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, also fumbled.
In his first loss in five starts, Rees was 27 of 39 for 315 yards with three TDs and two interceptions.
Wood ran for 134 yards and a score on 25 carries.
Michael Floyd caught 13 passes for 159 yards, becoming Notre Dame's career leader in yards receiving and matched a school record with his 15th 100-yard receiving game.
The Fighting Irish did whatever they wanted on the ground, through the air and on defense early on.
In the end, though, they couldn't make enough clutch plays on both sides of the ball to get a much-needed win for second-year coach Brian Kelly.
"We're not good enough," Kelly said. "There's not one individual in that locker room, including all the coaches, that are good enough right now."
Notre Dame (0-1) at Michigan (1-0) Sept.
10, 8:00, ESPN and ESPN3
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Here's The Deal … Call this the calm before the storm game. Or more appropriately after last week, the calm after the storm.
The battle between the two biggest programs in college football history – okay, Ohio State and Oklahoma belong in the discussion, too – isn't nearly the titanic struggle it was when Rocket Ismail and Desmond Howard, but it's about to be. Give it a few years, or maybe even one more season, and this could be a showdown truly worthy of the big names. As it is this year, it's not bad.
The Irish need a little more time, a little more seasoning, and apparently for this season, a little more tuning up under head coach Brian Kelly to let the young talents he brought in mature, and he needs about one more year to take an already strong situation and make it national title-level good. Michigan is in the same boat under first year head coach Brady Hoke, who inherited a strong group of veterans from Rich Rodriguez, but needs a little and at least one big recruiting class to make the team the way he wants it. One thing appears certain, though; these two head coaches are keepers, and they're each putting together something special.
The two programs are scheduled to play up until 2017, but it shouldn't take six years for this matchup to have a major say in the national title discussion, and it would be a total and complete stunner if these two didn't put on one of the best shows of the college football season on Saturday night. All the elements are there for a classic.
There's desperation and a bit of panic on the part of Notre Dame, cautious optimism for an experienced and talented Michigan squad, and high expectations from two fan bases ready for the glory to return yesterday. Throw in the primetime TV slot and the overhype that started to kick in after both teams had to deal with rain-soaked games last week, and Notre Dame vs. Michigan starts to feel important again.
Notre Dame played reasonably well last week, and lost. The Irish marched up and down the field on USF, cranking out 508 yards of total offense with almost 400 of them coming through the air, but the team couldn't stop screwing up. Five turnovers, poor decisions, missed timing; there were a slew of first game problems that can be corrected with a little bit of time, but Notre Dame won't get that. Starting out 0-1 is forgivable, but 0-2 will sound off the panic alarms with Michigan State coming up next.
Michigan played reasonably poor, and won. The passing attack was non-existent and the running game was fine, but the mediocre play of the offense was saved by a timely, aggressive defense that managed to screw things up for the Western Michigan offense just enough to make a close game a blowout. Two defensive scores from Brandon Herron masked the problems of a D that got picked apart by Alex Carder and the Bronco attack. This is the second game in a five-game home stand to start the season, with Eastern Michigan, San Diego State, and Minnesota coming up next. With a trip to Northwestern to follow, if Michigan can pull this off, 6-0 isn't out of the equation going into the trip to Michigan State.
After a few years of blowouts, the last two games between the two have been terrific, with Michigan winning last year 28-24 in South Bend and 38-34 in Ann Arbor in 2009. Wolverine fans have been used to hot starts, only to see things fizzle, while the Irish have extended the streak of Septembers with at least one loss to nine. If Kelly loses to Michigan for a second season in a row, the grumbling will start to grow, while if Hoke can pull out the victory, all of a sudden, the hype will go through the roof.
Why Notre Dame Might Win: It's not like Michigan stopped Western Michigan cold.
