Notre Dame Football Preview 2018: The Michigan Wolverines

When the 2018 Notre Dame football schedule begins in South Bend on September 1, the Irish will be facing Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines. Harbaugh’s third season with the Wolverines in 2017 saw a bit of a downturn with an 8-5 record that concluded with a three-game losing streak.

Part of the trouble for Harbaugh related to the influx of newcomers that struggled to translate their raw talent into a positive result. Another factor stemmed from mixed messages coming from the collective braintrust of Wolverine offensive coaches, an issue that was addressed in the offseason with some staff changes.

Michigan Offense: A Work in Progress

Ineffective play behind center last year led Harbaugh to import transfer Shea Patterson to start at quarterback. In just seven games last year at Ole Miss, Patterson tossed 17 touchdowns and threw for over 2,200 yards. The touchdown total nearly doubled the output of the Michigan trio that also threw for less yardage over 13 games.

Early on, Patterson may have to rely on the twin tandem of Karan Higdon and Chris Evans in the backfield after the duo combined for close to 1,700 yards on the ground. Higdon narrowly missed the 1,000-yard milestone, with Harbaugh hoping that this pair also becomes a passing option after only combining for 17 catches last season.

That consideration is necessary because of the uncertainty surrounding the receiving corps. Tarik Black is looking to bounce back from injury, while Donovan Peoples-Jones looks to increase his total of 29 catches. At tight end, Zach Gentry and Nick Eubanks are likely to battle for a starting role, with Gentry having the upper hand.

Another sketchy area is the offensive line, though starting tackles Jon Runyan, Jr., and Juwann Bushell-Beatty will man the tackle slots after strong spring performances. That effort needs to be transplanted into actual game action, especially when it comes to protecting the quarterback after allowing nearly three sacks per game in 2017.

Michigan Defense: High Expectations on the Horizon

Given the results of last year, the Wolverine defense should rank among the very best in the nation. This unit managed to finish at the top among pass defenses and their run-stopping capability was equally impressive. That’s noteworthy since virtually the entire contingent will be back in 2018.

On the ends, the duo of Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich know how to find the quarterback after solid seasons. At the nose tackle slot, the bar’s been raised for Michael Dwumfour following a standout spring session. One of the most notable factors in this segment of the Wolverines’ defense is that their depth here may rival plenty of their opponents starters.

The news is just as notable among the linebackers, led by All-American Devin Bush in the middle. One of the outside backers, Khaleke Hudson, could join Bush when it comes to post-season accolades this year.

The secondary is strong on the corners with Lavert Hill and David Long. Hill’s springtime injury may be an asset as it relates to the Notre Dame football schedule, though the expectation is that he’ll be ready to play in the opener. The safeties aren’t quite as impressive, which is one reason why Utah graduate transfer Casey Hughes was added.

Michigan Special Teams: A Solid Foundation

Sophomore Quinn Nordin started off strong last year with 11 field goals in the first three contests, and showed a pretty strong leg. In the area of punting, some question marks remain. Peoples-Jones may not have impressed on the receiving end, but he’s in the elite category among return men.

The Last Time Notre Dame Played Michigan

It’s been four years since these two teams met, with the Irish hoping that history repeats itself. That’s because Notre Dame coasted to a 31-0 victory in the House the Rockne Built, part of that season’s 6-0 start for the Irish. Unfortunately, a 2-5 finish by Brian Kelly’s squad obscured the impressive nature of this blowout – Notre Dame’s first ever over Michigan.

The win was accomplished in methodical fashion, with Notre Dame scoring in each quarter. The Wolverines actually outgained the Irish in yardage for the night, but they fell victim to four turnovers that included a trio of interceptions.

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  1. BGC, there is always hope for David’s humor. Before I was confirmed long ago and I hardly knew one saint from another my parents decided my confirmation name would be Philip. I asked why. They told me I was to serious, headstrong and needed St. Philip Neri’s sense of humor. Before I tense up I always think of St. Philip to help me get through.

