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Week 2 - Notre Dame at Michigan
Michigan RB Derrick Green
Michigan RB Derrick Green
Posted Sep 4, 2013

Week 2 Fearless Prediction & Preview - Notre Dame at Michigan

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Notre Dame (1-0) at Michigan (1-0) Sept. 7, 8:00, ESPN

Why You Should Give A Hoot: It doesn’t matter whether or not this is a “regional rivalry,” at least according to a now-backtracking Brian Kelly, it’s Notre Dame vs. Michigan. It matters, and it matters beyond that it’s just Notre Dame vs. Michigan in Ann Arbor for the last time in, most likely, a long time.

With each team ranked in the mid-teens, this is statement time. This is Notre Dame’s first real shot at showing that last season wasn’t a fluke, and considering the last five losses came against BCS-bowl teams – let’s just throw 2011 USC into that category – a loss would represent a step back and could be a big, big problem to get back to one of the big money games.

The Irish don’t have a natural bowl tie-in, and while someone would break a contract to take them, after last season anything less than a BCS appearance would be a major disappointment. With Michigan State, Oklahoma, USC, Arizona State and Stanford still to deal with, the margin for error becomes extremely slim with a loss.

Michigan was fantastic in its opening week win over Central Michigan, with the offense coming up with a record-setting performance and the defense dominant in the 59-9 win. A loss to the Irish all but ends the national interest and really will make Michigan more of a regional power, but a win turns on the spotlight with relatively smooth sailing for a while. If all goes according to plan, with Akron, UConn, Minnesota, Penn State and Indiana up next, 7-0 is more than likely before dealing with the road trip to Michigan State, and then it’s Game On with the possibility of being this year’s version of 2012 Notre Dame.

It’s a stretch to call last year’s ugly 13-6 Irish win a classic, but the previous three games were all decided by four points with the 2010 and 2011 games, both Michigan wins, as good as any games in their respective seasons. This should be another dead-even showdown, making the disruption of the rivalry, and it is a rivalry, all the more disappointing. Savor this.

Why Notre Dame Might Win: The defensive line. It’s going to be the key to the entire season for the Irish, allowing just 134 yards against Temple and keeping the Owl running backs from getting going. Temple quarterback Connor Reilly was the only one able to get anything moving, and this week the Irish would be more than happy if Devin Gardner became the primary rushing weapon. While Fitzgerald Toussaint and freshman star Derrick Green will get involved early losing the thump of Drake Johnson, who’s out for the year with a knee injury, takes away a possible key option. Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt didn’t exactly destroy Temple last week, even though Tuitt came up with a sack, but they were active and held their own. They should be able to take away the Michigan backs early on while generating just enough pressure on Gardner to get by. However …

Why Michigan Green Might Win: Temple actually moved the ball a bit. It wasn’t pretty and the points didn’t flow, but the Owl attack did a nice job of simply getting first downs and surviving deep into the fourth quarter. The Irish defense will be dominant at times this year, but does it have the same fight and toughness it showed throughout last season? It did in Week One, but the overall production wasn’t quite up to 2012 snuff. Meanwhile, offensively, can the Irish keep up in a shootout? Tommy Rees was fantastic, and the running game worked well with Amir Carlisle and Cam McDaniel cranking out yards in chunks, but it was still a bit of a fight to put points on the board. After Rees found DaVaris Daniels for two 32-yard touchdown passes in the first quarter, it took a late first half big play to Troy Niklas to take control. As long as the Wolverines don’t give up the bomb, they should be fine.

Who To Watch Out For: Tommy Rees had a terrific first weekend as the starter again, throwing for 346 yards and three touchdowns and connecting with T.J. Jones for six plays for 138 yards. Rees looked cool, calm and comfortable, and now he has to be just as steady with more heat and pressure on. The starter against the Wolverines two years ago, he would’ve been the big story with a 315-yard, three score comeback effort, but Denard Robinson stole the show in the 35031 Wolverine win.

- So who’ll step up in the Irish linebacking corps with no more Manti Te’o and with Danny Spond being forced to retire? Dan Fox led the team with ten tackles last week and got into the backfield for a nice play. A solid, steady starter, he has good 6-3, 240-pound size and fantastic instincts. The former safety can move with sideline-to-sideline ability.
- Can Michigan generate consistent pressure on Rees? With star pass rusher Jake Ryan still trying to come back from a knee injury, the Wolverines don’t have a dominant force on the outside who can get into the backfield on a regular basis – maybe. Linebacker Cameron Gordon came up with two sacks against a shaky CMU offensive front, but the more Michigan brings the heat from the back seven, the more opportunities Rees will have to connect on his short-to-midrange passes.
- After his two big early scores last week, can DaVaris Daniels become the go-to deep ball threat for Rees? A great recruit, he’s extremely athletic and has all the tools, and with T.J. Jones being the top target, at least last week, Daniels doesn’t have to do it all by himself; he can be a great complementary playmaker.

What Will Happen: It’s not going to be a shootout, but it’ll get interesting in the fourth quarter. Both defenses will control the action in the first half, and a bad interception thrown by Rees will give the Wolverines the lead, but the Irish senior will make amends. The Notre Dame defense will turn the intensity up a notch in the second half, and Rees will come up with a great fourth quarter to give the Fighting Irish – and the Figthing Irish – a terrific win.
Prediction: Notre Dame 23 … Michigan 20
Line: Michigan -3.5 o/u: 51.5
Must See Rating: (5 Olbermann – 1 Total Divas) … 5
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