Hello and welcome once again Hokeamaniacs! The Notre Dame game is upon us and the 2014 contest on Saturday will be the foreseeable end to this illustrious rivalry.
This fact adds mounted pressure to both programs wanting to end the rivalry with a win – obviously. The game being a road game in South Bend gives the Irish a distinct advantage. Also worth of note, the winner of the contest leaves the field with the honor of being referenced as college football’s program with the highest overall winning percentage.
So I’m going to give this great rivalry one last preview.
The Irish come into Saturday riding high after this past week’s victory over a pesky, underrated Rice team.
This year’s Irish team is much unlike the 2013 team that underachieved in every aspect going 9-4 overall and finishing ranked 20th in the AP poll. The most obvious addition to the 2014 Fighting Irish is the re-emergence of quarterback Everett Golson at the helm for the offensive unit.
Brian Kelly’s bunch were firing on all cylinders last week and will be looking to keep that momentum going this weekend.
The biggest question mark going into Saturday’s game for ND is the defense.
The Irish have lost a whole stable of defensive players especially along the line and the biggest question will be, can the new kids on the block hold their own against the mighty Michigan offense that put up 560 yards on Appalachian State?
The Wolverines come into the 2014 season with a cinder block sized chip on each of their shoulders. Michigan did look pretty good against App State yet; the Mountaineers from North Carolina are no Notre Dame. They weren’t even the same Appalachian State team from 2007.
Saturday Michigan must do several things well in order to ensure a victory. These are my five keys to a victory for Team 135.
1. *sigh* OFFENSIVE LINE
It is absolute insanity to me that this is still an issue but undeniably it is.
The line looked well improved last week versus Appalachian State as opposed to the abysmal play of 2013. This week we see what the big lugs up front are made of.
Graham Glasgow also comes off a 1-game suspension and I’m perplexed by how the line will look this week, will he play? Will the line gel into a cohesive unit? Or will we see an eerily similar version of the team 134 unit? We will get all these answers on Saturday night in South Bend.
The highly touted former national championship winning coordinator comes into Ann Arbor with accolades galore. This will be Doug Nussmeier’s first big challenge while donning the Maize and Blue.
Quarterback Devin Gardner is obviously an X-factor, but in my eyes his play goes hand in hand with the play calling and coaching Nuss provides.
Can Nussmeier put the Maize and Blue in a position to win this game or will he fall into the same proverbial pit that his predecessor Al Borges could seemingly never escape?
The offense ran well in week one and a new wide recieving star was born as Devin Funchess, wearing the #1 jersey, caught three TD passes and looked good doing it.
3. GROUND AND POUND
The 2014 Wolverines should be able to run all over opponents, the talent is most certainly there. The running game was in full-high gear putting up 350 total rushing yards last week. A good first foot forward.
True, a successful running attack goes hand-in-hand with the effectiveness of the offensive line but the backs must perform optimally in order to keep as much pressure off of Gardner and the defense.
If the Wolverines can run the ball effectively and control the clock as well as the line of scrimmage for much of the game it should be a great night for Hoke and company.
Above almost all else, the more successful team will the the squad with the best coaches calling the right plays on the sidelines…Which coach will put his men in the best position to win this ballgame? We all know Brian Kelly will utilize Golson and play tough on pass coverage.
How Brady Hoke adjusts and prepares his for this game will determine the outcome just as much as the players on the field. It is a well-known fact that the Wolverines have not exactly been a force on the road under Hoke.
And last year, Michigan started the season 5-0 and then managed to win only two of their next 7 games to close the year. Point being, coaching looked great early. Then coaching struggled. We still don’t know what type of program we have in Ann Arbor nor how much our coaching staff truly has improved since last year. We will after Saturday.
Can Hoke right the ship and establish a dominate road record? Well to put it simply.. He must!
5. FOURTH QUARTER FIGHT
This is Michigan and Notre Dame for Christ sakes!!
The ballgame will be undoubtedly be won or lost in the fourth quarter. This contest is always a nerve racking nail biter and this season will be no different. The team that wins the fourth quarter will win the game plain and simple.
I am expecting some wild plays, big scores and even unfortunate bounces. And three-or-so lead changes in the last two minutes wouldn’t be bad.
Inside, I am extremely saddened to see this historic juggernaut of a rivalry end. These two teams do not need each other, but it’s a good thing when they play. Both programs will move on.
Michigan has scheduled the Pac-12 Conference’s Washington Huskies for a home-and-home in 2020 and 2021. And Notre Dame just announced a similar addition by adding The team down south to their future schedules.
This Saturday though will be a glorious tough as nails game that will be remembered for years to come without question. These two power houses may not meet year in and year out for now but this will always, ALWAYS be a rivalry!!!
Notre Dame- 30