September 09, 2011

Week 2 Pick: ND - Michigan...Throwback Style

First night game in the Big House.  Throw back unis.  Prime time atmosphere.  Storied bitter rivalry (I owe WeIs a book review - Natural Enemies is fannntastic).  Time to earn back the faith of ND Nation.  

Dan: Notre Dame
I don’t know why I do this to myself. After last Saturday, I was convinced I would be going with Michigan for this game. I am not convinced we have speed on the edges to contain Denard Robinson. I am not convinced we will avoid the stupid mistakes and turnovers that cost us the game against USF. I am nervous about the team and crowd energy for the first Michigan night game. 
However, I know that as a starter, Tommy Rees is 4 -1, and some questionable coaching decisions really lead to the loss against Tulsa. In the 2nd half, ND looked like a different team, and if NBC isn’t a jackass network and instead, speeds the game up and we avoid that 2nd evacuation, I think we may have still won that game. 
Somehow, someway, we get it done on Saturday night in Ann Arbor.
Notre Dame 24 Michigan 23
Jeremy: Notre Dame
Enough has been said about last week's debacle.  Hopefully, in a few weeks, we'll look back on that game and laugh it off as a huge fluke.  But the season all rides on this weekend in Ann Arbor.  Pretty clear that Kelly made the right choice in going to Rees - Crist may look like a rockstar on the practice fields, but he simply doesn't have the taste for the bright lights.  I expect to see the Irish move the ball pretty easily on the Wolverines this week.  The addition of Greg Mattison to the M coaching staff will no doubt improve the defensive unit (how could it get any worse?), but there just aren't enough playmakers on that side of the ball to slow down a good offense like Notre Dame's.  Look for big days from Wood, Floyd and Eifert, and a consistent solid effort from the offensive line.  If ND can hold on to the damn ball, they can score a bunch of points in this game.
No surprise to anyone but slowing Denard Robinson will be the key on defense.  Michigan's offensive line is one of their better units on the team, and there will be room for Robinson and the backs to run.  Hopefully Louis Nix will continue to bottle up the interior of the line, forcing everything to the sidelines, and the waiting arms of Fleming, Shembo and others.  
Getting off to a good start will be key for the Irish, as they simply can't continue to play from behind, particularly on the road.  But I think the defense performs admirably again, and the Rees-led offense has a great deal of success as the Irish pull out the big W on the road.
ND 34  Michigan 28
Jimmy: Notre Dame
A wise man once said "Gunga galunga... gunga, gunga-lagunga."  Yep, that about sums up the hangover feeling from USF.  The cumulative effect of brainfart Irish plays reached Tecmo Bowl-computer-vows-to-beat-you proportions.  The law of averages says there's no way another snowball of dagger turnovers and back-breaking penalties happens again in Ann Arbor.    

Looking at the matchup, you can argue ND has an advantage at every position except QB.  Granted, Shoelace is a difference making advantage, as evidenced by last year.  I still get cold sweats thinking about his one-man deconstruction act.  Te'o, Fleming and Fox (aka The Mane Event) know what #16 is capable of.  I trust they're up to the challenge.  While BJ Daniels wasn't under siege quite as much as I expected, the unit did a great job of stifling USF's offense to the tune of 254 total yards.  Another yeoman's effort like that can get the job done.  

The other QB in the contest enters with a fresh whiff of controversy.  Brian Kelly absolutely made the right decision to bench Crist and name Rees the starter.  Tommy "A.E.D." Rees zapped the Irish back to life coming out in the 2nd half.  He knows where his bread is buttered (the unstoppable Michael Floyd) and shows a willingness on every snap to get #3 involved.  This isn't long division with decimals.  It's college football, and mismatches are meant to be exploited.  Rees will throw to Floyd until they triple team him - and even then he'll still look his direction.  Combined with a resurgent rushing attack behind the impressive Cierre Wood and the Irish should put some points on the board...both halves.  

