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Final thoughts before kickoff

Sep 7, 2013, 12:34 PM EDT

Louis Nix III AP

Ann Arbor is abuzz with tailgates set and thousands migrating towards the Big House. In a game and grudge match that feels mighty personal, let’s run through some final thoughts before kickoff.

At this point, we’ve beaten some of the match-ups to death, so here are ten key players that need to step up for Notre Dame to win.

Tommy Rees: Nobody has more on their shoulders than Rees tonight. He’ll be challenged mentally and physically, with Michigan likely needed to make Rees uncomfortable to force him into some bad decisions.

If Michigan can do that, they’ll likely win the game. If they can’t, expect the Irish to be victorious.

TJ Jones: Big time players play big in big games. (Say that five times fast.) Brian Kelly has talked so much about the improvement of Jones in the last year, we’ll see if that’s Kelly trying to ease the pain of losing first round talents in consecutive years or if Jones has finally come into his own.

Last week, it was DaVaris Daniels as the designated deep threat while Jones made plays from the slot in the short passing game. Some of those stretch the field plays could come TJ’s way this week, especially if Daniels’ groin pull nags.

Nick Martin/Ronnie Stanley: Both players are making their first road start in a hostile environment. If they’re capable of playing up to the moment, the Irish offensive line will have the chance to overpower Michigan’s front. Brian Cook of MGoBlog hinted this morning on Twitter that defensive tackle Quinton Washington might be limited tonight. That’s got to be considered good news for the Irish.

One of the Running Backs: I was leaning towards putting Amir Carlisle’s name here, but it’s too tough to tell which back will run with his opportunities tonight. I expect someone to, and it could be any of the guys.

The Irish need to run the ball effectively tonight.

Dan Fox: While he filled the stat sheet, I didn’t think Dan Fox played his best game last week. With Devin Gardner elusive both inside the pocket and out, Fox is going to need to play disciplined, but aggressive football, making the tackles in space when he has to do it.

Stephon Tuitt: I personally think the one-on-one battle between Tuitt and Taylor Lewan is probably overhyped, with Tuitt likely playing all over the defensive line, not just exclusively lineup up across from Michigan’s All-American. But Tuitt needs to be dominant at the line of scrimmage, both in the run game and pass.

Getting sacks is great, and Tuitt should probably get at least one every Saturday he plays, but keep Gardner confined to the pocket while dominating up front will be key.

Ishaq Williams: Playing a mix of positions last week, Williams had his shot at getting a sack, but ran through it out of control. That can’t happen tonight, where the quarterback will be more elusive. I’m predicting Williams (finally) picks up his first sack tonight.

Elijah Shumate: He didn’t play his best football last week. But Shumate needs to rebound, providing nickel coverage in the slot against guys like Drew Dileo and Jeremy Gallon, two diminutive but elusive wide receivers.

Kyle Brindza: Brian Kelly might just put Brindza in charge of all three kick units. And if that’s the case, the junior needs to be up for the challenge. A Michigan native, Brindza needs to do a better job of directional punting and if he’s called upon, make the field goal attempts in a game where three points usually determines the winner.

Louis Nix: Big Lou was frustrated last week by double-teams. Expect more of the same tonight against an inexperienced interior offensive line. But Nix needs to impact the game both on and off the stat sheet, detonating Michigan’s line of scrimmage and being a destructive force as the tip of the spear for the Irish defense.

  1. jommy995 - Sep 7, 2013 at 12:40 PM

    What to expect, says Jommy:

    1. ND runs successfully outside on stretch plays and end arounds, throws half a dozen wide-receiver screens or bubbles, and gets the ball to the tight end deep over the middle at least twice. Where the offense struggles? Inside. Strength of the Michigan defense. Not much there except an Atkinson fumble waiting to happen.

    2. No huddle offense that doesn’t hurry up — a la Peyton Manning. Rees gets em lined up fast, prevents the D from making substitutions, and then takes forever with the snap count. Identifying blitzes, adjusting the blocking schemes, audibling into better plays — all at the line of scrimmage.

