Written by Garin Turner
One of the greatest rivalries in college football resumes on Sept 1 at 7:43 EST on NBC as the No. 11 Notre Dame Fighting Irish host the 14th ranked Michigan Wolverines. This is the first game since 2014 when Notre Dame shut out the Wolverines 31-0, yet Michigan leads the series 24-17-1. This will be the eighth time the two teams play in primetime, with the Irish holding a 5-2 advantage in night games and all five wins have come at home.
The Irish finished 10-3 last year including wins against USC, NC State, and LSU in the Citrus Bowl. The Irish return 15 starters from last year including six from the offense and nine on defense. Junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush combined for 30 touchdowns last year will have to contend with a stout Michigan defense led by Rashan Gary. The Irish boast their own hard-nosed defense, as they held eight of their 13 opponents to 18 points or less last year. Irish head coach Brian Kelly is 59-31.
The Irish will have to replace its leading rusher from a year ago, Josh Adams as he’s in the NFL now. Adams rushed for 1,430 yards and nine touchdowns. Deon McIntosh, Dexter Williams, and Tony Jones Jr., all contributed last year for the Irish and will look to tire out the Michigan defense.
Notre Dame’s top receiver from a year ago Equanimeous St. Brown is also in the NFL. The Irish spread the ball around last year and have plenty of options this year with Chase Claypool, Kevin Stepherson, and Miles Boykin.
On defense, Te’Von Coney is back at linebacker. He led the team in tackles with 116 including 13 for a loss and also had three sacks. Jerry Tillery, a defensive-linemen led the team in sacks with 4.5. Overall, the Irish had 24 sacks on the season and 10 interceptions. Cornerback Julian Love had three interceptions to lead the team.
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh is entering his fourth season as head coach. His teams haven’t fared well in big games often falling apart in the fourth quarter. Michigan believes to finally have their quarterback as Shea Patterson makes his debut for the Wolverines. Last year, Patterson played for Ole Miss and threw for 2,259 yards and 17 touchdowns before suffering a season-ending injury.
Michigan has also struggled in the running game against elite teams. Karan Higdon and Chris Evans will get the majority of the carries for the Wolverines although Harbaugh uses a heavy rotation of running backs.
For the second straight year, wide receiver Tarik Black is out with a foot injury. Nico Collins and Donovan People-Jones will have to step up as well as Grant Perry and a slew of other talented wideouts.
Michigan has led the nation in the past two years in pass defense and third downs allowed. They like to blitz a lot and Notre Dame will have to find a way to slow down an aggressive defense.