Thursday, September 30, 2010

Notre Dame Football 2010
Issue 4: Boston College

Boston College Run Offense vs. Notre Dame Run Defense

2 Montel Harris is Boston College's feature back this year. He's averaging 22 carries and 102 yards per game.

Outside of Harris, there hasn't been much to BC's run game. Second string running back 21 Sterlin Phifer is averaging just four carries 23 yards per game.

Notre Dame's run defense is giving up 190 yards per game, and its leading tacklers tell the story of those numbers. Linebacker Manti Te'o is averaging 14 tackles per game and safety Harrison Smith nine, largely because they're the ones cleaning up other people's missed tackles.

Te'o leads the team with 3.5 tackles for a loss, and Darius Fleming is right behind with 3.0. But Fleming and the rest of the outside linebackers continue to be disappointing. As good as their outside contain was in the Purdue game, it's been nearly nonexistent in the games since.

Notre Dame Run Offense vs. Boston College Run Defense

Armando Allen leads an Irish rushing attack gaining 111 yards per game. Allen is averaging 15 carries and 76 yards per game, and has one of only two team rushing touchdowns on the year.

Robert Hughes has been moved up to the number two running back spot, largely because of his pass blocking abilities. That in and of itself may indicate how much the Irish plan to run this week. Hughes himself has not had a single carry in very limited action this season.

Cierre Wood has struggled since Purdue, but still maintains a 4.4 yards per carry average. Jonas Gray is doubtful for this game witha groin and knee injuries.

Dayne Crist has not had a designed run since the Michigan game, and the debate remains as to when the coaching staff will trust themselves to let him run again.

Boston College's run defense has been stifling this year, giving up just two yards per carry and 71 yards per game. The linebackers are leading the way in tackles, with starters 40 Luke Kuechly, 32 Kevin Pierre-Louis, and 94 Mark Herzlich combining for 76 stops through three games. Kuechly's 4.5 tackles for a loss is just 0.5 behind defensive end 98 Alex Albright for the team lead.

Boston College Pass Offense vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense

After a disappointing start by incumbent 15 Dave Shinskie, freshman 7 Chase Rettig will be making his collegiate debut as the Eagles new starter. Rettig did however enroll early to participate in spring practices. 16 Mark Marscovetra, who has had mild success as Shinskie's backup to this point, gets the "OR" designation next to Rettig on the depth chart.

Boston College runs a base pro set (running back, fullback, tight end, two receivers). Receivers 17 Clyde Lee and 80 Johnathan Coleman and back Montel Harris are leading the way, each averaging about three catches per game. Coleman is the yardage leader, averaging 58 per contest.

Four other BC players are averaging at least one catch per game - receivers 3 Ifeanyi Momah and 86 Bobby Swigert and tight ends Chris Pantale and Lars Anderson. At 6'6", 240, Momah is a matchup problem for any defensive back, and in fact outsizes tight end Anderson.

Notre Dame's defense is giving up 244 passing yards per game and allowing opponents to complete 66 percent of their passes. That first number isn't very good, but the second is much worse. Part of that comes from an inability to generate a pass rush. The Irish are averaging just two sacks per game. Darius Fleming and Ethan Johnson lead the team with two sacks apiece on the season, with Carlo Calabrese right behind at 1.5.

The secondary is still showing signs of bad habits from last year, but their pass defense is improving. The team is averaging six passes defended and five pass breakups per game. Darrin Walls has two of the team's five interceptions on the season.

Notre Dame Pass Offense vs. Boston College Pass Defense

Dayne Crist is up to 289 passing yards per game. On an average day, he'll complete 22 of 35 passes, for a rate of 59 percent. He's also averaging two touchdowns and one interception per game.

Michael Floyd is Notre Dame's leading receiver, an impressive feat considering the coverages he's faced. Floyd is averaging six catches and 85 yards per game.

Kyle Rudolph and Theo Riddick are right behind at five catches per game. Rudolph's hamstring limited him to one catch against Stanford, but he should be back to full strength this week.