    3. Lots of 4 down linemen with Tuit and Nix both coming straight up the gut with pressure in Gardner’s face. When Gardner gets away, he runs well and accumulates some decent yardage. But it will be tough to get around the two charging rhinos coming straight up Main Street, hands up in the passing lanes. Sacks may be few but pressures many, plus some batted passes to boot.

    4. Interceptions. Expecting some really bad passes due to aforementioned rhinos. ND secondary is more athletic than UM receivers and comes down with more than half of the jump balls.

    5. ND’s O-line. Every lineman puts pads on somebody every down. These guys make reads and pick up blitzes. Long gone are the days when Weis’s boys would block every other pass rusher, leaving one or two untouched while looking around, head on a swivel, unsure whom to block.

    • dickasman - Sep 7, 2013 at 12:48 PM

      So you’re saying 50-0 victory? Great life is good…I’d love to see couple a INT’s from the Irish db’s. goes a long way helping the d line. I don’t know how long they can keep this up, y I know that’s what my mom said to ur dad. I don’t care who, pick a couple, turn your head son, turn your head!

  2. mtflsmitty - Sep 7, 2013 at 12:54 PM

    After watching the Temple game over a few times now, and seeing how unvaried the defensive scheme was (see post re Tuitt on previous article), and am convinced we are going to see a very different Irish team take the field tonight.

    Expect several new looks on offense, and much more dynamic defensive assignments for the front-7.

    I will also say that I’d be much more concerned about Matteson getting into the head of Ghoulstein, than Tommy. Tommy isn’t going to out-athlete anyone. But mentally, he’s as tough as any QB in college football. Matteson will sooner confuse his own team into missed assignments than he will force Tommy into bad decisions.

    Irish: 23
    UM: 17

    • dickasman - Sep 7, 2013 at 1:18 PM

      I say 21-20 and comes down to how our kicking game and Rees plays. Whatever it is Tommy does, he just needs to get rid of the ball sooner rather than later, they will be coming after him. 123 and get rid of it and I don’t mean to sidelines everytime, anybody can do that. He holds on to it anymore than that with that leadfoot of his, we will be sacked. Basically, play a perfect game Tommy.

    • jommy995 - Sep 7, 2013 at 2:33 PM

      mtf, thanks for making a football comment. Rather than one about your mom or her job or her house.

  3. globalwork90 - Sep 7, 2013 at 1:28 PM

    my roomate’s mother brought home $21601 last month. she is getting paid on the internet and got a $359400 house. All she did was get fortunate and put to work the clues given on this web page go to this site home tab for more detail—>>>

    • dickasman - Sep 7, 2013 at 2:27 PM


  4. alwayspositive11 - Sep 7, 2013 at 1:48 PM

    Hello everyone!

    • dickasman - Sep 7, 2013 at 2:22 PM

      Hey babe!!! ~waves hello~

  5. alwayspositive11 - Sep 7, 2013 at 2:13 PM

    The keys to the game are in my name: alwayspositive. That means several things: 1) No negative yardage, everything positive, 2) Win/be positive in the turnover margin, 3) Avoid penalties–especially stupid ones, 4) Have a positive attitude going into the game. Believe that you can go to Michigan and win. I think we’ll succeed in all these areas. Irish win 35-13. You can put it on the board……..YES!

    • dickasman - Sep 7, 2013 at 2:27 PM

      You make me confused like a democratic gay male. always positive followed by hawk harrelson schbiel. Are you in chicago? if so, we should meet up and you should rub up on me a little. I try to stay “alwayspositive” but ain’t happenin in today’s world. You must be filthy rich and have multiple escort expense accounts. what is your secret to staying “always positive”?

