Welcome to week 2 of the Irish Blogger Gathering. Friends, for the last time in the foreseeable future, our Fighting Irish travel to Ann Arbor, and once again, it will be under the lights in prime time.
So let's dive right into this with our old friend, Frank with UHND. You can find the rest of the IBG here:
Here we go...
Let's get this out of the way... give me your thoughts on the Michigan game. Is it a "rivalry"? Are you sad to see it end after next year? Just, lay it all out there...
Yes I think it's a rivalry and yes I am sad to see it end after next year. While there is certain a checkered past in the history of the series, it is really hard to match the tradition that Notre Dame and Michigan bring to the table when the two teams square off. I realize that Notre Dame has played Navy, Purdue, Michigan State, and Pitt more times, but ask yourself when was the last time any of those games honestly got you as excited as any Michigan-Notre Dame game. Stop thinking. You can't think of a single time.
There is also the element of genuine dislike of Michigan that makes the series so much fun. Again, ask yourself if you have anywhere close to as much contempt for Navy, Purdue, Michigan State, or Pitt as you do for Michigan. You don't. Because outside of a few down years here and there, Notre Dame has handled all of those teams easily.
Now ask yourself how many times you've said, "I don't care who we lose to this year as long as it's not Michigan." That line is sure to have crept into the minds of Notre Dame fans more than once during their lives as a Notre Dame fan.
It's also hard to imagine any ACC opponent creating anywhere close to the same dynamic as Michigan from a rivalry standpoint as well. Since Notre Dame will be shuffling through all of the ACC as part of its yearly commitment, they won't play a single school enough for that same level of good, old fashion, genuine dislike to build.
As we have been accustomed to in the recent past, Notre Dame racked up a lot of yards, but they still left a lot of points out on the field. Why is this happening? Do you see that trend continuing this week? What must the Irish do to put points on the board when the opportunity arises?
Notre Dame still hasn't established a go-to red-zone threat or a go-to work horse back that can gain tough yards. Because of those two things, Notre Dame could continue to put up a lot of points despite moving the ball. The Irish don't have a Michael Floyd or Jeff Samardzija that they can just throw the ball up to and know they will come down with. DaVaris Daniels, Troy Niklas, and Corey Robinson have that potential but right now none has done it consistently enough to be that go-to option on tough 3rd downs or in the red-zone for Tommy Rees
Additionally, Notre Dame doesn't have a powerback to give the ball to in tough situations and know they will get it. George Atkinson is still too tentative with the ball at the line of scrimmage in short yardage as seen on his touchdown run. Yes Atkinson put the ball int he endzone but he hesitated and barely got in against a weak defense. A run like that against Stanford won't result in 6.
Notre Dame has a lot of players who are great in space and the coaching staff does a good job of putting them in a position to add yards after the catch. As the field shrinks, however, those plays aren't there to be made since the defense has less ground to cover. Notre Dame needs to find ways to get the ball in the hands of their big receivers when they get down the goal line and they need to establish a powerback to make defenses respect the running game when they get down into the redzone more as well.
How does the Irish defense stack up against the Michigan offense? Can we expect another low scoring game as in 2012, or will this be more like the last trip to the Big House in 2011?
I will be surprised if we see a low scoring game like the one we saw a year ago in South Bend. Before last year's offensively challenged affair, the last three contests were all pretty high scoring. I don't think we'll see an all out shoot out this weekend in Ann Arbor, but if the winning team scores 13 points this year, I'll be shocked.
Both teams are going to have success moving the ball and pull off some big plays because of breakdowns in coverage or contain. I expect to see TJ Jones and Amir Carlisle knifing their way through the Michigan defense like they did last week and I would be pleasantly surprised if Devin Gardner didn't bust a couple of long runs when the Irish lose contain on passing plays.
All of that is going to lead to some points. The current over/under is at 50 and I say the over takes it.
BONUS: Pick a theme song for Tommy Rees. Insert YouTube video of said song.
Given his reputation as a closer last year... I'll go with Enter Sandman. Now it's time for Reesus to lay the Wolverines down to sleep.