Coming off impressive performances in their season openers, No. 14 Notre Dame and No. 17 Michigan renew their rivalry on Saturday night at Michigan Stadium.
When they met last season, the Wolverines were plagued by four turnovers and Notre Dame marched to a 13-6 victory and the national title game. It was the first win for the Fighting Irish over Michigan since 2008 when Jimmy Clausen was under center and Charlie Weis was still at the helm.
Head coach Brian Kelly has senior quarterback Tommy Rees and an upperclassmen-laden offense to lead a Notre Dame squad that looks to drop the Wolverines in back-to-back years for the first time since 2005. In a 28-6 victory over Temple last week, Rees went 16-for-23 for 346 yards and three touchdowns. Last season, he had 34 total complete passes, while playing behind now-suspended passer Everett Golson.
Helping Rees is the two-headed rushing attack of juniors Amir Carlisle and Cam McDaniel, who accounted for 135 of the Irish’s 198 rushing yards against the Owls. Senior receiver and punt returner TJ Jones was Rees’s main target with six receptions for 138 yards, but junior DaVaris Daniels caught two touchdowns and gained 69 yards on three receptions.
The Irish defense largely thwarted Temple’s offense, only allowing one rushing touchdown in the second quarter and later blocking the extra point. Senior linebacker Dan Fox is picking up right where Manti Te’o left off, recording five total tackles, and junior defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt recorded Notre Dame’s only sack.
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The Irish will need a lot more pressure at the line of scrimmage against a Michigan squad that lit up inter-state rival Central Michigan 59-9 last week. Junior quarterback Devin Gardner did much of his damage on the ground with 52 yards and two scores, while senior rusher Fitzgerald Toussaint also had a pair of touchdowns to go with his 57 yards.
Freshman Derrick Green was given an unexpected 11 carries and celebrated his debut with 58 yards and one touchdown, helping the Wolverines gain 242 total rushing yards.
The dominate ground game made up for the three combined interceptions tossed by Gardner and freshman Shane Morris, while the Wolverine defense began their rout after senior receiver Joe Reynolds blocked a punt and returned it 30 yards for a score. Overall, Michigan surrendered just 210 total yards, including a measly 2.3 yards per carry. Junior linebacker Desmond Morgan notched a team-high seven total tackles, and Cameron Gordon had two sacks for a loss of 11 yards.
Reynolds left last week’s game with an undisclosed leg injury, but according to Michigan Live, head coach Brady Hoke said he’s improving every day. The Wolverines could also welcome back defensive back Courtney Avery, who is recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery.
Two Notre Dame reserves are also questionable for Saturday. Quarterback Malik Zaire sat out last week with mononucleosis, and running back Will Mahone is still nursing a high-ankle sprain.
The game will be broadcast by ESPN and starts at 8 p.m. ET.
Betting Odds: Michigan is favored by 4 points.
Over/Under: 52 points.
Early Prediction: Michigan 35, Notre Dame 17