The Broncos got a 183-yard passing game out of Alex Carder in the three quarter game, and the running game - not expected to be a WMU strong suit – came up with 96 yards and a score. The Wolverines dialed up the pressure when they absolutely had to, and they came up with the big play to make a tight battle a blowout, but these also got marched on. It took a few chances and a few timely plays to get into the backfield and get to Carder, and now the Irish have a little bit of film on what's coming.
The Notre Dame offense will be faster and quicker-hitting to counteract the blitz and to get the ball into the second level as quickly as possible. USF's defense is faster and more athletic than Michigan's, and while it was disruptive, it also couldn't handle the quick timing plays and had to work hard to manufacture pressure. Yes, the Bulls came up with two sacks, but for the most part, Notre Dame's mistakes were made on its own. The offense wasn't sharp yet.
Defensively, Manti Te'o came up with nine tackles and the linebacking corps did a nice job of keeping mobile quarterback B.J. Daniels under wraps. Daniels ran for 37 yards on 12 carries and the USF running game averaged under three yards per carry. The Irish will be happy to sit back and let Denard Robinson try to win this game through the air, while the front seven should be able to hold its own.
Why Michigan Might Win: Turnovers, turnovers, and turnovers. The Irish moved the ball at will against South Florida but kept shooting itself in the foot with eight penalties, three interceptions, and two fumbles. Throw in two more fumbles that it recovered, and the effort was sloppy and unfocused for a team that put up yards at will. Michigan's defense isn't exactly a rock, but defensive coordinator Greg Mattison might be the best coach in this game and he knows how to disguise his blitzes and coverages well enough to throw teams off. Not only did Alex Carder get kissed time and again, but there were a few times when he never saw it coming. Notre Dame's offense is all about timing, and if Mattison can throw it off just a little bit, it won't work.
Offensively, the Michigan offensive line is coming off a good game and should be a plus. The Irish defensive front is a plus, but Michigan should be able to open up just enough holes to get the ground game going and should be able to keep the front four on its heels. Notre Dame will sit back and let Robinson try to throw, and it can't get caught taking chances and can't give open spaces for the Wolverine runners to fly through. Michigan can attack on both sides of the ball, and Notre Dame might get burned if it tries.
What To Watch Out For: Western Michigan's fabulous wideout, Jordan White, destroyed the Michigan secondary catching 12 passes for 119 yards. Carder-to-White kept working, and the two connected over and over and over again, and this week it could be the Tommy Rees-to-Michael Floyd show. Rees stepped in for an ineffective Dayne Crist and completed 24-of-34 passes for 296 yards and two touchdowns with two picks in a comeback attempt against USF, with his numbers mostly working once Rees found Floyd. Floyd was fantastic against Michigan two years ago with seven catches for 131 yards and a touchdown, and made five grabs for 66 yards last year. Against USF, he came up with 12 catches for 154 yards and two touchdowns, and he'll be targeted from Snap One this week.
Michigan can't win if Denard Robinson isn't special. His Magnum Opus last year was in South Bend, destroying the Irish for 258 rushing yards and two touchdowns, while completing 24-of-40 passes for 244 yards and a touchdown in the win. He wasn't able to break free against Western Michigan, but he completed 9-of-13 passes keeping his throws short and effective. Against Notre Dame, he'll have to turn it loose and he'll have to hit on a couple of downfield throws early on to open things up. He needs to get into the second level with more room to move, and after keeping things relatively vanilla against WMU, the Michigan offense should be far more creative to get No. 16 on the move.
What Will Happen: Musical quarterbacks. Tommy Rees was named Brian Kelly's Quarterback of the Year for this week, but he'll miss on a couple of early throws and will come up with a few key mistakes to open the door for Crist to come in. In a reversal of last week, Crist will get the offense moving after Rees doesn't.
It won't matter.
Robinson will break out with a tremendous game, and the Michigan defense will bend, bend, and bend some more, but it won't break. Notre Dame's special teams will be a plus, and they'll come up with a few big plays to stay in the game, but the Wolverines will come up with the shootout win.
CFN Prediction: Michigan 37 … Notre Dame 34
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Notre Dame -3.5 O/U: 55.5
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