It’s the first week of the season, but this matchup could have major implications on how the entire year goes for these schools. Notre Dame can’t afford to lose at home against a top opponent, while Michigan has a difficult Big Ten Schedule that likely won’t result in being undefeated. The Wolverines, on the road, are small -1 point favorites at 5Dimes Sportsbook.
Both of these teams get plenty of hype every summer, but Michigan’s is usually unmatched on a national level. The addition of quarterback Shea Patterson has a lot of people thinking the offense will be good after scoring only 25.2 points per Game last year. Patterson comes from Ole Miss where he put up solid numbers (63.8% completion, 17 TDs, 9 INTs), but had a problem with interceptions against most defenses. In fact, 13 of his 17 touchdowns last year came against South Alabama, UT Martin and Vanderbilt. He’ll clearly have to improve under Jim Harbaugh and if not, the offense may not improve much. Still, it should be better with the core returning on the line to go with experienced skill players from running backs Karan Higdon and Chris Evans to wide receivers Grant Perry and Donovan Peoples-Jones.
If the Wolverines can Scorewith regularity, opposing teams will have trouble, though the Fighting Irish present a formidable challenge on the defensive side with nine starters returning to a group that held teams to 21.5 points per Game. They weren’t elite last year, but may take another step with added experience and they could cause problems for Patterson on his new team.
But to win the Game, the Irish have to move the ball against one of the best defenses in the country. Michigan’s defense has been its calling card the last few years and allowed just 18.8 points per Game last year. There’s no reason that group will take a step back with Rashan Gary still up front and a secondary that returns every starter.
The Irish look set to start Brandon Wimbush at quarterback, but if he doesn’t perform well early, could be replaced by Ian Book, who was a better passer in limited time last year. Wimbush was more useful as a runner in 2017, going for 803 yards and 14 touchdowns, while he only completed 49.5 percent of his passes. It’s hard to see that number getting better against this defense, which means Notre Dame may have trouble scoring in this Game. Still, there’s talent at every position for the Irish even though some top guys left. Dexter Williams will likely be the top running back, while Chase Claypool will be Wimbush’s top target. against better defenses last season, this offense couldn’t do much and never reached more than 24 points in its final Four Games.
To win at home, the Irish need to keep the Game low scoring because it’s hard to see them putting a ton of points on the Michigan defense. The Wolverines have the edge, but that’s based on a quarterback that hasn’t played with this offense. If both quarterbacks struggle, it’s easier to go with the better defense (Michigan), but playing at home could be a major advantage for Notre Dame.
Please check back for Our pick