The last time Notre Dame was in a matchup at home this balanced? Georgia. And we all remember how that turned out.
But one year removed, I can’t help but feel that the Irish have internalized the lessons they learned last year from playing the Bulldogs, and no one more than Brandon Wimbush. While there were plenty of ups and downs last season, a season of lessons in game maturity can go a long way. Plus, he’s not going to be alone. Notre Dame’s defense may be the most loaded unit in the country that no one seems to be talking about, and we all know that Brian Kelly’s teams are a much better bet at home than on the road.
While all signs point to a defensive battle, I think this will come down to the Irish having a chance to win the game with one final drive, just like against the Bulldogs. This time around, Wimbush has the experience to go with the talent.
FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 24, Michigan 20
Elizabeth Greason — Assistant Managing Editor
Notre Dame and Michigan. Michigan and Notre Dame. It’s good to be back. But, in the words of Brian Kelly, “Be careful what you wish for.”
The Wolverines pose a particular challenge for the Irish in that, not only are they strong in all facets of all aspects of the game — Shea Patterson is a wildcard, the Michigan defense is one of the strongest in the country and Jim Harbaugh is, well, Jim Harbaugh — but the rivalry and the marquee matchup also add an extra level of pressure on the Irish.
Luckily, if we are to believe what we’ve been told throughout the offseason, Brandon Wimbush has been cured of his passing woes, so Notre Dame might be able to threaten with a truly dual-threat quarterback. And any defense in the country will have difficulty against his legs. And the Irish defensive line is one to be feared. It will come down to how well the quarterbacks perform under the pressure and which defense can stand up to the test, but in this case, I think the Irish have the edge. Wimbush has performed well in Notre Dame Stadium before and the Notre Dame defense is deep enough to last a full four quarters against the Wolverines.
FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 28, Michigan 24
Joe Everett — Sports Editor
The rivalry is back.
This one won’t be 31-0. Both teams are evenly matched and have many similar attributes. Both teams have deep and talented defenses, especially up front in the trenches. Both teams have questions at offensive line. Both teams have talented but somewhat inconsistent quarterbacks. It’s a classic heavyweight fight, and it’s going to come down to three things: turnovers, who converts in the red zone and which quarterback comes up big, especially in the fourth quarter.
It’ll be a raucous atmosphere inside Notre Dame Stadium. I expect this game will go a lot like the Georgia game last year. I think both defensive lines have the advantage of their offensive counterparts, so this game may very well be decided by which team is able to throw the ball more effectively. I foresee the Irish down late in the fourth quarter like they were against Georgia, and this time I think Wimbush makes enough clutch plays on the final drive to set up senior Justin Yoon for his fifth field goal of the game.
FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 22, Michigan 20
Connor Mulvena — Associate Sports Editor
You’ve heard it time and time again: If Brandon Wimbush improves his pocket passing abilities, the Irish will be successful this season. Let’s assume that Wimbush does indeed do so. Chip Long and the offense are still up against arguably one of the best defenses in college football. Wimbush still has to deal with Khaleke Hudson, and Chip Long still needs to find a way to outsmart Don Brown’s unique use of the nickleback position.
Notre Dame’s defense is stellar, but Shea Patterson is a wildcard. He hasn’t played a lot, but he could easily catch the defense by surprise. Plus, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh is entering his fourth year at the helm, and he still has to prove some things on a national stage. I have a hard time imagining Jim Harbaugh heading back to Ann Arbor a loser on Saturday night.
FINAL SCORE: Michigan 28, Notre Dame 24
Charlotte Edmonds — Associate Sports Editor
It’s hard to imagine a better script if you tried. Two of the winningest programs opening up the season under the big lights. Both teams enter the matchup with a lot on the line after having unraveled near the end of last season.
All that hype will result in several early mistakes — perhaps a few three-and-outs or an interception in the first quarter — as both teams work through the nerves. But eventually experience will pay off as Brandon Wimbush will come up big through the second and third quarters, pacing the Irish. I expect Wimbush will remain relatively conservative in the passing game, rather relying primarily on his legs to create plays.
For all the talk about quarterback play, this game will come down to defense. Jim Harbaugh won’t go down without a fight and you can expect the Wolverines to stage a comeback behind quarterback Shea Patterson and it’ll come down to the secondary to stop their momentum. This game will be a test of mental fortitude, and I trust that Notre Dame has learned from their previous fourth-quarter meltdowns.