Notre Dame QB's: Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees got the season off to a great start with an accurate and impressive passing performance against Temple. Rees completed 70 percent of his passes for 346 yards (career-high) and 3 touchdowns. He did this on 16 completions out of 23 attempts and was throwing the ball pretty far to show heavily improved arm strength. Passes short and long were completed with a pair of 32 yard touchdowns, a 66 yard touchdown, and a pass that went for 51 yards. Rees spread the ball out well with TJ Jones, DaVaris Daniels, Chris Brown, and Troy Niklas all making a big impact in the passing game against Temple. It was easily the best game in Tommy Rees's career at Notre Dame, and Andrew Hendrix played the final drive with 1 completion out of 4 attempts for 9 yards.
Notre Dame QB's vs. Michigan Pass Defense: Michigan allowed 144 yards in the air in its opener against Central Michigan while also getting an interception as well. Notre Dame gives Michigan stronger competition and with an improved Tommy Rees makes things quite challenging. Rees will need to build upon his performance against Temple and continue to be accurate, efficient, and spread the ball around to his receivers. If he does so, then the passing game will continue to be seen as a strength for the Irish.
Edge: Notre Dame
Michigan QB's: Denard Robinson was the starter over the previous three seasons with Devin Gardner starting the last few games of 2012. Gardner had been used in a few different ways last season, but is the starting quarterback this season. Garder completed 10 of 15 of his passes for 162 yards and 1 touchdown, but threw 2 interceptions against Central Michigan. He also ran for 52 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground. Backup Shane Morris had 4 completions on 6 attempts for 59 yards and 1 interception.
Michigan QB's vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense: Devin Gardner had an average day against Central Michigan in the air, but did well on the ground. For the Irish defense, he is not to be underestimated in this case. Michigan having a total of 3 interceptions is also a concern considering that interceptions were an issue in last years game against Notre Dame when many interceptions were thrown. Shutting down Gardner on the ground and in the air is top priority and also preventing him from moving the chains is extremely important. Notre Dame's pass defense allowed 228 yards to Temple but prevented the long passes well with the longest pass allowed at just 26 yards.
Notre Dame RB's: The running back unit for Notre Dame combined for 193 yards on 34 carries for a 5.6 yard average (Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees had -5 yards from a sack so the total rushing yard numbers are actually 188 yards). Amir Carlise opened the game and his Notre Dame career with a 45 yard run and finished the day with 67 yards on 7 carries. Cam McDaniel had the majority of the carries with 12 for 67 yards and a 5.4 yard average. George Atkinson III wasn't as impressive with 8 carries for 34 yards (4.2 yard average per carry), but had a rushing touchdown at the goal line and a key reception that went for a first down. Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston combined for 26 yards on 7 carries and Folston had a 9 yard reception as well with their playing time happening on the final drive.
Notre Dame RB's vs. Michigan Rush Defense: The Wolverines did well in shutting down Central Michigan with only 66 rushing yards allowed. Notre Dame doesn't have a feature back to rely on yet, but is able to divide up the carries and keep Michigan guessing. Establishing the run early is key for Notre Dame in this game and helps keep the offense balanced. All five backs that played against Temple should get playing time against Michigan. The status of running back Will Mahone is still unknown as of writing, but if he is healthy enough to play, he will see playing time too.
Michigan RB's: Fitzgerald Toussaint and Derrick Green had a majority of the rushing yards by running backs. Green had 58 yards on 11 carries and 1 touchdown and starter Toussaint had 57 yards on 14 carries and 2 touchdowns. Drake Johnson, the 2nd running back on the depth chart, is going to out for the season after an ACL injury. He had 2 carries for 9 yards in the win over Central Michigan. Thomas Rawls had 12 yards on 2 carries and 1 touchdown. De'Veon Smith had 12 yards on 7 carries and Justice Hayes had 7 yards on 1 carry for the Wolverines.
Michigan RB's vs. Notre Dame Rush Defense: The Irish allowed 134 yards on 29 carries in their opening win over Temple with a majority of it coming on quarterback Connor Reilly's 65 yards on 12 carries. If that is taken away, then Temple ran for 69 yards on 17 carries for a 4 yard average. The longest rush overall was for 18 yards. Notre Dame needs to keep quarterback Devin Gardner in check on the ground and take care of the running game of Michigan while preventing conversions into first down.
Notre Dame WR's and TE's: Notre Dame had big games out of the receiving unit. TJ Jones had a career-high 138 receiving yards on 6 receptions and Chris Brown exceeded his 2012 totals in this game alone with 3 receptions for 57 yards. DaVaris Daniels had his first 2 career touchdowns on a pair of 32 yard touchdowns and overall had 3 receptions for 69 yards and 2 touchdowns. Daniels had an injury but is fine to play against Michigan. Troy Niklas had 1 reception for a 66 yard touchdown late in the first half for the Irish. In addition, many freshmen got in playing time including Corey Robinson, C.J. Prosise, James Onwualu, and Will Fuller. The depth here and at running back really shined against Temple.
