Notre Dame Football Primer: Harbaugh’s Wolverines await Irish at Big House

College Football is now in its 150th season, and it doesn’t get much better than Notre Dame vs. Michigan under the lights in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines are coming off a momentous second half in Happy Valley, which almost ended in a major comeback. The Irish are eyeing back-to-back playoff berths and will have to get their first win at Michigan since 2005 to have any chance!

Essential Game Info:

  • Game Time: October 26th at 7:30 p.m. ET on ABC
  • Location: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Michigan
  • Matchup History: Michigan leads the all-time series 24-17-1 (Last Meeting 2018: Irish won 24-17)
  • Current Odds: Michigan -2.5

Weather Forecast

The current forecast for GameDay shows a 20% chance of rain with a high of 54 degrees and a low of 37.

Michigan Details:

  • Conference: Big Ten (East Division)
  • Head Coach: Jim Harbaugh
  • 2019 Record: 5-2
  • 2018 Record: 10-3

Michigan Storylines:

Wolverines rally comes up short against Penn State. Last weekend, the Wolverines were down 21-0 against the Nittany Lions. Many fans thought that Jim Harbaugh’s squad would fold like they did a month prior against Wisconsin. Yet, Shea Patterson led the Wolverines down to the goal line, where a dropped pass resulted in a 7-point loss for Michigan.

Looking back at that matchup, Michigan had 417 total yards, and Penn State had 283 yards.

Don Brown’s blitz-happy defense. Once again, the Michigan Wolverines come in with a powerful defense. A few deep plays cost the Wolverines against Penn State last week. Even with those few mishaps, the defense only surrendered 283 yards on the road. Don Brown will undoubtedly have the pressure dialed up for Ian Book this weekend, and Book’s quick decision making can be the difference in this matchup.

Key Contributors on Michigan Offense. Shea Patterson looked good against Penn State in Happy Valley. On the season, Patterson is 116 for 202 (57.4%) with 9 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. The Michigan Quarterback has 48 attempts for 89 yards (1.9 yards per carry) and 5 rushing touchdowns while the running attack is led by Zach Charbonnet, who had 15 carries for 81 yards and 2 touchdowns against Penn State.

Patterson’s favorite targets are Ronnie Bell with 24 receptions, the 6’ 4” Nico Collins who has 19 catches, and the 6’ 3” Tarik Black, who has 18 receptions this season (missed Notre Dame game last year).

Key Players on Defense. The Wolverine defense is led by linebacker Khaleke Hudson who already has 64 tackles on the season with 1 sack. He is accompanied by fellow linebacker Jordan Glasgow who is second on the Michigan Defense with 51 tackles and 4 sacks. The secondary is headlined by Ambry Thomas and Lavert Hill, who both have 2 interceptions this fall.

Notre Dame Storylines:

Can Brian Kelly get his first win at the Big House? Coach Kelly will be making his 3rd trip to Michigan this week. Many Irish fans remember the heartbreaking losses that accompanied the previous two visits. As the Irish have already visited Sanford Stadium earlier this year and came up short, Kelly looks to get the Irish over the top this weekend.

The two programs do not have any scheduled meetings in the foreseeable future, and you can expect Brian Kelly will want to add a victory at Michigan Stadium to his tremendous coaching career.

Irish need to continue Defensive Dominance. Clark Lea’s Defense has kept Notre Dame in every game this season. They performed well on the road against Georgia, regardless of just how “great” the Bulldogs are. Notre Dame’s pass rush will have to travel on the road this weekend. In a potential defensive matchup, turnovers may be the key in this historic clash.

Notre Dame Offense will be the big question mark. The Irish Offense has struggled throughout the season. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a bad unit, but more is expected from this group. Ian Book must have the best game of the season in Michigan. Against the rival Trojans, Book went 17 for 32 with 165 yards and 1 touchdown. On the ground, he was successful with 49 rushing yards and 1 vital touchdown.

