Another major road challenge is on tap for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish as they return from their bye week to face the Michigan Wolverines under the lights. Recent trips to Ann Arbor haven’t panned out well, with the Irish looking for their first victory since 2005 in these unfriendly confines. The Wolverines are badly in need of a victory in this contest after falling on the road to Big Ten challenger Penn State.
Notre Dame enters this game with a three-game winning streak, though their last outing at home against Southern Cal saw the Irish needing to hold on before putting the game away in the final minute of action. Much like Michigan, Notre Dame needs a win here, but for a different reason. One more loss effectively eliminates their chances of being selected as an NCAA playoff team, a situation that puts the onus on them to deliver victory.
A number of different matchups are worth watching that include:
QB Ian Book vs. LB Khaleke Hudson
Book has been effective with both his arm and legs this season, though his total of 14 touchdown passes is somewhat skewed since 10 of them came in cakewalks over New Mexico and Bowling Green. The good news is that other than offering up two picks in the Georgia loss, he’s avoided throwing the ball into enemy hands, This season, wide receiver Chase Claypool and tight end Cole Kmet has emerged as a key target, but more are needed.
While Book needs to pay attention to the entire Michigan defense, Hudson is the key player to watch. The reason stems from Hudson’s role in the Viper position, which means he’s flexible enough to transition from linebacker to a defensive back and also rush the quarterback. He leads the team in tackles with 64, including two behind the line of scrimmage, and also has a sack and two pass deflections.
Notre Dame Defense vs. QB Shea Patterson
The Irish defense ranks in the Top 20 when it comes to points allowed and seem to be able to shut down teams immediately after intermission, allowing just 16 points in the third quarter. In their last game, they allowed 10 of those points to Southern Cal, along with 14 more in the fourth before holding on for the win. The fourth quarter has seen them cough up 37 points, so digging deep in this game to outlast the Wolverines may be necessary.
Patterson began his collegiate career at Ole Miss and played his first game as a Wolverine last year against the Irish. He doesn’t put up exciting numbers, but he also doesn’t make a habit of putting the ball up for grabs. He has been less accurate than during his first season in Ann Arbor, though that’s only accounted for four interceptions among his 202 throws. He’s connected with receivers for nine scoring tosses this year.
OT Robert Hainsey vs. DE/LB Kwity Paye
Hainsey is part of an offensive line that’s only allowed nine sacks, with Notre Dame signal callers getting off 181 pass attempts in the team’s six games. He has the size to open up holes when it comes to the running game, but needs to be focused in this contest after a raucous crowd in Georgia unnerved the Irish linemen enough to cause multiple issues, including the nagging issue of false starts.
A native of the African country of Liberia, Paye has already surpassed his 2018 numbers in six games. with eight tackles-for-loss and four sacks. Came back strong from a hamstring injury to collect 10 tackles against Penn State. That injury caused him to miss the Wolverines’ win over Illinois and stopped a huge surge that had seen Paye collect four sacks in the preceding two games. His hybrid Buck position has allowed him to collect 31 tackles on the year.
DE Khalid Kareem vs. OT Jon Runyan Jr.
Kareem has teamed with Julian Okwara to form a dazzling pair of defensive ends, with Kareem making five stops behind the line of scrimmage. His 3.5 sacks give him 11 during his career with the Irish, though his knack for deflecting passes has been dormant thus far this season. However, even if he isn’t able to reach the quarterback, his speed helps force passes that are thrown sooner than anticipated.
Runyan is the more experienced of the Wolverine lineman and is following in the footsteps of his father, who played at Michiagn before competing in the NFL and now serves as a New Jersey congressman. At 6-foot-5 and 320 pounds, he represents a wall to not only open up holes for runners but also protect Patterson’s blind side. Last week, he played a key role in shutting down Penn State’s prolific defensive line.