Notre Dame WR's vs. Michigan Pass Defense: Michigan faces a much stronger receiving unit that is able to catch short and long passes and also has the ball spread around well to them. The longest pass Michigan allowed was for 43 yards in the Central Michigan win. Look for TJ Jones, DaVaris Daniels, Chris Brown, and Troy Niklas to be the primary targets. However, the younger players will also see playing time and could have an impact against the Michigan secondary. Tommy Rees needs to be able to get the ball to his receivers efficiently as well.
Edge: Notre Dame
Michigan WR's and TE's: Jeremy Gallon led the way for Michigan with 4 catches for 47 yards and 1 touchdown. Tight end Devin Funchess had 2 receptions for 47 yards and Drew Dileo had 2 receptions for 43 yards. Dennis Norfleet had 2 catches for 15 yards and Joe Reynolds had a 45 yard catch on 1 reception.
Michigan WR's vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense: While a single player never exceeded 47 receiving yards in Michigan's first game, at least 4 players had 40 or more yards. The Irish will need to keep a strong eye on all 4 players. The secondary of Notre Dame is a deep unit and will need to shut down the Michigan's receiving unit.
Notre Dame OL: Notre Dame did a solid job with the offensive line and pass protection was great with the only downfall being a sack allowed. Run blocking was solid as the Irish had nearly 200 rushing yards on the day.
Notre Dame OL vs. Michigan DL: The interior of the Michigan defensive line has seniors in Quinton Washington and Jibreel Black leading the way. The Irish have a new center this season in Nick Martin who did well in his first career start against Temple. The defensive lineman for Michigan didn't record much in the start chart, but the defense was able to get into Central Michigan's backfield with 4 sacks and 8 TFL's. Notre Dame's offensive line is going to need to protect Tommy Rees very well and open up lanes for run blocking as well.
Michigan OL: The offensive line allowed only 1 sack, 6 tackles for loss, and did a great job in run blocking with a 5.1 yard average, 6 rushing touchdowns, and 242 rushing yards. The best player is senior left tackle Taylor Lewan and the unit has the most experience with the offensive tackles, while having underclassmen on the interior part of the line in Jack Miller, Kyle Kalis, and Graham Glasgow
Michigan OL vs. Notre Dame DL: Michigan will have a bigger challenge in Notre Dame down in the trenches with defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt, Louis Nix, and Sheldon Day. While the defense of Notre Dame had just 1 sack, it should be able to build on that and improve. The best thing for the Irish defense is to attack the interior part of the offensive line and the matchup of Taylor Lewan and Stephon Tuitt will be the key matchup here.
Edge: Notre Dame
Notre Dame DL: The defensive line wasn't at its best against Temple, with Louis Nix III getting 2 penalties most notably. However, some backups were able to play at least, Stephon Tuitt had a sack, and the unit escaped injury-free. Considering the losses during the offseason with Kapron Lewis-Moore (NFL), Chase Hounshell and Tony Springmann (Injuries), Notre Dame cannot afford to squander opportunities for the backups to play and to help establish depth.
Notre Dame DL vs. Michigan OL: Stephon Tuitt vs. Taylor Lewan is going to be the big matchup between first-team all-American candidates. Louis Nix III will likely be double or triple teamed, which can open things up for Sheldon Day and the remainder of the front seven. However, the interior line for Michigan is still inexperienced overall and the defensive line is one of the big strengths of Notre Dame.
Edge: Notre Dame
Michigan DL: Michigan has experience in the interior line with seniors Quinton Washington and Jibreel Black, but had lost starters on the outside from last season in Craig Roh and William Campbell. The unit didn't do much in the stat chart, but they were able to handle Central Michigan's offensive line so other defenders could get into the backfield and get 4 sacks and 8 tackles for loss.
Michigan DL vs. Notre Dame OL: Notre Dame has a strong area on the left side of the line in Zach Martin and Chris Watt. The unit did a great job in pass protection and run blocking that allowed Tommy Rees to get career-high passing yards and for the running backs to get close to 200 rushing yards. Considering that Notre Dame was putting in two new starters and another lineman moved from right tackle to right guard, it was still an impressive way to start the season.
Notre Dame LB's: The lack of Manti Te'o on the inside was noticed for the Irish linebacker unit, but Jarrett Grace did well in a backup role, while Prince Shembo had an amazing 5 quarterback hurries for Notre Dame. Even with the offseason losses of Manti Te'o and Danny Spond to injury, the unit is still a deep one overall.