Will Braden Lenzy and Jafar Armstrong be utilized more this weekend? Armstrong had 35 rushing yards and 2 rushing scores in the opener against Michigan last fall. Lenzy showed his fantastic speed against USC and may be the deep threat the Irish have been looking for the entire season.

Head to Head Matchups:

Notre Dame Offense vs. Michigan Defense: Chip Long’s offense has yet to hit its stride in 2019 (setting aside New Mexico and Bowling Green). Many fans know what to expect from the Irish Defense, but Ian Book vs. Shea Patterson will be the difference in this game.

I give this advantage to the Michigan Wolverines. Besides Wisconsin earlier this season, the Michigan Defense has looked good. Notre Dame’s offense has been too inconsistent.

Advantage: Michigan

Michigan Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense: The Michigan Offense looked much improved last weekend in the second half against Penn State. It was execution that cost the Wolverines the football game, even though they outgained the Nittany Lions.

On the other side of the ball, Notre Dame’s defense has been great all season. Even the inexperienced linebackers have proven themselves to this point in the year. I give the advantage to the Irish.

Advantage: Notre Dame

Special Teams: Michigan’s kicker, Jake Moody, is 5 for 7 (71.4%) this year. His longest make of the season was 43 yards. Conversely, Jonathan Doerer is 6 for 7 on the year with a long of 52 yards. His kicking was a crucial part of the Irish win over USC.

There is no distinct advantage in the kicking department.


My Prediction:

The Irish are traveling back to Ann Arbor in hopes of getting their first win since 2005. I watched almost the entire Penn State Michigan game last weekend, and the Wolverines were not the same team we saw a month ago in Wisconsin. It could be said that Michigan had the better game but did not execute enough to get the victory.

A bye-week will help Notre Dame, but the inconsistency on the Irish Offense still worries me. The difference in this game will be Ian Book vs. Shea Patterson. At this point, the Irish have had an identity these past few seasons, while Michigan is still searching for theirs. Notre Dame needs to stay away from self-inflicted mistakes that cost them against Georgia.

With the experience facing the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens earlier in the season, the Irish should be prepared for this environment. I believe Notre Dame is the better team and will find a way to win this game.

Prediction: Notre Dame 24 Michigan 21

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  1. I honestly think ND is flat out the better team. I look for their D to get at least two early turnovers. The offense finally has it’s full compliment of pieces and I think Armstrong will be huge catching the ball out of the backfield this week. Notre Dame 37-20

  2. To make an impression on the CFN of any importance that win margin has to be better than three points. Seven may not even be enough to jump PSU, even though a ND win would be at Ann Arbor. If Book doesn’t have a big game, it may be time to look to Vurkovec and next season.

    1. Fitz, Worrying about “win margin” is an excellent way to lose all useful focus. Instead, let’s intensely focus on what matters and press the “SIMPLE” button on this one. In other words, get in there, do what we do best consistently, and get out with a win. That will impress anyone who knows football well enough.

      BGC ’77 ’82

      1. Well, it’s ok for us fans to worry about stuff like that. But yeah, the team can’t worry about that. Just go for the W and add points. Leave all that other stuff for Sunday morning.

        Plus, I have serious doubts the Irish will get a playoff spot this year. Our SOS is shot to Hell at this point, which would be the only thing that would get us in as a 1 loss team. The only way we get a playoff spot at this point is if there are a bunch of 2 loss conference champions. Obviously an undefeated champion is in and I think a 1 loss champion is in as well over the Irish.

        As a fan, the best I can realistically hope for I think is a NY Day 6 bowl (win hopefully).

        As for the team, just worry about beating the Meat chickens.

        And while I’m not BK’s biggest fan these days I will say I usually don’t see his teams caught looking ahead. He does usually do a good job keeping the team focused on the game of the week.

  3. Care not about this game. Means nothing to Michigan or it’s fan base. I expect a repeat of the bowl game last year. Michigan does not show up.

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