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irish insider

Head to Head: Michigan

| Friday, October 25, 2019

Irish Passing

The Wolverines rank 8th in the FBS in passing yards allowed per game with 163.6 and 35th with 13.3 yards per completion. They’ve also intercepted five passes on the season. That said, one came against Middle Tennessee, one against Army and three against Iowa. For perspective, the Iowa Hawkeyes rank 88th nationally in rushing offense and needed to pass 42 times against Michigan after gaining 72 yards on the ground, losing 65 of those due to eight sacks by the Wolverines. The Irish offensive line made the Joe Moore Award Midseason Honor Roll and should protect Ian Book well against a Wolverines defense with 23 sacks. The play of Notre Dame’s receivers against marquee opponents to this point, save for senior wide receiver Chase Claypool, has been disappointing, but with the emergence of tight ends junior Cole Kmet and sophomore Tommy Tremble, as well as a bye week allowing multi-weapon back Jafar Armstrong to reach 100% and senior quarterback Ian Book to make any necessary tweaks, Notre Dame’s passing attack should have a slight edge.

EDGE: Notre Dame


Irish Rushing

Despite national narratives of Michigan’s overall struggles, the Wolverines have fielded a defensive unit that has shown immense potential. Michigan has been very respectable against the run, and the Wolverines currently rank 30th overall in rushing defense. The Wolverines were exploited by Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor early on in the season, but Taylor has proven to be one of the best running backs in college football. All of this being said, junior running back Tony Jones Jr. has been on a hot streak as of late, rushing for over 100 yards against USC, Bowling Green and Virginia in Notre Dame’s last three games. It should be interesting to see how Jones fairs against a tough Big Ten defense. It’s hard to say who has the edge here, but I think it’s reasonable to give Michigan’s defense the edge, considering Jones probably has not faced a defense as good as this one before. 

EDGE: Michigan


Irish Offensive Special Teams

With three clutch field goals last week, including an ice-cold and career-best 52-yarder, junior kicker Jonathan Doerer is certainly filling former Irish kicker Justin Yoon’s shoes as best he can. The junior has, in many ways, exceeded expectations for the season, proving much more poised and consistent this year from the first spot than he was last year from the second spot. In what’s anticipated to be a low-scoring game, Notre Dame will have to take advantage of offensive opportunities when they have them. Luckily for the Irish, Doerer has proved he’s capable of doing just that. 

EDGE: Notre Dame 


Irish Offensive Coaching

Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown is highly respected throughout college football. However, while a solid defensive coordinator, he doesn’t possess the fluidity necessary to keep up with a balanced Irish offense. Last season, Ohio State demolished the Wolverines by picking them apart across the middle of the field. Irish offensive coordinator Chip Long’s play calling has been good all season, and with a bye week to prepare he will have developed an ideal strategy to confound the Michigan defense. Unfortunately for the Wolverines, with the way their offense has been performing and with Notre Dame’s defense being its strength, the Michigan defense will likely be on the field for a while, which won’t be ideal considering the effort they expended last week to keep Michigan in the game against Penn State.

EDGE: Notre Dame


Wolverines Passing

Michigan’s Shea Patterson has been up and down in his two seasons at Michigan after transferring from Ole Miss. Patterson is sporting a 57 completion percentage this season, a disappointing 88th in college football. His 7.53 yards per attempt is a better but still average 56th in the country. Patterson is a talented quarterback not playing up to his potential, and he will need to find another gear in Ann Arbor this weekend to topple the Irish. Patterson usually spreads the ball amongst his receivers, with Nico Collins catching six of Patterson’s 41 attempts as his favorite target last weekend at Penn State. Ronnie Bell leads the team with 24 receptions on the season, a low total considering how much head coach Jim Harbaugh lets Patterson throw the ball. The team rarely utilizes the backfield in the passing game, with leading rusher Zach Charbonnet recording just eight receptions through six games. The Wolverines will need to complete more of their passes and continue to get all of their receivers involved to beat the Irish through the air.

EDGE: Notre Dame


Wolverines Rushing

With Shea Patterson’s lackluster 57.4% completion rate and nine touchdown to four pick ratio, the run game has been the brightest spot of the Michigan offense this year. Starting back Zach Charbonnet leads the team with seven scores on the year, averaging just under five yards a carry to act as a pretty productive offensive presence. 

Though the Notre Dame defense has been relatively productive at shutting down the ground game, Michigan’s play calling this week will likely rely heavily on the rush. That many reps could certainly give the Irish their fair share of trouble. 

EDGE: Michigan


Wolverines Offensive Special Teams

Michigan’s kicking situation is unusual, to say the least. An offseason kicking battle between senior Quinn Nordin and sophomore Jake Moody, who took over duties from Nordin at the end of last season, yielded mixed results: Moody has the accuracy, Nordin has the leg. Nordin is 0-3 on the year, missing badly with leg to spare on a 55-yarder against Army and missing closer on a 58-yarder against Iowa, the latter visibly hurting his confidence. The latter miss is likely why Moody, who is 5-7 on field goals with a long of 43, attempted a 55-yarder last week against Penn State and came up a few yards short with no help or harm from the wind. The coaching staff may have tried to get Nordin some confidence by having him take a 34-yarder against Illinois, which he also missed, so one would expect the Wolverines to favor Moody in another rivalry game. The Irish have done a good job so far this season of keeping opponents out of field goal range, and with the chaos among the Wolverine kicking unit, they have a narrow advantage.

EDGE: Notre Dame


Wolverines Offensive Coaching

Michigan favors the run, passing just 46.52% of the time. Zach Charbonnet is their leading rusher, and he has gotten at least 13 carries in each of the last three games, including a 116-yard performance against Illinois two weeks ago. Against Penn State the Wolverines fell behind but still did not abandon the run, ending the game with an even 41 rushes to 41 passing attempts. Do not expect the Wolverines to abandon the run game even if the Irish get out to a lead; Harbaugh leans on the run in all circumstances. Harbaugh dialed up a successful fake punt in the team’s Sept. 7 matchup with Army. The Wolverines are going to throw everything they have at the Irish, so be on the lookout for some special teams trickery.

EDGE: Notre Dame 

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