Notre Dame, Charlie Weis Face Another Tough Road Game

( — For the second week in a row the Irish will travel to face an opponent ranked in the top 25. Coming off an impressive stomping of #23 Pitt, the Irish will travel to Ann Arbor for a much stiffer challenge from the #3 ranked Wolverines.

Notre Dame, Michigan is a rivalry full of tradition, championships, and superstars. Players such as Desmond Howard and Rocket Ismail have had the marquee games of their collegiate careers in this series. This rivalry will be renewed in more ways than one with the 20th ranked Irish march into the Big House tomorrow for this year’s edition of the classic rivalry.

The last meeting to take place between these two college football giants ended with an upset by the Irish which will be fresh on the minds of the Michigan players. Motivation won’t be an issue for the Irish either with the 38-0 embarrassment of 2003 fresh on their minds as well.

This year’s contest is the first for Charlie Weis as head coach of the Irish. Weis’ debut last week certainly caught the eye of Lloyd Carr. With the way that man likes the whine, I’m surprised he hasn’t found something wrong with Weis or Notre Dame’s performance last week that has created an unfair advantage for the Irish.

Maybe Carr has been too busy preparing for the Irish this week after they put a whoopin’ on the Panthers a week ago with an offense unlike I’ve seen from a Notre Dame team in years. After his teams tough opener against mighty Northern Illinois I wouldn’t be surprised if the first words out of his mouth after witnessing a 35 point first half from the Irish consisted of 4 letters.

I’m sure Lloyd will have his team ready to play however. Despite not being a great coach, he can get his team ready to play as evidenced by the 38-0 drubbing given to the Irish in 2003. And before any Michigan fans throw out the “how can a coach who won a national championship not be great,” I simply point to his 1-2 record against Tyrone Willingham coached teams and 3-3 record against Tyrone Willingham and Bob Davie coached teams combined. Bad news for us Irish fans however is that all 3 wins came at home and all 3 loses came on the road for Lloyd.

Carr and company however haven’t had to face Charlie Weis however. Weis showed last week that he is a premiere playcaller and can identify a defenses’ weakness and attack it. I have little doubt he will prove otherwise once again this week.

Weis will try to control the line of scrimmage this week and pound Michigan. He knows the best defense for the potent Michigan offense is keeping them off the field. While the Notre Dame offense has the firepower to air it out, I would be surprised to see Notre Dame not try to run it and run it often on Michigan.

Defensively the Irish will face a tougher test this week. Last week the offense socred enough points early to make Pitt one dimensional and allowed the defense to tee off on Tyler Palko. Chad Henne is an extremely talented quarterback who is merely a sophomore. Fellow sophomore Mike Hart is also a huge threat from the backfield.

If Carr if smart however he will attempt to attack the Notre Dame secondary as Pitt did on their opening drive. Michigan has some talented wide outs in Jason Avant and Steve Breaston.

Breaston is extremely dangerous with the ball in his hands but hasn’t established himself as a steady wide receiver. He is very talented, but hasn’t been a great receiver on a regular basis. That being said, Notre Dame has to keep the ball out of his hands. Breaston is talented enough that he doesn’t need to be a steady receiver. He can hurt you even if he only touches the ball one time.

This game will tell us a lot about Charlie Weis’ ability. He backed up the unprecedented support he got despite not having coached a single game heading into Pitt with last week’s impressive performance. This week however he faces a much tougher opponent in a much tougher environment.

Both teams have good offenses and both have questions on defense. There is a reason Lloyd Carr decided to shuffle his defensive depth chart this week — they have holes that need to be filled. Northern Illinois put up over 400 yards a Michigan defense which has given up an average of over 440 yards a game over their last 5 games.

I can throw numbers out all day, but one thing this series has shown is that numbers generally mean very little. Look for Notre Dame’s offensive line to be the difference for the Irish. They displayed a toughness and stamina that I haven’t seen in a Notre Dame offensive line in years. Michigan had some tackling issues last week and inserting some freshman as Carr has done won’t fix that.

Charlie Weis has said his team will go into every game expecting to win, and you know what? So will I. Notre Dame 34, Michigan 31. GO IRISH!

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