      1. Here is one from St. Philip Neri that might make some sense to you. “ a joyful heart is more easily perfect than a downcast one”

  2. NDCrazyMike,
    I actually think out stadium will be filled with ND fans for the Michigan game:
    1. Michigan does not travel as well as Nebraska or Georgia…they never have.
    2. Nobody I know of around here has any animosity for Nebraska or Georgia…but a lot of people just plain do not like Michigan…they never have. They like to see ND beat Michigan every bit as much as beating USC or Miami.
    3. I recall a Michigan game (don’t remember the year, or even the coach) when our stadium was JAMMED with ND fans…I think the Michigan fans were “sellouts” for that one…BLUE, GOLD and GREEN everywhere…just as God intended it. We had a lead at halftime when it began to pour rain (I mean it was coming down in relentless sheets!). Even though it was obvious to everyone who knows anything about football that Michigan wasn’t going to be able mount a second half comeback in that weather…NOBODY left early!!! NOBODY! They all stayed for the whole thing, relishing every minute of that whumping. I was so proud of that crowd! Let’s do it again (less the rainstorm).

    BGC ’77 ’82

      1. I was referring to the BLUE, GREEN and GOLD the crowd was wearing in our stadium, not the outcome of the game. And it was a joke anyway. You need a humor transplant, David.

        BGC ’77 ’82

      2. Now that was funny, David. I think you are getting the hang of it already.

        BGC ’77 ’82

  3. Nobody, I mean nobody, not Harbaugh, not Kelly, not even Patterson, knows how Shea Patterson will play in that first game.

    Fools predict and project.
    Men show up and watch games.

    Michigan’s solid foundation on special teams? Have we yet recorded the vote from the East Lansing precinct?

    1. Duranko,
      I think we all loved the look on Harbaugh’s face after the last play of the MSU game you were referring to!

      BGC ’77 ’82

      1. BGC, facbrat alum (sometime if we meet live I’ll tell you the story of bodily throwing Valdiserri’s son out of the convo)

        but that MSU Mich game was incredible. I don’t have as much hate for Michigan as some do. One of my late great friends, a Domer, went to Ann Arbor for Law School, and we started watching Michigan games well before the ND Mich series rekindled in ’78.

        But that game?? As a Jesus Christian, I am not supposed to take delight in the misfortune of others, but I was snickering at the bewildered Harbaugh at game’s end.

        Kind of like rooting against Woody in the 70’s. Most enjoyed watching him blow a late lead on a dumb play, turnover, or questionable ref’s call.

        Happy Michigan summer.

      2. I have a number of ancestors on my father’s side who had Michigan University positions; students and profs.
        I also dated some Michigan grads. So hate is not a word I’d use for myself, nor against Miami nor USC. I come close to hating Stanford though. Mocking the potato famine? really guys? 1,000,000 people died during a 10 year period with Ireland as a net exporter of food during that same decade. How does that end up as funny to you guys? People think of my family as British and half German, but we are 1/4 Irish…but in the female line. I have strong feelings about Ireland, and they have nothing to do with Notre Dame. And they are not always “Christian” towards Ireland’s ancient foes…but we handle it well – until some Stanford brats rub our faces in it.

        BGC ’77 ’82

  4. I can’t stand cheerleading, hysterical coaches; Harbaugh, Carroll, Hayes. Of course Rockne was probably the most animated of all. Landry was my all time favorite, other than Notre Dame Skippers.

      1. Meds?
        Catatonic State?

        Well, heck, I always like to defer to an expert; you be him!

        It’s like watching BGC’s dad teach stat at du lac. It was Nerd heaven!!;

    1. You clearly only read the press when it comes to college football if you think Harbaugh is cheerleading or hysterical. He is unorthodox, but that is not a bad thing. Be honest… Landry was your favorite of all the coaches you Googled. It’s like me saying that Fielding Yost was my favorite UM coach.

      I guess you prefer you’re bumbling, sputtering, humbling Brian Kelly, whom most people mistake for Chip Kelly (also bumbling).

      There is a 31-0 sting from the Hoke era that burns deep in Harbaugh, and trust me the team as well. You will be taken to the woodshed in a 30-point loss and your team will disintegrate.

  5. I just sealed up my seats for the Michigan game in the online alumni “lottery”…though it does not much resemble a lottery anymore. There are still contiguous seats available, so get yours before the “sellouts” finish them off and try to quadruple their money. As far as mine go – there’s not enough gold in the solar system boys. See you at the game. Lord God Almighty, I wish we could just skip July and get right into it!

