Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Notre Dame Football 2007
Issue 3: Michigan

Michigan Rush Offense vs. ND Rush Defense

For another year, 20 Mike Hart is Michigan's workhorse. At this point, he's one of the few things that's gone right for UM. Hart has averaged 24 carries and 158 yards over the first two games, and has 3 total rushing touchdowns. Backup 4 Brandon Minor has also gotten his fair share of carries, averaging 10 rushes and 4- yards per game. WR 86 Mario Manningham has 3 carries for 25 so far. As one of the Wolverines' top weapons, I'm sure he's been used on both end-arounds and flat passes. Michigan fullbacks have yet to record a carry. Saturday's starting QB 15 Ryan Mallet is not a mobile quarterback; last week, he recorded 5 attempts for -16 yards.
Notre Dame's run defense has shown flashes of competence, yet is still giving up 211.5 yards per game. This team isn't as deep as it looks, and when the offense can't stay on the field, the defense will tire. That's how teams have days of 200+ rushing yards against the Irish. With a freshman QB, look for steady doses of the veteran Hart if the Wolverines get a lead over the Irish.

ND Rush Offense vs. Michigan Rush Defense

Well, if you take out the sacks... Notre Dame's run offense is still lousy. Junior Jabbie is the only runner with a decent YPC - 5.0 - but he's only had one carry. That's the definition of a small sample size. Armando Allen has looked the best out of any Notre Dame back so far, at 3.3 YPC. Allen is averaging 5 carries and 18 yards per game so far. James Aldrige is averaging 3-4 carries for 8 yards, and Travis Thomas 6 carries and 2.5 yards. Jimmy Clausen, like Mallet, is not a mobile quarterback. So far, Clausen has 12 rushing attempts for -39 yards.
Michigan has struggled mightily against the run this year, largely due to Appalachian State and Oregon's spread option attacks. Does that mean Demetrius Jones will make an appearance for the Irish? I doubt it. Coach Weis has named Clausen his starter, and even one play with Jones would seem like a vote of no confidence in Clausen. Michigan's front seven returns only two starters, DT 67 Terrence Taylor and OLB 2 Shawn Crable. Taylor and Crable share the team lead in tackles for a loss, with 4. Crable also leads the team with 18 total tackles.

Michigan Pass Offense vs. ND Pass Defense

7 Chad Henne was injured last week, and won't be back to face the Irish. After finally figuring out how his helmet, chin strap, and mouth guard worked together, Ryan Mallet made his Michigan debut. The results weren't pretty, as Mallet completed only 6 of 17 passes for 49 yards. He also had one interception. Still, Michigan's wide receivers scare me to death.(TM) Mario Manningham is averaging 5-6 receptions and 92 yards per game. 16 Adrian Arrington and 13 Greg Mathews are right behind Manningham. Arrington is averaging 5 catches for 61 yards, Mathews 4 for 37, and each has a TD reception. Starting TE 83 Mike Massey has 3 catches on the season, and lanky backup TE 85 Carson Butler has 2. Backup RB Brandon Minor has 2 receptions out of the backfield.
Notre Dame's pass defense has surrendered 126 yards per game. Are they that good, or is it simply a case of opponents not needing to run. Opponents have averaged 23 pass attempts per game, but they are completing only 50%. To me, that indicates a combination of the two situations. Of course, what do I know?

ND Pass Offense vs. Michigan Pass Defense

In two games, Jimmy Clausen has looked like a freshman with promise. So far, he's connected on 55% of his pass attempts. Thanks largely to Coach Weis' gameplan last week, Armando Allen is ND's leading receiver, with 7 catches. David Grimes is right behind with 6, followed by Robby Parris, George West, and John Carlson with 4 each.
Michigan has looked poor against the pass as well, giving up 260 yards per game. Crabel and Taylor each have 2 sacks, and S 31 Brandent Engelmon and CB 14 Morgan Trent each have an interception.

Special Teams

Michigan is breaking in a new field goal kicker, 34 Jason Gingell. It's been rough going so far, as Gingell has made only 2 of 5 field goals, including 2 famous blocks in the ASU game. For Notre Dame, Brandon Walker is 2 for 2 from inside 30 yards, while Nate Whitaker has missed a 50-yarder.
41 Zultan Mesko has won Michigan's punting job, and it's little surprise why. Mesko has had 9 opportunities to kick the ball away, and he is averaging 46.8 yards per. For the Irish, Geoff Price is now averaging 41.9 yards per punt.
CB 25 Johnny Sears is now Michigan's primary kick returner. He's averaging 22 yards per return after 6 tries, with a long of 31. Backup RB Carlos Brown has made 3 returns and is averaging 21 yards per, with a long of 24. Nate Whitaker has done fairly well as ND's kickoff specialist, getting 62 yards per kick. But the Irish are giving up 26 yards per return, meaning opponents start at the 34 on average.
Armando Allen has been ND's primary kick returner, averaging 19 yards per on 8 returns, with a long of 25. Golden Tate has returned 2 cicks for 20 and 34 yards, respectively. 43 Bryan Wright kicks off for the Wolverines. He's averaging 65 yards per kick with one touchback. Michigan is giving up 20 yards per return, meaning opponents on average start at the 25.
Michigan has only had 3 chances to return punts, and two of those returns have been by Johnny Sears. His returns have been for 0 and 14 yards, respectively. Notre Dame's coverage team is giving up 15 yards per punt return.
It's been all or nothing for Tom Zbikowski as a punt returner. He's had two returns - one for -1 yard and one for 47. Michigan's punt coverage team is holding opponents to a very respectable 8 yards per punt return.

Look for a big game from Allen, Parris, Carlson, Trevor Laws, David Bruton.

ND 20, Michigan 17: Allen breaks through, Clausen finds Carlson in the back of the end zone bread-and-butter, and Walker chips in two.