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Michigan vs. Notre Dame

Betting Line: Notre Dame -4 O/U 52

9/11/10

Two of the most storied college football programs in the land meet, again, on Saturday when the Notre Dame Fighting Irish host the Michigan Wolverines. While this matchup once held more luster, it pits two 1-0 teams in a huge game for both programs, both of which should be on their way back up the college football Top 20 ladder. Notre Dame opened as a -4.5 favorite and has been bet down to -3.5 as Michigan money comes in.

Michigan opened up against UCONN last week, winning a 30-10 game that potentially could have been closer. UCONN had trouble defensively and gave up some big plays but was set to close the gap to a touchdown late in the game before losing a fumble deep in Michigan territory.

The Michigan Wolverines benched Tate Forcier in week one in favor of Denard Robinson. It worked out very well as he rushed for 197 yards and a TD, while passing for 196 yards and a TD. At times he looked unstoppable. His ability to mix things up with a combination of passing and scrambling kept UCONN on their toes. He has a good target in WR Roy Roundtree. The sophomore caught 3 TD passes as a freshman. On the whole the offense looks good. Denard Robinson will be counted on to do the lion's share of the work. This could be good and bad. They pretty have their eggs in one basket with him, but if he reproduces his performance from last week, the Wolverines will probably beat the Fighting Irish for the second straight year. Michigan has won 3 of the last 4 meetings.

Notre Dame meanwhile, knocked off Purdue 23-12, and led 20-3 at one point. Brian Kelly coached QB Dayne Crist to a 21-12 victory over Purdue last week. It was Crist's first start for Notre Dame. Kelly runs a lightning quick offense and he is a magnificent play caller. He inspires confidence in his players. It won't be long until he has this offense putting up big points. They have too many weapons for that not to happen. Perhaps wont of the most underestimated weapons on this offense is TE Kyle Rudolph. The 6-6 265 lbs junior caught 33 passes for 364 yards and 3 TDs last year. He has the potential to do much bigger things in 2010.

Expect QB Crist to find WR Michael Floyd on a consistent basis in this game. Floyd caught 44 passes for 795 yards and 9 TDs last year. He had a long catch of 88 yards. HC Kelly doesn't run the ball often, but when he does it is usually effective. Look for HB Armando Allen to get a few first downs for the Fighting Irish. The Irish offensive line is solid and will do a great job of keeping Crist off of his back.

Hard to tell after one game, but it looks like both teams are headed in the right direction. For Notre Dame it was the defense that needed to improve drastically, and improve it did, registering 4 sacks and two picks. The offense isn't a concern, although in 12 games last season, they failed to score more than 23 points just 3 times. Same can be said for Michigan. There was a stretch last season of 4 games towards the end of the year where they gave up 35+ points in each game. Holding the Huskies to 10 has to be a great confidence booster.

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This is a matchup of two teams with very similar setbacks in recent years. Both have played well below expectations. Both have turned in some of the poorest performances in school history in the last few years. The main difference here being that one team, Notre Dame, brings in a new coach, while the other, Michigan, retains a coach in all kinds of trouble if he doesn't produce this year.

These teams were even a year ago. Both lost a similar number of starters and bring back the bulk of their players. A key player from a year ago who won't be on the field this time around is Jimmy Clausen. He was one of the stars a year ago, in a losing effort, passing for 336 yards and 3 TD's but coming up short, 38-34. Michigan won the game with 11 seconds left on the clock when Tate Forcier hit Greg Mathews for 5 Yd TD pass. Forcier WILL be on the field this year, only, he'll be on the sidelines as the starting job was given to Denard Robinson.

More times than not, when Michigan and Notre Dame tangle, it's a back and forth game that ends up being decided in the last 5 minutes. Based on how evenly matched these two were last year, and how similar their openers went against similar quality opponents, we'll call for more of the same. That being the case, with the game in doubt in the closing minutes, we want to be on the side of the underdog. Michigan +4

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