Armando Allen and TJ Jones are averaging two catches per game, and John Goodman one. Jones, Floyd, Riddick, and Rudolph each have two touchdown catches apiece, to account for all of Notre Dame's receiving TDs.

Boston College's 4-3 defense has struggled to get pressure on the quarterback, registering only four sacks in three games. Still, their defense ends can do some damage. In addition to Alex Albright's five tackles for a loss, 47 Brad Newman leads the team with two sacks.

That lack of pressure has allowed opponents to average 238 yards per game in the air. Yet the Eagles have given up only two passing touchdowns while collecting five interceptions. Still, it looks like once again the Irish offense will need to lean heavily on the passing game in this one.

Special Teams

85 Nate Freese is Boston College's field goal kicker. He's five-for-six with a long of just 33. Freese's lone miss came on a 47-yarder last week. David Ruffer has remained perfect on the season, now converting all seven of his attempts. His long is 46 yards.

46 Ryan Quigley is back once again as BC's punter. Quigley has been booming the ball this year, averaging 45 yards per punt with a long of 71. Four of his 14 punts have gone over 50 yards. The Eagles punt coverage has been equally impressive, giving up four returns for a combined -17 yards. Ben Turk has been struggling as of late for the Irish, averaging just 36 yards per punt. To his credit, most of his punts have been unreturnable. Irish opponents have returned just two of Turk's 21 punts for four total yards.

Cornerbacks 9 DeLeon Gause and 25 Chris Fox return kicks for the Eagles. Both are averaging around 20 yards per return with a long around 30. Gause does have a 66-yard interception return to his credit, though. David Ruffer kicks off for Notre Dame. He's averaging 66 yards per kick with three touchbacks on 20 tries. Notre Dame's kick team is giving up 20 yards per return, leaving opponents with an average start on the 24 yard line.

Cierre Wood is averaging 20 yards per kick return for the Irish, but has struggled as of late. With those struggles and Jonas Gray's injuries, Bennett Jackson should see some time returning kicks. After channeling Mike Anello on kick coverage, let's see if the speedy, undersized freshman can now channel a 2009 version of Theo Riddick on returns. Nate Freese also kicks off for the Eagles. He's averaging 63 yards per kick with one touchback on 14 tries. He has also kicked the ball out of bounds twice. Boston College is giving up a respectable 18 yards per return, giving opponents an average start on the 30.

DeLeon Gause also returns punts for Boston College. He's averaging just four yards per return on six tries. John Goodman has been officially promoted to starting punt returner after taking over those duties in the Stanford game. Goodman is averaging nine yards per return with a long of 13.

Notre Dame Players to Watch

Robert Hughes, Kyle Rudolph, Darius Flemming, Carlo Calabrese, Bennett Jackson, John Goodman


Notre Dame 22, Boston College 19

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Notre Dame Football 2010
Issue 4: Stanford

Stanford Run Offense vs. Notre Dame Run Defense

The main concern facing Stanford's offense this season was replacing Toby Gerhart. So far, the running game hasn't missed a step, averaging 242 yards per game. The Cardinal are led by the two-headed running back combination of 33 Stepfan Taylor and 25 Tyler Gaffney. Taylor is averaging 10 carries and 52 yards per game, while Gaffney is averaging eight for 46. Gaffney also leads the team with three rushing touchdowns.

Quarterback 12 Andrew Luck has also been productive with his legs. Discounting sacks - of which the Stanford offense has only given up one this year - Luck is rushing four times per game for 47 yards. Those numbers are aided by a 52-yard run, the longest on the team this year.

Fullback 48 Owen Marecic, who doubles as a starting inside linebacker, will also get into the act on offense. Marecic is averaging two carries for six yards per game.

Rounding out the Stanford rushing attack are running backs 15 Usua Amanam and 32 Anthony Wilkerson, both averaging five carries per game. The small, shifty Amanam is averaging 30 yards per game; big back Wilkerson, 18. Yes, when your team averages 42 rushing attempts per game, there are a lot of carries to go around.