Notre Dame LB's vs. Michigan: Prince Shembo is the impact player for the Irish in this area. His 5 quarterback hurries is impressive and he needs to continue to put pressure on Michigan and get to Gardner and anyone else in the backfield. Jarrett Grace is another key player who finished with the third most tackles.
Michigan LB's: Desmond Morgan led Michigan with 7 tackles and had .5 tackles for loss and a pass breakup. Cameron Gordon had a strong game for the Wolverines with 4 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 1 pass breakup and 2 sacks. Brennen Bayer had 3 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble, and 1 sack. James Ross had 3 tackles and .5 tackles for loss.
Michigan LB's vs. Notre Dame: The linebacker unit of Michigan had a good amount of sacks and tackles for loss and keeping them contained will be key. The Irish have a lot of skill position players that they will have to account for and will make this an interesting area to keep an eye on.
Notre Dame DB's: The defensive backs prevented the long ball from Temple and there was some decent play and freshman Cole Luke garnered a considerable amount of playing time as the third cornerback and could easily be starting in Bennett Jackson's spot when the 2014 season happens. However, the defensive unit as a whole was stronger in the second half with zero points allowed, only 131 yards overall, and only one long drive that was the first drive of the second half.
Notre Dame DB's vs. Michigan WR's: Devin Gardner was able to spread the ball around in the season opener with 8 different players catching passes, but none exceeded 47 receiving yards, but Joe Reynolds had a 45 yard reception. Jeremy Gallon and Drew Dileo had 47 and 43 receiving yards each, but are both shorter receivers at 5'8 and 5'10 respectively. The defensive backs of Notre Dame are a great unit that surprised many last season and will need to shut down the receivers and keep them contained. They prevented the deep ball against Temple and will need to keep doing that and avoid allowing short passes to get yards after catch. Devin Gardner did throw 2 interceptions and that could also be a factor in this area as well.
Michigan DB's: Raymon Taylor had the only interception for Michigan with it being returned for 54 yards. The longest pass the unit allowed was 43 yards by Central Michigan's Andrew Floyd who finished with 4 receptions for 79 yards. None of the other Central Michigan players had more than 28 receiving yards and overall only 3 players had double-digit receiving yards. Central Michigan did play 2 quarterbacks as one was injured early on and were forced to use a backup who had zero playing experience.
Michigan DB's vs. Notre Dame WR's: Michigan gets a significantly harder challenge for their defensive backs with DaVaris Daniels, TJ Jones, Troy Niklas and Chris Brown of the Irish. All 4 were able to catch deeper passes or get yards after catch on shorter passes. Tommy Rees was quite accurate and those 4 will be the main focus of the receiving game for the Irish. If Tommy Rees is able to get passes off quick and spread the ball around, it will be extremely difficult on Michigan's secondary.
Edge: Notre Dame
Notre Dame Kicking Game: Kicking was a definite weak point for the Irish against Temple. Notre Dame missed both field goal attempts and Brindza hit touchbacks during punting and clearly helped give Temple solid field positioning. However, Brindza did get 2 touchbacks on 5 kickoffs.
Michigan Kicking Game: Michigan kicked only one field goal and it was a 30 yarder by Brendan Gibbons. Kenny Allen had a 51 yard punt that was fair caught. And Matt Wile had 5 touchbacks on 10 kickoffs. The Irish did create a turnover on a Temple punt return which was one of the highlights of the special teams for Notre Dame.
Stronger Unit: Michigan
Notre Dame Return Game: The return game wasn't able to show much with George Atkinson III having 2 kickoffs returned for 40 yards and TJ Jones returned 3 punts for 23 yards, but had a 12 yard return and did more than the non-factor unit of the previous season.
Michigan Return Game: Dennis Norfleet had 4 kickoff returns for 106 yards for a 26.5 yard average and a long of 39. Joe Reynolds had a 30 yard blocked punt return early in the win over Central Michigan and punt returns were basically a non-factor with the longest return being 9 yards and Norfleet having 2 returns for -1 yards.
Stronger Unit: Michigan
Everything Else: Notre Dame and Michigan are both coming off blowout wins to open the season. The Irish are deep in many areas, particularly at running back where they will likely use 5 players, wide receiver, linebacker, and the secondary. Notre Dame needs to establish the run early and keep the offense balanced to keep things going. The offensive line has to keep Rees protected and prevent Michigan players from getting into the backfield. Considering that a solid amount of freshmen played for the Irish in the previous game, we can expect to see that continue as some were quite impressive in the offseason. The defense needs to prevent long plays and yards after catch. Louis Nix III will need to avoid penalties that can prove to be costly as well. Look for another balanced effort on offense for the Irish.
Prediction: Notre Dame 26, Michigan 10