Notre Dame will travel to the Big House in Michigan Saturday to take on the Wolverines in a prime-time game between two top 20 teams. The Fighting Irish enter the game as the favorites despite Michigan having home-field advantage.
The Irish are 5-1 this season and currently ranked eighth in the country. Their only loss this season came at the hands of the Georgia Bulldogs four weeks ago by a score of 23-17. With a loss already on its record, Notre Dame will have to avoid a loss here to keep any kind of playoff hopes alive.
Notre Dame is currently averaging 39.2 points per game while only allowing 16.8. While they lost to then-No. 3 Georgia this season, they did take down then-No. 18 Virginia 35-20 the following week. The Irish are posting 450 yards per game while letting up 346.
Senior quarterback Ian Book is getting the job done for the Irish this season with 1,419 yards, 14 touchdowns and just two interceptions.
Even in the loss against Georgia, Book threw for 275 yards and two touchdowns, but he threw both of his interceptions that week as well. He will have to avoid those mistakes against a tough Michigan defense to keep them in this game in such a hostile environment.
Tony Jones Jr. has been leading the Irish on the ground this season, providing them 557 yards off 80 attempts with four touchdowns over their first six games. Right now, Notre Dame is averaging 188 rushing yards a game, and if they hope to do that again this week, Jones will have to carry a big workload.
A strong weapon Michigan will have to shut down on Saturday is Notre Dame’s top wide receiver, Chase Claypool. The 6-4 senior receiver has 27 receptions this season for 394 yards and four touchdowns. He has been an explosive part of their offense this year, averaging 14.6 yards per carry.
Needing To Bounce Back
The No. 19 Wolverines enter this week 5-2 after dropping their game last week to then-No. 7 Penn State by seven. They took their other loss earlier this season against Wisconsin in a lopsided 35-14 finish.
This Michigan team has a lot of questions surrounding the team and coaching staff, but nothing would silence the critics faster than a prime-time win over the Irish.
Michigan has been averaging 29 points per game while allowing just 19. The Wolverines have also been posting 391 yards of offense this season while giving up 283 per game, 137 yards less than Notre Dame.
Leading the Wolverines from under center again this season has been senior Shea Patterson. Patterson has thrown for 1,522 yards with nine touchdowns and four interceptions. While his stats haven’t been particularly bad this season, Michigan and the rest of the country were expecting more of a breakout senior season from Patterson.
With Patterson’s numbers being down this season, Michigan has relied on running back Zach Charbonnet to keep the offense on the field at big times this season. The freshman has tallied 457 yards and seven touchdowns already off 94 carries this season.
What To Expect
This should make for an intense, emotional, prime-time game this Saturday where big plays will happen all over the field. Look for Michigan to ride the momentum from its fans and push Notre Dame into mistakes early. Despite Notre Dame having the better roster, I like Michigan to get an emotionally-charged win at home in this one.