When: 9/1 at 7:30 P.M. on NBC
Where: Notre Dame Stadium
Overall head to head: Michigan leads 24–16–1 (Notre Dame forced to vacate one win by NCAA). First meeting was in 1887. Notre Dame won the last meeting in 2014 31-0.
Last ten: 7-3 Michigan leads
Notre Dame key losses: Josh Adams, Quentin Nelson, Mike Mcglinchey
Michigan key losses: Maurice Hurst, Mike McCray, Mason Cole
Notre Dame key returning players: Te’von Coney, Julian Love, Jerry Tillery, Niles Morgan
Michigan key returning players: Rashan Gary, Devin Bush, Chase Winovich
there’s something to be said that all the key returning starters are on the defensive side of the ball. Michigan had an impressive number three ranked defense last season, while Notre Dame ranked 46.( Rankings based off average yards per game via NCAA.com.) With Michigan returning most of its starters from last season, this unit should be right where it was last year. The only real question is replacing All American Maurice Hurst. The middle of that defense might be softer, but it can easily be hidden by arguably the best defensive end tandem and Devin Bush at linebacker. On the Notre Dame side, things don’t look as good as Michigan. Now that doesn’t mean it’s bad. Notre Dame will be led by Te’von Coney who has been a stud for the Irish throughout his career. Drue Tranquill will also move from rover to full time linebacker to help with the loss of Nyles Morgan. Adding to that, having a finally healthy Shaun Crawford on the opposite side of Julian Love is a good feeling. Crawford has said this is the first time in a few years he has entered camp without any pain. Looking at the star of the defensive backs, Love exploded last year having 20 pass break ups and having all around great corner play all season long. I give the edge, unsurprisingly, to the Michigan defense. Returning almost every starter on a number three ranked defensive is tough to beat. Thankfully there’s another side of the ball.
I’m going to start with Shea Patterson, he has been all the talk of the Michigan off-season. Honestly I wasn’t overly familiar with Patterson. I watched two of his games and looked at some stats, so I can’t say I’m an expert or have him figured out. With that said, he reminds me of someone we’re all familiar with, Brandon Wimbush. At first thought people are going to laugh that off but they are more than just mobile QBs. I think Patterson is and will be better than Wimbush in 2018, but he doesn’t seem like the savior everyone is praising him to be. He is a better thrower and has better escape-ability but not as athletic as Wimbush. Patterson had decent stats in his seven games last year and it shouldn’t be totally swept aside but it was against easy teams. Watching any highlight tape on YouTube and you have to question, why is there so much Vandy on there? That with a few FCS teams sprinkled in. The kid can play and will benefit from Harbaugh but lets pump the brakes on the Heisman hype. I know I spent a lot of time knocking Patterson and his production but it isn’t just him. there’s a reason this team went 8-5 last year with a number three ranked defense. While most of the starters return this still isn’t an elite unit. My lack of trust in the Michigan offense was what really gives the Irish the edge. This early in the season, the defense’s will have the advantage. I don’t think Wimbush is better, but he has been in a system his entire career. He also doesn’t tail spin in a game. He is an athletic game manager. We’ve seen his legs bail him out before in tough spots and from all accounts, it sounds like his passing game is improving. The rushing game should only take a small step back from last year with the loss of two NFL lineman gone. At most schools that would be devastating. But at Notre Dame, offensive lineman seem to be plugged in and thrive year in and out. As far as the passing game, it’s just a wait and see if Wimbush can get his completion percentage as good as it was in high school at 72%. It’s shocking to hear that number and think of Wimbush but lets hope he can figure it out this year and become more of a two way threat. Having some familiar faces in Chase Claypool and Miles Boykin should also help.
All things considered, I expect this to be low scoring and I’m not making some bold take as Notre Dame sits as a 2.5 point favorite as of now. It will be week one at home for the Irish and we saw last year the majority of this team give Georgia all it could handle.
Notre Dame 20-Michigan 17
Started Saturday Tailgate in 2018. Covering all things college football and talking Notre Dame on Twitter.