September 20, 2012 // Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame vs. Michigan ’12: Key Matchups

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Notre Dame Fighting Irish tight end Tyler Eifert (80) makes a catch as Michigan State Spartans cornerback Johnny Adams (5) defends during second half of the game at Spartan Stadium. Notre Dame won 20-3. (Photo - Mike Carter / US PRESSWIRE)

Welcome to a new weekly column here on UHND from one of our newest writers, Pierce O’Leary.  Each week Pierce will take a look at the key matchups that will make the difference in that weekend’s contest.

Denard Robinson versus the Irish front seven

Simply put the entire Michigan offense runs through their dual-threat quarterback Denard Robinson. Robinson is responsible for 82% of the Wolverines offense this season (1050 yards). Robinson’s first instinct is to run the ball; therefore it is of paramount importance for the Irish front seven to contain Robinson by keeping him within the pocket. Last season the Irish did a solid job defending Robinson on the ground, Robinson rushed for 108 yards on 16 carries; however, if you take away his 39 yard run in the third quarter Robinson was held to 69 yards on 15 carries, slightly over four yards a carry. If Robinson is successful running the ball the Michigan offense will move the ball effortlessly, but if forced to pass, Robinson will make mistakes, as he is interception prone with four already this season. If the Irish front seven can continue their early season form they can make the game very difficult for Robinson and the Michigan offense.

Michigan receivers versus the Notre Dame secondary

With the Irish’s defensive game plan likely to put a precedent on forcing Michigan to throw the ball, the young Irish secondary must step up. Despite intercepting Robinson on three occasions in last season’s meeting the Irish secondary fell apart late and allowed Robinson to pass for a total of 338 yards and four touchdowns. Michigan will provide the Irish with their toughest test against the pass so far this season, facing a veteran quarterback, talented receivers, and missing fifth-year senior and leader of the secondary Jamoris Slaughter due to a season ending injury. The Wolverines possess four talented receivers led by fifth-year senior Roy Roundtree, former quarterback Devin Gardener, who leads or is tied for the team lead in receptions, touchdown receptions, and receiving yards, as well as Jeremy Gallon, Drew Dileo, and talented tight-end Devin Funchess. The Michigan receiving corps possess speed, size, and experience the likes of which the Irish secondary has yet to see this season, it is crucial Notre Dame’s young unit responds to the challenge.

Tyler Eifert versus the Michigan secondary and linebackers

The Notre Dame offense struggled to move the ball at times against Michigan State, in part because of the job the Spartans did against the Irish’s number one weapon Tyler Eifert. Eifert will need to factor into the Irish offense more prominently this week, as he is a security blanket for young Everett Golson as well as a big play threat, and go to receiver in the red zone. Eifert will face an experienced unit of linebackers and defensive backs as six of the seven starters are upperclassmen. If Eifert can make plays that will open up room for the other receivers and allow the Irish offense to sustain longer drives and score more points.

Irish offensive line versus Michigan defensive line

Coming into the season plenty was expected of the Irish’s veteran offensive line, which contains four seniors (two fifth years), and a junior. After their dominant performance as a unit versus Navy, the Irish offensive line has struggled at times to protect the passer and establish an initial push in the run game. In the last two games combined the Irish are averaging only 2.5 yards per carry and have given up six sacks. The Irish offensive line must return to their dominant form to allow the offense to establish the run and create a comfortable environment in the pocket for Everett Golson for the team to be successful.

Comments to this Article

  • Toulmin H. Brown commented on September 20th, 2012 at 10:55 am

    “Irish offensive line versus Michigan defensive line”
    Keys to the Kingdom.

    [Reply]

  • Jack commented on September 20th, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    If the Irish offensive line can dominate the line of scrimmage and Cierra Wood goes over 100 yds rushing, they win period. They need to play keep away from Denard and the Michigan offense. Limit his possesions and keep him off balance, don’t let the Michigan team get into a groove and dominate time of possesion. If they are able to that they win the game.