      I think it’ll be alot “tighter” than 35-13. I mean I enjoy a dumb blonde as much as next guy but there’s too much space between them legs, know what I mean? 24-21 maybe

      • alwayspositive11 - Sep 7, 2013 at 3:04 PM

        Dumb blonde? Hey now. There’s no need for that. I just think there are too many negative Notre Dame fans. What’s not to be positive about? 12-1 season last year. 1-0 so far this year. Things are lookin’ up. But hey, I’ll take 24-21. I’ll take 3-2. It’s still a win. By the way, what’s the meaning of your name? Is your actual name Richard Asman or is there something sexual behind it. Based on your post, I’m guessing the latter.

  6. shortylongman - Sep 7, 2013 at 2:37 PM

    Excellent first post. I love point 2 about the slow no huddle.

    My worry after Temple is the wide open middle after the rush goes by. The O’Reilley kid was gashing us and I was having Gardner nightmares. I’m really hoping for a spy defense (ref. Madden) maybe with shumate to prevent it.

    Also, did this board just get spammed with that glob post? I know dick wants to be bigger and get a nice fake watch when there’s a sure thing. This just isn’t the place.

  7. wisner74 - Sep 7, 2013 at 2:39 PM

    I’m usually very cautious about getting my hopes up before a big game, but I am having a hard time understanding why the Irish can’t win this one comfortably. Maybe Michigan is greatly improved, and I’ll be proven wrong. But if they are basically who they have been recently. I think we win this game by a touchdown or more.

    I think this ND team has a chance to be better than last year. If Rees can now play like a senior QB, i.e. cut down on the turnovers, we should be. No doubt we would have been even better with Golson, but I’m really excited to see how this team turns out.

    I think there are a lot of media types out there who still have not figured out that Kelly is “The Guy,” not just the latest iteration of Davie/Willingham/Weis.

    • nudeman - Sep 7, 2013 at 6:19 PM

      Good post Wis
      I have been a GAIII supporter but this might be his most important game ever. If he shows he can lower the pads and smash through for 3-5 yards when needed, he keeps the job.

      If not, done as a starter

      • ndirish10 - Sep 7, 2013 at 6:56 PM

        nude, I am not a GAIII supporter as a rb threat. GAIII really has not shown that his style of running (upright) will benefit the Irish ground attack. He has no hip action so defenders always know where he is headed. Occasionally he will bust a long run but it’s not enough to worry defenders. I couldn’t agree with you more, if he doesn’t have a good night tonight Amir should be the starter. GAIII please make me a believer! Go Irish!!! Beat those wolverines!

  8. twebb2 - Sep 7, 2013 at 2:46 PM

    Still nervous about this one. I don’t think I’ve seen a single prediction that ND will beat the Wolvercubs. Not that it matters (see OU last year). If we’re really going to say “ND is back!”, then the national perception will be that ND will win games like this. Here’s to hoping that upsetting the UM at home and handing Hoke his first home loss will start to cement the fact that this program has indeed turned the corner!

    • wisner74 - Sep 7, 2013 at 4:00 PM

      One of the things I’ve come to understand over the years is that most of these media people actually know less about ND’s (or any specific school’s) football team than fans like us know. That’s because they have to cover the whole waterfront of college football. How many of these guys know how dramatically improved the Irish secondary should be this year, compared to last year? We all know that.

      How many of these guys who are saying the Irish were lucky last year know that we lost two of our five top DBs in ’12 before the season even started, and then lost a starting CB two or three weeks into the season.

      The more I look at it, the more I think the national perception about the Irish this year is completely wrong. People look at the fiasco against Alabama and think Kelly is another one-hit wonder, and then they move on with their lives. We know better.

      • goirishgo - Sep 7, 2013 at 4:52 PM

        I see this as a typically close game with ND’s experience on both the OL and DL making the difference. Irish must be able to run the ball to win – and I believe they will.

        GO IRISH!

  9. badgerbuck - Sep 7, 2013 at 2:52 PM

    Irish 23 Mich 21

    • wisner74 - Sep 7, 2013 at 4:05 PM

      Big day for Bucky, today. I’d love to see ND/UW. Unfortunately, with the ACC deal now, that’s not likely anytime soon, unless it’s bowl game.

