2011 Michigan Wolverines Football
Michigan vs Notre Dame Football Preview
Two teams had lightning strike in their home openers this past weekend. These two teams just happen to be two of the five or six biggest brand names in all of college football. Moreover, the kind of lightning that arrived on the Notre Dame and Michigan campuses was not the figurative form of lightning that coaches crave. No, neither the Fighting Irish nor the Wolverines were particularly distinguished in their home openers.
Now comes the test that will reveal a lot about two teams immersed in full-fledged attempts to re-brand themselves.
The season opener was a flame-out for Notre Dame. The quarterback who was named the starter out of fall camp, Dayne Crist, seemingly wasn’t the right pick, as evidenced by his crucial red-zone lapses and a general lack of confidence. Head coach Brian Kelly, who was supposed to have rebuilt his team in year two under the Golden Dome, seemed to be having full-core nuclear-reactor-level meltdowns on the sideline, and most of all, the Irish lost. Not only did they lose, but they were never really even in the game as South Florida left South Bend with a 23-20 weather-prolonged win that was much more comfortable than the final score could ever indicate or suggest.
Because of the results of last week’s train wreck, which featured the same red-zone disasters that marked portions of Notre Dame’s 2010 season (the last-minute interception in the end zone against Tulsa comes to mind) Kelly is pulling the trigger at the quarterback spot. Tommy Rees now enters week two as Notre Dame’s starting quarterback after finishing 24-of-34 for 296 yards and two touchdowns last week. The bright spot for the Irish as they move to week two is that their offense works on a certain mechanical level. No, the 508 yards of offense against a historically-solid South Florida defense wasn’t the problem, it was the five turnovers they coughed up, three of them just outside South Florida’s goal line. Notre Dame can move the ball, but can it finish drives – that is the question heading into the Big House.
There is reason to think that the Irish should have plenty of hope as they head to Ann Arbor to play the Maize and Blue in Michigan Stadium’s first-ever night game. Michigan was a counterpart to Notre Dame in all the weather-influenced delays; its week-one game with Western Michigan was finally cut short due to lightning. The Wolverines ended with a 34-10 victory. Despite the final score, and the fact that just shy of three quarters were completed, Michigan’s offense didn’t dazzle in the win. Denard Robinson finished 9-of-13 passing for 98 yards and no touchdowns. A strong run game headed by Fitzgerald Toussant netted Michigan 190 rushing yards. Instructively, a 3-0 turnover margin in favor of the Wolverines kept the game from being close.
With the opportunity for a full game, we’ll have to see if Michigan’s passing game can more fully develop. Notre Dame did hold South Florida to a rather paltry 254 total yards last week.
This is must-win territory for Notre Dame, while Michigan will play with a little more house money… make that “Big House” money… under first-year head coach Brady Hoke.
Two teams had openers disrupted by lightning. Now is the time for the Fighting Irish and the immersed-in-transition Wolverines to catch lightning in a bottle with their playmaking skills.
By: Matt Zemek