    [Reply]

  • fxm commented on September 20th, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    I hope they realize that the way to beat Denard is to get after him. That is what Sparty did to him last year and Bama did this year, and yes, I know we are not Bama, but this is as close to Bama as an Irish D-line is ever going to be. There is no reason why we should not dominate them on both lines of scrimmage and when you do that you only lose if you have special teams breakdowns and turnovers. So, what we did last year for 3 quarters should occur for 4 and there should be no final 30 second drama.

    [Reply]

    Sad Warrior replied on September 20th, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    fxm-I agree with attacking Denard constantly. And this D-Line is about and will equal the Bama D-Line. They are that good and deep. Intelligent too.

    Like last week, and I claim not to be Nostra Damus, Maddam Lazora or Count Delecki, I believe the Wolverines are in for quite a surprise come Saturday night. The ‘Wood Shed’ is open for business.

    Go Irish! Hooah!

    [Reply]

  • CLUBBER LANG commented on September 20th, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    my prediction : P-A-I-N

    [Reply]

  • Sad Warrior commented on September 20th, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    Clubber-If I’m not mistaken the last time I saw you, Rocky was the one delivering the pain to you. So, who is Rocky here?

    [Reply]

  • Valpodoc commented on September 20th, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    This is what college football is all about. Two dynamic teams, nationally relevant. Saturday night in September. Game on! Go Irish!

    [Reply]

  • Rockett55 commented on September 20th, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    Gonna be a great game no doubt hopefully the boys can pull it out this year the last three games have been crazy with three crushing last second loses, get it done boys next man in in the secondary.

    [Reply]

  • Joeyknuklehead commented on September 20th, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    ND has flirted with the big pass play … This is the week to start connecting on those big pass plays.

    [Reply]

  • Jack commented on September 21st, 2012 at 8:26 am

    I am not as confident as everyone on this board. The proof is in the pudding and ND needs to show me consecutive games in a row. They need to play four quarters not three.

    [Reply]

  • Shazamrock commented on September 21st, 2012 at 9:31 am

    Eye spy…

    Michigan WR Devin Gardener was Robinson’s back up at QB last year and got some decent minutes in that roll.

    Now he is at wide reciever. First thing that comes to my mind with that set up is the “Trick Play” (especially with our young, inexperienced secondary)

    Remember, this is college football where head coaches will use trick plays to try to grab an early lead, to quite a crowd, or change momentum.

    Sniffing one out at home, can get our team the early lead, whip up our crowd, and put momentum on our side.

    Don’t buy into the hype, or the doom and gloom. You can throw out the won / loss records, injury reports, and stats as well.
    When these two teams get together, it is usually a close game often decided by turnovers.

    LUCK. Nobody likes to use luck as an excuse for winning or losing.
    And it is often said that good teams help fordge their own good fortune.

    But anyone who has followed the past few meetings between these two teams would be hard pressed not to acknowledge that the Wolverines have more than their fair share of good luck in these games.

    The vision of Denard Robinson fumbling on our 2 yard line and the ball bouncing directly up in his arms so he could walk in for a TD is a perfect example.

    The one thing I want to see ND have some luck in, is with the law of averages.
    Which says that Michigan’s luck is due to run out, and ND is due to have some.

    “Make every day your masterpice”
    -John Wooden-

    [Reply]

    Sad Warrior replied on September 21st, 2012 at 11:14 am

    Shazamrock-
    “Make Every Play Your Masterpiece.”
    -Me-

    [Reply]

  • DeltaIrish commented on September 21st, 2012 at 10:56 am

    This is our last chance guys. Next year Denard will have left Michigan without graduating, gotten drafted as a wide out in the 7th round, dropped from a team before the start of the season and be working at a Footlocker. Don’t want his greatest claim to fame to be that he never lost to ND.

    Muck Fichigan.

    Delta

    [Reply]

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