Apologies for the lack of updates yesterday, but I was flying back from Chicago and enjoyed the double-whammy of travel delays and a few computer problems, but we’re back and better than ever today to get started on the now incredibly intriguing Notre Dame-Michigan showdown this Saturday.
As a college football fan, if you’re not glued to a couch with as many TVs on as possible from sunrise to sunset, there’s something wrong with you. Here’s the bullet-points of what could be the best Saturday of the year:
* Notre Dame vs. Michigan
* Florida State vs. Oklahoma
* Miami vs. Ohio State
* Penn State vs. Alabama
* South Florida vs. Florida
* Georgia vs. South Carolina
* Iowa State vs. Iowa
* BYU vs. Air Force
* Oregon vs. Tennessee
* Stanford vs. UCLA
* Virginia vs. USC
Even with all the incredible football on tap, I’ll make a persuasive argument that the best game of the week is the one being played in South Bend. With the explosion of the Michigan offense, and the incredible performance by Denard Robinson, the Wolverines look like a completely different team than the one that cratered last season after starting 4-0. In Robinson, head coach Rich Rodriguez has a quarterback that gives him everything he wants in his quarterback archetype, and the closest thing he’s had to Pat White since the former West Virginia quarterback graduated.
Sure Michigan’s offensive breakthrough was impressive, but the Wolverines defense holding UConn to only 10 points might be even more surprising. With a secondary that looks like a ghost town and a first-year transition into the 3-3-5, defensive coordinator Greg Robinson did a nice job of mixing pressure and a solid run defense, while protecting a secondary that should have been under fire with Michigan jumping out to an early 21-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Still, Michigan’s fast start was exactly what the defense needed. If there’s any type of offense that the 3-3-5 is susceptible against, it’s a power running team, and UConn certainly came off a season where they started to establish a punishing ground attack. The best way to shutdown a solid running game? Rack up a three score lead early.
We’ll certainly get into it in more detail as the week continues, but Notre Dame’s base defense will be key to stopping the new-found explosive Michigan attack. Great play by outside linebackers Kerry Neal and Darius Fleming, as well as stout games by the front three will be key to allowing Manti Te’o to run free and chase down the man known as Shoelace. Robinson’s passing proficiency was a product of the dangerous running game Michigan put together, but the Irish secondary will have the benefit of spending most of their time in zone coverage, making it easier to not fall victim to the explosive play-action passing attack.
Michigan’s depth chart took another hit this week when Rich Rodriguez announced that safety/linebacker Carvin Johnson was most likely out for the game, joined by wide receiver Roy Roundtree. Also gone from the dwindling secondary depth chart is free safety Jared Van Slyke, who also serves as a holder.
I’ll have analysis on both Brian Kelly and Rich Rodriguez’s press conferences later on, but the short week is a perfect antidote for a Saturday afternoon that can’t come fast enough.