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Game day: No. 11 Notre Dame vs. No. 18 Michigan

Sep 22, 2012, 2:14 PM EDT

Offensive Line

It’s a big day for the Fighting Irish.

We’ll be with you every step of the way tonight, hosting the live blog with some special guests from The Observer (Notre Dame’s school newspaper) sports team. Until then, let’s go over some final questions I’ve been thinking about as the No. 11 Irish go through final preparations before taking on No. 18 Michigan tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC (and NBCSports.com).

Will the field hold up?

There’s been rain in South Bend already today and it’s cold and windy. Will the much debated natural turf inside Notre Dame Stadium hold up under these conditions? A quick look at the Stadium Cam¬†doesn’t show you much, but the field looks in good enough shape from the top of the press box. Whether we see divots flying while the Irish defenders chase Denard Robinson remains to be seen.

Can Notre Dame play well in back-to-back big games against premiere opponents?

Forgetting the first seven seconds, the Irish handled their business and played solid football against Michigan State last week. It was a stern test and the Irish passed it with all eyes on them. Can Notre Dame do it again? It’s been a full calendar year since the Irish played well at home (against a good team). With a hyped up crowd will the Irish play up to the hype of the game?

Will Notre Dame limit Michigan’s big play capability?

The Wolverines rely on the big play to power their offense. Last year was a perfect example, with the Wolverines rallying back in the fourth quarter thanks to defensive breakdowns and big plays down the field. Of course, the Irish can’t give up 31 yards a reception again. But can they limit what the Wolverines want to do down field with Devin Gardner and Devin Funchess? Can they contain Denard Robinson and keep him from ripping off 20+ yard runs?

If the Irish defense can do that, Notre Dame will walk out of the stadium 4-0.

Will the Irish offensive line dominate the line of scrimmage?

It’s been a slow start for the right side of the Notre Dame offensive line, with new starters Mike Golic and Christian Lombard playing some uneven football. But against the undermanned front four of Michigan, the offensive line needs to dominate the line of scrimmage. There’s no need to put this game on quarterback Everett Golson. It should be won on the backs of Cierre Wood, Theo Riddick and George Atkinson. After putting together a clutch drive at the end of the game to ice it, the Irish need to build on that momentum and seize control of the game early up front.

Can Greg Mattison force Everett Golson to turn the football over?

Notre Dame fans have seen plenty of Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison. And while his defense has been slow to start, don’t expect the Wolverines to sit back and play reactive defense. It’s not a matter of if Mattison will blitz Golson, but how much. Can the veteran coach trick the Irish’s young quarterback into making some bad decisions with the football and forcing some throws into coverage?

So far, Golson has been strong with his decision making. Tonight, if he can stay clean in the passing game, the Irish should be just fine.

Can the Irish front seven collapse the pocket and suffocate Denard Robinson?

It’ll be hard for Denard Robinson to beat Notre Dame if he can’t find anywhere to run. Can Stephon Tuitt, Louis Nix, and Kapron Lewis-Moore collapse the pocket and make it hard on Robinson to find daylight? With Prince Shembo and Ishaq Williams fly off the edge and wreak havoc? Will Manti Te’o, Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese finish tackles like last week?

It’s going to take relentless pursuit to bring down Robinson and the Irish will have their chances. If Notre Dame can blow up the line of scrimmage and beat Michigan up front, it could be a long day for Robinson.

 

  1. sinister23 - Sep 22, 2012 at 2:55 PM

    GO B1G BLUE! 35-24….IRISH SUCK!!!!

  2. NotreDan - Sep 22, 2012 at 3:15 PM

    Well. I spent the morning out and about in Ann Arbor wearing my green #5 jersey.

    And its funny, I got lots of looks, and to a person… they said “good luck tonight”… and I said “good luck to you too”. About half of the people said “you guys are good, we’re gonna need it”.

    At my last stop at the grocery, there was this kid with a T-shirt on that had the word “sinister23″ on the front and a big yellow “M” on the back, and his mom was saying “No! You can’t have that twix bar until you can make it through the night without wetting the bed, you’re in college for Christ’s sake!!”