As most games in this illustrious series are, this one should be memorable.  With their backs already against the wall, BK will get maximum concentration and effort from his guys. I can't even fathom what 0-2 would feel like.  It's not an option.  Go Irish!  Beat Wolverines!  Muck Fichigan

Notre Dame 27  Michigan 25
Mike: Michigan
I know that I am in the extreme minority here, but I am disappointed that Tommy Rees is starting this week.  As an initial matter, I think that Kelly pulled the plug far too quickly on Crist, especially given all of the mistakes that his teammates made in the first half.  If Crist was selected as the starter, then he should have been given more than two quarters of play regardless of how close the QB competition may have been in the offseason.  While Rees performed well last week, he also benefited from a soft USF defensive approach that allowed him to dink and dunk his way down the field.  In addition, Rees also exhibited his propensity to throw interceptions, which was on full display last year.
Anyway, moving past the QB issue, the Irish should be able to move the ball effectively against a weak Michigan defense irrespective of who is playing at QB.  Cierre Wood was electric last week and, provided that Notre Dame does not fall behind early, Kelly should lean on him heavily to carry the offensive load, which will obviously open up the passing game for Rees.  Of course, we have seen enough examples of Kelly abandoning the run entirely (e.g., Tulsa) to expect him to rely on his ground game to generate offense. 
Defensively, this one is tough to predict.  Notre Dame looked strong along the front seven last week, but any Irish fan who watched last year’s game against Michigan is probably still having nightmares about Denard Robinson.  Although the jury is still out as to whether Robinson will adapt to Al Borges’s new offensive system, it would be folly to expect Notre Dame to shut down Michigan completely in this contest.  On the other hand, if the Irish can make Michigan one-dimensional by establishing a solid lead, the defense could force some mistakes from Robinson, who is still inconsistent as a pure passer.  
I don’t even want to address special teams after last week, except to say that things can’t get worse.  At least I hope they can’t.
As noted in my season preview (and as told repeatedly to anyone who will listen to me (which is a short list)), this is the most critical game of the season.  Even prior to the USF game, beating Michigan was imperative for the Irish, who have lost two straight to their abominable enemies to the north.  As if breaking this two game losing streak was not important enough, another defeat could create substantially adverse recruiting consequences for Notre Dame in light of the Wolverines’ early momentum on the recruiting trail under new coach Brady Hoke.  Finally, and perhaps most obviously, an 0-2 start could cause this season to spiral completely out of control for Kelly and his staff.  
Unfortunately, as is virtually always the case at Notre Dame, the Irish will find a way to come up short in a game that they desperately need.  Let the seppuku watch begin.
Michigan 31 Notre Dame 27
Phil: Notre Dame
To make my Saturday even worse, I had to watch the purple faced Brian Kellys turn the ball over 3 times inside the 5 en route to an uninspiring L at the hands of Skip Holtz. I said that I was not thrilled with Crist being named the starter, and boy was I right. I have never seen a more gifted physical specimen be so unable to perform when the lights are on. I cannot think of a comparison it is so baffling. I was hoping that Hendrix could dust off some of that 4 star talent and take the helm, but I gotta admit, I like Rees' moxie. Had he played the whole game against USF, I think we win. The kid knows how to look for Floyd, and he just makes plays. 
Looking back upon last week, didn't it all seem eerily familiar? An optimistic ND aura is dashed by an up and coming middle of the pack team with better raw athletes on the field. It has happened so many times over the past years, and I am sick of hearing a gleeful opposing coach tell the camera that he told his players "this is the biggest game they have played."  I cannot put my finger on it, but it is like we need to have NFL talent and supreme focus to overcome every team's best shot week in and week out, and we just don't have it. 
Despite what I perceive as a lack of talent or focus or both, I find myself again believing in the Irish, and I feel that we can beat Michigan. The night game at the big house will be wild, but Rees will lead a much more focused Irish squad to the W. Cierre Wood should get 80-100 yards, Eifert and Floyd should take advantage of single coverage, and I hope Te'o smothers Shoelace. 
ND 30 Mich 24


Jimmy said...

If you look close at the Theo picture, his gloves are leprechaun themed. They look awesome. How much is the Bookstore selling a pair - $35? $40?

Jimmy said...

Dan - correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't Rees 4-0 as a true starter? He came on in relief vs. Tulsa, even though he played the bulk of the game. Don't think that L technically gets hung on him, nor does USF.

Keep the streak alive Tommy!

Dan said...

Didn't he start Tulsa? I was at my brother's wedding and did not watch that game, so maybe I'm wrong.