ATS Prediction: Michigan Wolverines vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Michigan Wolverines (2017: 8-5 SU, 5-8 ATS) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (2017: 10-3 SU, 8-5 ATS)
Date/Time: Saturday, September 1st, 7:30 PM
Where: Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, IN
Point Spread: MICH +1 / ND -1
Over/Under Total: 47.5
Two of college footballs’ most historic programs meet in South Bend for a Saturday night showdown between Michigan and Notre Dame that will put the winner in early control of their BCS playoff destiny.
The Wolverines lead the all-time series with a 24-17-1 record, though this is the first times the two have played since 2014 after the series took a three-year hiatus. Notre Dame had won two of the previous three games in the series, both of which took place in their home state of Indiana.
The biggest question facing the Notre Dame offense going into the year is how they will replace the production lost from last season. Gone are five players that are now playing in the NFL; running back Josh Adams, receiver Equanimeous St. Brown, tight end Durham Smythe and most importantly All American offensive lineman Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey. Adams and St. Brown were both easily the team leaders at their position, but it was Nelson and McGlinchey who kept the offensive afloat by protecting inconsistent quarter Brandon Wimbush. The junior Wimbush is expected to start again this season, though backup Ian Book is a proven capable backup after coming in and saving the day in their Citrus Bowl win against LSU to end last year. Dexter Williams and Tony Jones are now expected to man the backfield with Adams and Deon McIntosh both gone, while Miles Boykin, Chase Claypool, and Alize Mack round out what will be the top receiving threats on the team. How Wimbush reacts to the losses around him will go a long way in determining the success of their offense this season.
Defensively Notre Dame, with a season win O/U of 9.5, biggest loss wasn’t on the field, it was on the sidelines with the departure of defensive coordinator Mike Elko. He was instrumental in turning around a once sieve of a defense into one that instead finished first in the country in points off turnovers and ended up 30 spots higher in points allowed per game. Helping to offset the loss of Elko is the fact that the team returns nine starters including Jerry Tillery, Te’Von Coney, Julian Love and Drue Tranquill, all of whom will be relied upon to step up in the leadership department with their team now dealing with their third defensive coordinator in as many years.
Quality issues at quarterback have been the ultimate downfall of Michigan in recent seasons, where they always appeared to be held back by consistent inefficiencies at the position. That problem may finally have been solved in the offseason when grad transfer from Ole Miss Shea Patterson joined the team. He has already been named the starter for the foreseeable future and should immediately provide a much-needed boost at quarterback. Joining him in the backfield will be tailback Karan Higdon, who last season ran for 994 yards while scoring 11 touchdowns in the year. Patterson also inherits a stacked cabinet of wide receivers, with their top 8 in catches back from and highlighted at the top by wideout Donovan Peoples-Jones and tight end Sean McKeon. An experienced offensive line led by junior left guard Ben Bredeson will block the way up front for all.
The strongest part of any team entering the game is undoubtedly the Michigan defense, which has pro quality talent all over and is expected to be one of the nations’ best this season. They are led up front on the line by senior Chase Minovich (18 tackles for loss, 8 sacks) and top NFL prospect Rashan Gary (12 TFL). The middle of the defense is cemented by linebackers Devin Bush (100 tackles) and Khaleke Hudson (17.5 TFL, 8 sacks), while the d-backs are highlighted by a pair of junior cornerbacks in Lavert Hill and David Long and rounded out by free safety Tyree Kinnel. With nine starters back from a squad that ranked 3rd in yards per game, 1st against the pass, 7th in sacks, 13th in scoring and 18th against the rush the sky is truly the limit for Jim Harbaugh’s defense. One of their greatest attributes is their ability to generate a pass rush, which if they are able to do that against Notre Dame could be the turning point in the game. Especially, considering the Irish quarterback’s issues with pocket presence and protecting the ball.
Michigan vs. Notre Dame Prediction
Since Brian Kelly arrived at Notre Dame, they have struggled against top talent, putting up a 1-11 record against teams ranked in the top 13. Michigan may fall just out of that parameter being ranked 14th overall, but they undoubtedly one of the strongest teams in the country with a stacked defense and for once stability at the quarterback position. They also have the advantage on the sidelines as I believe Jim Harbaugh is a class above Brian Kelly. Despite the game being played at Notre Dame Stadium in front of what will be a raucous prime-time crowd, I believe the Wolverines have that much better of a lineup to overcome the road factor and will eventually come away with the win and cover against the Irish on Saturday night.
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