    Come here and run your mouth now, because after… you’ll still be a bedwetter.

    GO IRISH!!

    • NotreDan - Sep 22, 2012 at 3:18 PM

      And P.S. at least KA leaves up the omments from the other side, not like those mo’s on the sparty boards

  3. NotreDan - Sep 22, 2012 at 3:21 PM

    You guys see that Miami of Ohio just beat Massachusetts the team ran for a couple hundred on the Wolverines?

  4. irishinmich - Sep 22, 2012 at 3:23 PM

    Those are all great questions, Keith. I am pretty confident in The Irish this year. Unfortunately, I have saying that I for four years now. There is nothing left for me to do, but practice GBM (Good Buzz Management), scoot to the edge of my chair, and enjoy. I will be at a party full of U of M honks, up here in Plymouth, MI. “sinister23″ will probably be there.

    ND 31….Mich 24
    GO IRISH!!

  5. ndgoldandblue - Sep 22, 2012 at 3:39 PM

    I’m going to be bold and predict that, if the Irish win tonight, they will get to a BCS bowl. I suppose that would mean that the Irish finish the season with at least 10 wins because at-large bids are never selected to BCS bowls with 3 losses.

    Going in the other direction, I’m going to predict that, if the Irish lose this game, they won’t get to a BCS bowl. I know it sounds like I’m pushing all my chips to the center, but that’s just the feeling I’m getting from this game. Win, and they’ll be BCS bound; lose, and it’s the Sam’s Club Tulip Bowl (or something of the like) for the Irish. I think Keith would agree. Without a win tonight, the BCS looks like a long-shot. Either way, I still love the progress of this team, and I think their stock is definitely trending up.

  6. yaketyyacc - Sep 22, 2012 at 4:06 PM

    Keith, thanks for keeping us so fully informed all week. You raise the questions on our minds and give sober responses.
    This article spells clearly how and where we will go.
    Hope all of us will be smiling at the end of the game. thanks and double thanks.

  7. NotreDan - Sep 22, 2012 at 4:11 PM

    Oh, to be in South Bend at this hour.

    I love my Irish. Manti is an inspiration.

    Show the wolverines what you’re made of boys.

    I can smell the grass, I can see the glare of the lights, hear the click of the cleats on the cement in the hallway … feel the adrenaline….

    College football is still pure in South Bend.

  8. seadomer - Sep 22, 2012 at 5:03 PM

    Prince “don’t take my bike seat” Shembo

    My seventh time, 42-13.

  9. seadomer - Sep 22, 2012 at 5:17 PM

    What the hell is going on with MSU, they are held to 3 pts at the half by the great Eastern Michigan Eagles.
    Come on Sparty, Do something!!! Don’t make us look bad.

  10. NotreDan - Sep 22, 2012 at 11:17 PM

    Ahhhh haahhahahahahahaha F Michigan

  11. NotreDan - Sep 22, 2012 at 11:21 PM

    sinister23 and the rest of wolverine nation suck a fat DICK. ahhhhhh hahahahahah

  12. mtflsmitty - Sep 23, 2012 at 12:05 AM

    Great to beat Michigan.

    Looking forward to watching it again. Was our offensive output so bad because of an extremely conservative game plan put in place once we went up 10? Or does this offense really have the capacity to be that boring, unproductive?

    If this was a matter of “course management” hats off to BK for knowing how to win…even if it’s ugly. But if our offense can be shut down like that, I have some real concerns about our place as a deserving top-10 team.

    Defense was amazing again! Entire state of MI only musters nine points.

    Remember that someone here was lamenting Manti’s inability to force turnovers only four weeks ago? That tide has turned!

    How ’bout that kid from Spring, TX, Nicky Barratti!? Huge pick!

    Glad that one is behind us.

    Go Iriah!

  13. norcalirish - Sep 23, 2012 at 5:05 AM

    Field looked great under a (not really blue) grey sky, and the grass and mud stains on the uniforms were appropriate for a ND um game; real football deserves a real surface.

    ….then again, we could always put a dome over the stadium to keep the jerseys clean and the plastic turf dry….

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