    BGC ’77 ’82

    1. There is nothing more elegantly truthful than the market.
      No false platitudes, no ‘higher calling’ morality BS.

      Tickets end up in the hands of those who value them the most.
      And if Michigan fans will value these “4X more” than ND fans will, then the tickets ABSOLUTELY SHOULD be sold.

      …and for you to already be wringing your hands about it speaks volumes of your “faith” in the ND football product.

      1. There is nothing sadder than people who are incapable of understanding that money simply is not a motivator for some of us. Some of us are greatly motivated by any number of things, but not by money. One of the best examples I can think of is when Trump criticized a baseball fan who caught a very meaningful homerun ball, and turned down a chance to make hundreds of thousands of dollars off it and gave it back to the hitter, free of charge, because that particular fan believed it was the right thing to do! Trump was stumped on that one as surely as Al Capone was stumped by Elliot Ness and his crew. And it has nothing to do with morality David…it’s about what motivates any given person and what does not motivate that person. What bothers me is when somebody like David here twists what clearly is to him a completely alien valuation system into “false platitudes” or a “higher calling morality” (whatever that means, if anything). It’s not that complex David. I just like football at Notre Dame Stadium more than gold (or anything else I can think of at the moment, other than “my guns and my religion”…or at least my religion.

        As for the “elegant truth of the market”…(if that ever even existed in this country), it was destroyed by the selective banking bailouts of 2008. Around our house, we refer to Wall Street as either “the virtual economy” or “the People’s Republic of Wall Street”…a joke…or as the “King of debt” likes to refer to it…a rigged game.

        BGC ’77 ’82

      2. And one more thing: The fact that Kim Kill Yuk and Vladimir Poo Poo can so easily understand what motivates “the Don”, but our President has NO IDEA what really motivates those two, is scary.

        BGC ’77 ’82

      3. Hunh.
        So why is there a price charged for a ticket at all?
        I mean, being as money is demonstrably evil, ND football fans are true of heart, and ND is a purely spiritual place?
        Free seating seems the only way to achieve social justice.

      4. David, I don’t understand how you end up thinking that my giving a few hundred dollars to ND, and then buying a pair of tickets for a few more hundred dollars, because I value those tickets more than money, is somehow more “socially just” than selling the tickets for a profit. Either way, little to none of the money gets to the poor! I’m just as “guilty” of luxuria as anyone else…or so it seems to me. I just define luxuria in different terms. The reason I don’t like the “sellouts”, David, is that they hurt my team – as I’ve said before; it has nothing to do with morality!

        I will say this, though, paraphrasing a long dead soldier who probably was morally superior to the whole lot of us, “some things just ain’t for buying and selling.”

        So let’s move on…if I had known that my original post would cause this weird defensive prattle from you, I’d never have posted it. And for that, I apologize to the other readers.

        David, if you think I am morally superior to the rest of Homo Sapiens, you don’t know me at all…”I’m a moral wreck from Georgia Tech, and a helluva engineer” would be closer to the truth. And if you think I look at my self as morally superior to most people, well again, you don’t know me at all. So get over it…I just plain flat out don’t like “sellouts” – they hurt our team, and for that they suck.

        I don’t think money is evil per se; I would not turn down a free bushel basket of money (as long as there are no strings attached to it at all). Otherwise, I’d rather leave it than take it. It just plain means very little to me.

        BGC ’77 ’82

      5. You don’t know when to shut up, do you?

        You said (I didn’t) “That there is nothing more elegantly truthful than the market.”

        If that is your petard, then you are hoist on it.
        For following and applying that principle, Kelly is worth EVERY DOLLAR he collects, ain’t that the case, truthful market boy?

        Think before you post. You might like it, as it would be your first time.

    2. B.G.C. GREAT POINT!! Too many people selling tickets to opposing fans for the ALMIGHTY $$$ With so many ND fans who cant get tickets! TO look at the crowd at the GEORGIA GAME was disgusting for us longtime fans!! I will b at BALL STATE GAME the following week!! B.G.C. bring a victory home with you that night!!! DONT WASTE YOUR TIME WITH CRYING davey , ND is on fire recruiting, and everything is looking good!!! TO BAD davey

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