The rivalry between Notre Dame and Michigan dates back over 120 years. Before the two schools are set to take a break from their yearly matchups next season, the Fighting Irish and Wolverines will have one more game on Saturday night.
Both teams enter the contest coming off easy victories in Week One of the 2014 college football season. Notre Dame beat Rice, 48-17, while Michigan topped Appalachian State, 52-14. The quarterbacks for the storied programs were particularly impressive in their openers.
Everett Golson returned to the field after missing all of last season because of an academic violation. Against Rice, Notre Dame’s quarterback threw for 295 yards and two touchdowns. He had 12 rushes for 41 yards and three scores.
Unlike Golson, Devin Gardner wasn’t very productive on the ground, but he had no need to use his feet. He was close to perfect against Appalachian State, completing 13 of his 14 pass attempts for 173 yards and three scores. All three of Gardner’s touchdown passes were caught by Devin Funchess, a wide receiver who Gardner believes could be the best to ever play for the Wolverines.
If last year’s game is any indication, Gardner will have a second consecutive strong performance. In a 41-30 win in Ann Arbor, the quarterback completed 21-of-33 passes for 294 yards, for four touchdowns and one interception. He ran 13 times for 82 yards and an additional score.
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly knows his defense can’t afford to allow Gardner to put up big numbers, and he says the Fighting Irish have a plan to stop the senior.
“It’s not as easy as saying ‘what do we want to take away’ as much as we will have calls based upon formations, we will have calls based upon down and distance that will affect what we do in that particular circumstance,” Kelly said, via the Chicago Sun-Times. “If there are two tight ends or there is a fullback in the game, that will adjust our calls accordingly vs. if they’re in a speed set and four‑wide, your calls are going to be different relative to his running and throwing the football.”
While Notre Dame and Michigan are riding high heading into Saturday’s game, one will leave with a .500 record. As the No.16 team in the AP Poll, the Fighting Irish have their sights set on qualifying for the College Football Playoff, and a loss to their rivals would severely hurt their chances. The Wolverines are looking to be one of the top teams in the Big Ten, especially after learning Ohio State’s Braxton Miller would be out for the season.
Despite last year’s result, Notre Dame has been made a slight favorite this time. The series moves to Notre Dame as it comes to a close, and Michigan has been named 3.5-point underdogs at many Las Vegas casinos, with the over/under set at 56 points. The betting odds have moved in the Wolverine’s favor, considering they first opened as six-point underdogs.
Prediction: Michigan 37, Notre Dame 31