  10. 25kgold - Sep 7, 2013 at 4:23 PM

    So lets see, the team Michigan demolished last week (Central Michigan), is getting their butts beat by New Hampshire, thus far. The team we “didn’t look so impressive” against last week (Temple) , played very well against Houston and was leading most of that game until the end. What have we learned today??

    • wisner74 - Sep 7, 2013 at 4:38 PM

      UM = overrated
      ND = underrated

      • alwayspositive11 - Sep 7, 2013 at 4:59 PM

        You said it right wisner. I like this message board.

  11. idratherbeinsouthbend - Sep 7, 2013 at 5:32 PM

    Night games, ugh! TIRED. OF. WAITING.

    I had to set a young whoopersnapper straight today when he saw me in my ND gear and asked me why we chickened out of the series.

    Darn kids these days. They believe everything the internet says.

  12. amacthursday - Sep 7, 2013 at 5:42 PM

    I was so excited about the game that I couldn’t sleep last night, so I re-wrote Samuel Coleridge’s poem The Pains of Sleep so that it’s about the ND Michigan game:

    Ere on my bed my limbs I lay
    It had not been my use to pray
    With moving lips or bended knees;
    But in season, by slow degrees
    Through team spirit I to ND compose,
    In humble trust mine eyelids close,
    More reverential than ND nation,
    For wins achieved, and to play our best.
    I send my sense of supplication;
    A sense o’er all my soul impressed
    May our opponents be weak, and unblessed.
    And in us, round the team, every where
    Eternal strength and touchdowns be.

    But yester-night I prayed aloud
    In anguish and in agony.
    Of playing before the fiendish crowd;
    Our 2011 game, it tortured me:
    Those lurid lights, the trampling throng
    Bad calls of intolerable wrong,
    And Wolverine QBs playing strong!
    I thirst for revenge, with a powerful will,
    Still hungry, and yet burning still!
    Desire with loathing strangely mixed
    On wild and hateful wolverines fixed.
    Fantastic passions! Exciting football!
    And passes and touchdowns over all!
    Calls of holding which were not called
    Though on which team ‘I could not know
    Whether we suffered, or we did:
    For all seemed wrong, us and our foe
    Our team or skunkbears who’d win the game?
    A great victory? Or season-ending shame.

    So last night passed: the night’s dismay
    Prolonged my wait for the coming game.
    Sleep, the wide blessing, seemed to me
    Pre-game’s worst calamity.
    The 7 AM hour, when my own loud scream
    Had waked me from the fiendish dream
    O’ercome with excitement for a game quite wild
    I tailgated as I had as a 20 year old child
    And having thus 10 beers consumed
    My anguish turned into a better mood.
    A victory tonight, I said, was due.
    So my lucky shirt, stained yet worn again,
    From me entempesting anew
    To pass the unbearable wait within
    And the horrible Michigan fans to view,
    To know and loathe that Maize and Blue!
    Such griefs all good men agree
    Shall tonight be conquered by ND
    To win this game is all I need,
    And to win it well, a victory indeed.

    • jerseyshorendfan1 - Sep 8, 2013 at 1:25 AM


  13. fnc111 - Sep 7, 2013 at 6:12 PM

    Just ask the little scUM trolls if they truly feel this is chickening out? @Clemson, @Florida State, Miami, Stanford, @USC, Texas, etc. ND is playing an unbelievably tough schedule in the future. Let the wolvies keep playing 1-AA and Buffalo. Biggest cowards in the land = Meatchicken.

  14. goirishgo - Sep 7, 2013 at 6:16 PM

    Outstanding! Well done, amac.

  15. harvupdyke - Sep 8, 2013 at 1:20 AM

    Here’s a final thought I’m sure that many had:
    Stick with the service academies.

    Roll dam tide.

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