Notre Dame Fighting Irish (0-1 SU, 0-1 ATS) vs. Michigan Wolverines (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS), 8:00 p.m. EST, College Football Week 2, Saturday, September 10, 2011, Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Michigan, TV: ESPN
by Scotty L, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: ND 4.5/Mich +4.5
Over/Under Total: TBA
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The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame make the familiar trip to Ann Arbor to take on the Michigan Wolverines on Saturday. The word was to expect a revitalized Notre Dame team this seasonnot a return to their championship form, necessarily, but a team that had an outside shot at the BCS picture. Now in week 2, they are already changing quarterbacks and coming off a loss where they were double-digit favorites. Those who found the appointment of Dayne Crist as starting quarterback a little strange in light of Tommy Rees late-season success last year were proven right. Crist struggled and the change was made at halftime. Rees ended up putting up 296 yards in limited play, almost overcoming a 16-0 deficit to lose 23-20. Nothing is official yet, but one would assume Rees will get the start this week.
While a bad sign, it might be premature to stick a fork in the Fighting Irish. It was a strange game, lasting 6 hours due to lightning-induced delays. Skip Holtz, son of Lou, seemed inspired by being at his old stomping grounds and where his father achieved so much success. His South Florida squad followed suit. Miscues, penalties, and turnovers left Notre Dame struggling to stay afloat and the Bulls did a commendable job of taking advantage.
It doesnt get any easier for the Irish, as they now face the daunting task of going into Ann Arbor to face another supposedly resurgent teamthe Michigan Wolverines. With a great new coach like Brady Hoke at the helm, many expect an upswing for the former national power. Whether that manifests this season is problematic. Coach Hoke will be working with a team of recruits who were not his own and who havent fared terribly well in the past 3 seasons. Still there is hope, as Hoke brought in Greg Mattison, who was the defensive coordinator for the Ravens. The offseason was promising. A former assistant for Lloyd Carr, Hoke embraces the Michigan tradition and seems truly motivated to turn this thing around.
Hoke will inherit a pretty good offense, led by quarterback Denard Robinson, who ran for 1700 yards, while passing for over 2500. In a 28-24 win over Notre Dame last season, Robinson threw for 344 yards and ran for a nifty 258. Whether that translates well with the more pro-style offense that Hoke will implement remains to be seen. While they handily beat Western Michigan in week one, the offense was hardly explosive, with Robinson throwing for under 100 yards and running for only 46. If Robinson is not allowed to let his full powers bloom this season, this offense might actually take a step back from its prior form.
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Opposing defenses were often thrown off by the unconventional Wolverine offense of past years. Michigans record for the past 3 seasons doesnt really reflect it, but the unpredictability of it actually had defenses guessing a lot of the time. The players Rodriguez put in there were more suited for his type of offense. Now theyre going to be working a more conventional offensewith plenty of pocket passing, between-the-tackles rushing, and a more north and south attack. Well have to wait and see how this team responds to the changes and this game could very well provide a vivid indication.
The Irish offense seems better under Rees. Star WR Michael Floyd appears to have a better chemistry with him and the 2nd-half against South Florida was actually halfway promising as they outscored the Bulls 20-7. At the same time, the game was a major disappointment. South Florida is a nice little teamwell-coached and with a lot of talent on both sides of the ball. But Notre Dame was nationally-ranked and expected to romp at home. It just seems that Notre Dame cannot stop under-performing. For several years, this team has been expected to make a significant turnaround. Going off of Saturdays game, those expecting an Irish upsurge might need to continue waiting. They simply did not look like a ten-win team on the field on Saturday.
This is tough game to call. Both teams had potentially misleading first games. The Irish were plagued by miscues, which seriously compromised their chances. Michigan, meanwhile, beat up Western Michiganhardly a solid indicator of what to expect against the better teams they will eventually play. This week should provide a more reliable barometer of what to expect this season from these two storied teams.
Scotty Ls Pick to Cover the Point Spread: If you are inclined to believe that Michigan will have some growing pains under a completely new system, this might not be a bad spot to take a whirl with Notre Dame. You have to figure the Irish will be playing hard to avoid going 0-2. Then again, this was a team that was supposedly poised to have a big year. Now, theyre reeling from a loss to South Florida and already mired in this endless Crist vs. Rees QB issue. A slight vibe of panic and deflation might have set in with Notre Dame. Take Michigan at home plus 4.5 points.
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