Notre Dame enters the second week of the season poised to endure one of the most instrumental games of its season versus Michigan. The College Gameday crew will be present as the two top 20 teams clash. The Irish will attempt to avoid a meltdown like the one they experienced in 2011’s visit to Ann Arbor. The following matchups are the ones the Irish must win in order to win and prove they’re following in the footsteps of last season’s team and not the mediocre ones of years past.
Also be sure to check out the Q&A exchange we posted along with MGO Blog yesterday. Seth from MGO Blog answered questions for us here at UHND, and we answered questions for them over on their site – read them here and see how much UM fans tend to disagree with our assessment of the Irish.
Stephon Tuitt versus Taylor Lewan: Junior defensive end Stephon Tuitt will face off in a strength versus strength matchup with Taylor Lewan. The All-American Tuitt is one of the premiere pass-rushers in the nation and has an incredible combination of size and speed. Tuitt had a team high 12 sacks last season for the Irish and is accustom to matching up with the oppositions top pass blocker as well as facing constant double teams. Lewan is a fifth-year senior who holds the record for consecutive starts among active players for Michigan with 29. Lewan is considered one of the best in the nation at his position so if Tuitt can trouble him and pressure Devin Gardener that could lead to mistakes from the Michigan quarterback. Watching these two future first round draft picks square off all night long is going to be a lot of fun. If Taylor can handle Tuitt without any assistance, the Notre Dame defense is going to have a difficult time getting close to Gardner.
Prince Shembo versus Devin Gardener: The Irish’s speed rush extraordinaire Prince Shembo will need to be at his best in order to contain Wolverines quarterback Gardener. Shembo played very well for the Irish in the opener against Temple tallying five quarterback hurries as well as four tackles and setting the edge extremely well. Shembo will need to continue to do that as Gardener is a mobile quarterback who can make big plays if he gets the corner. Also if Shembo pressures Gardener he can be interception prone as he threw two last week in only 15 attempts versus Central Michigan. If Shembo is able to generate as much pressure as last week, however, the Irish contain defense will need to step up its game because Connor Reilly was able to burn them while escaping pressure and Gardner is a much, much more talented runner than Reilly.
T.J. Jones versus Raymon Taylor: Senior T.J. Jones had a big season debut versus Temple and will need to continue that form this week against Michigan. Jones was tied for the team lead in receptions and receiving touchdowns last season and looked to be much faster this season when he recorded six receptions and 138 versus Temple. Junior Raymon Taylor will be entrusted with the responsibility of stopping Tommy Rees’s number one target. Taylor has started 12 straight games for Michigan and had four tackles and an interception last week versus Central Michigan. Taylor is an average sized corner who the Irish will likely try to get Jones in space against.
George Atkinson III versus Desmond Morgan: Irish running back George Atkinson III needs a big game to lay claim to the starting job and it needs to come this week versus Michigan. Atkinson III has question marks surrounding his ability to lower his pad level and run downhill. In a game against Michigan the Irish will need to be able to run between the tackles so Atkinson needs to step up after a sub-par season opener. Morgan had 81 tackles for the Wolverines last season and a team high seven in their season opener. The Michigan native is a physical middle linebacker who will look to set the tone by punishing Atkinson III if he isn’t running tough. Atkinson’s success is imperative with the Irish being on the road against a quality team. If Atkinson struggles, Brian Kelly won’t be hesitant to call on any of his other four backs that ran the ball last week including talented freshmen Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston.