Intriguing Game- (NCAA Football, Week Nine)

(8) Notre Dame Fighting Irish at (19) Michigan Wolverines

Notre Dame: They’ve bounced back nicely after a tough loss against the Georgia Bulldogs a few weekends ago. After watching that game, I gained more respect for them because they were a big underdog heading into that big showdown. What happens? They give Kirby Smart and Georgia all they can handle but fell short by six points. Since then, they’ve won three games in a row over the Virginia Cavaliers, they shut out Bowling Green and last weekend, they escaped a nail biter against the rival Trojans of Southern California (USC). Ian Book has put together a great season. He’s thrown 14 touchdown passes with two interceptions. They’ve needed him to play well and he’s answered the call. With running back Jafar Armstrong missing games with a groin injury, Tony Jones Jr has stepped in and been a consistent and steady workhorse in Armstrong’s absence. Tony is a tough runner that doesn’t go down easily. He’s also a threat in the passing game that can make those catches over the middle. As solid as they are offensively, they’ve been consistent for the most part on the defensive side of the football giving up 16 per contest. I feel they can match with any team in the country. The bye week is in the books and the Irish have another big game ahead of them in Ann Arbor on Saturday night. A Michigan team eagerly awaits them.

Michigan: I’ve seen a lot of Jim Harbaugh as a coach. His last two stints have stood out to me the most, especially what he’s doing with his alma mater. When his football teams go down early in a major deficit, they display a defeated attitude which shows a lack of effort and they stay down. A perfect example of this is when they played the Wisconsin Badgers. As halftime approached, they were down by 28 points. You can even go back to their finale when they played Ohio State at the shoe. Got down early and never recovered. Last Saturday against the Penn State Nittany Lions, they were struggling to get into the game and watched their division foe jump to a two-touchdown lead. They didn’t let that defeat them early on. This was the first time I saw Harbaugh’s bunch show some heart. They fought back and made things interesting late in the game but fell short. Now, Michigan has two losses on the season. Two losses against Big Ten opponents which hurts their chances of winning the Big Ten East (which they weren’t doing anyway) but the season still goes on. To this day, I still can’t figure Shea Patterson out. One week, he’s lights out and the next, he’s struggling to take care of the football. The one thing I’ll say about him though is he’s a gamer. He’s gritty, tough, accurate and throws a catchable football to physical receivers that will leap up and get the ball for him. This is still one of the best defenses in college football. Every game is a must-win for them from here on out. It starts with Notre Dame coming to town.

Notre Dame Player to Watch: Shaun Crawford– The Irish’s secondary has struggled this year. But help is back on the way. Shaun dislocated his elbow in the victory against Virginia. He’s a nuisance at corner. He’s physical, stays with the receiver step for step and he always wants to make a play upon the football. Notre Dame will need him and the secondary to help contest this group of Michigan receivers.

Michigan Player to Watch: Zach Charbonnet– He’s the one guy that holds this offense together. Michigan is a scary team when they decide to establish the running game. The thing I admire about Zack is he does the little things which make the biggest difference. He’s an excellent blocker that helps protect Patterson’s blind side. Look for him to help control things with the running game and pick up blitzing linebackers, safeties and cornerbacks.

Final Analysis: Last year was my first time getting the chance to preview this rivalry. When they met last year, it was a close battle with Notre Dame winning by seven, 24-17. Over a year later, here we are again, this time at the big house. The best way to attack a stingy defense like this is to get rid of the ball quickly and that’s how I see the Irish coming out offensively. The matchup that could decide this game will be the sturdy Michigan offensive line against the Notre Dame front seven. Keeping Shea protected is crucial in this game. When he gets rattled, he turns the ball over. I see this game being close all the way through.

Prediction: Notre Dame 33 Michigan 26

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