The story of Notre Dame's run defense, and the team as the whole, is that they're making fewer mistakes - but the mistakes are bigger. Despite seemingly better tackling, the Irish are giving up 199 yards per game on the ground. Manti Te'o leads the team in tackles with 33 (11 per game) and tackles for a loss with 3.5. He and fellow inside linebacker Carlo Calabrese (23 tackles) will face a tough test against Stanford's run game. As will nose tackle Ian Williams, who Brian Kelly recently described as "dominant."

Conversely, the outside linebacker play has been disappointing at best. Darius Fleming, Brian Smith, Kerry Neal, and Steve Filer all have the ability to be starters at this level, yet have combined for just 37 tackles on the year - four more than Te'o has by himself.

Notre Dame Run Offense vs. Stanford Run Defense

Despite a pass-happy attack in the Michigan State game, Notre Dame is still averaging 31 carries and 133 yards per game. Armando Allen, as expected, has established himself as the feature back, averaging 15 carries and 84 yards per game. Cierre Wood saw limited action against the Spartans, but still has his coaches' confidence. Wood is averaging five carries and 24 yards per game. Jonas Gray has only four carries on the year, and most of that was due to Allen's hand injury last week. Allen, by the way, should be at full strength for this week's game.

Quarterback Dayne Crist is averaging five carries and 20 yards per game. Slot receiver Theo Riddick has two carries on the year, both in the Michigan game.

Stanford's run defense is giving up a less-than-stellar 138 yards per game on the ground, but are still maintaining a respectable 3.8 yards per carry against. Apparently Stanford opponents have been trying to mimic Stanford's offense by running 38 times per game.

Stanford's leading tackler is free safety 3 Michael Thomas. Irish fans are well aware of the red flag that is having a safety as your leading tackler. Yet, Thomas does have a team-leading three tackles for a loss, so that total could be an indication of how much he is moved around and used in run suport.

Inside linebacker 57 Max Bergen and outside linebacker 44 Chase Thomas are next on the team in tackles with 14 and 12, respectively. The Cardinal team is averaging over six tackles for a loss per game, so they do like to get into the backfield.

Stanford Pass Offense vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense

Quarterback Andrew Luck is being hailed as a future Heisman candidate. So far, he hasn't disappointed. Luck is averaging 23 pass attempts per game, which may not seem like much compared to the 42 running plays per game for the team. But Luck does make the most of those chances, completing 64 percent (15 completions/game) for 224 yards. He also has 10 touchdowns to zero interceptions, and an efficiency rating of 192.3.

The Cardinal are expected to be without receiver 8 Ryan Whalen, who was the team's leading receiver in each of the past two year, and tied for the team lead in catches this year. Whalen has a dislocated elbow. In his absence, 89 Doug "This is war!" Baldwin becomes Luck's primary target. Baldwin is averaging three catches, 65 yards, and one touchdown per game.

In Whalen's absence, 81 Chris Owusu steps back into the starting lineup. In his lone appearance this season, Owusu had three catches, two for touchdowns.

Stanford has done a good job of spreading the wealth in the passing game. Thirteen Cardinal have receptions, but no one other than Whalen, Baldwin, and Owusu are averaging more than one catch per game.

On the season, 10 balls have gone to tight ends, led by old friend (and starter) 88 Konrad Reuland with five catches. Six passes have gone to running backs, led by Stepfan Taylor with four. The fullbacks have yet to make a reception.

Notre Dame is giving up 246 yards per game in the air. More concerning is that Irish opponents have completed 68 percent of their passes. Despite this, the Notre Dame corners have gotten better at breaking up passes, recording 15 official passes defended and 13 official breakups. In addition, Darrin Walls, Zeke Motta, and Ian Williams have interceptions.

Motta has been praised for his effort, but Coach Kelly said that the safety needs to work on being in the right place at the right time. The good news for Motta and fellow safety Harrison Smith is that Jamoris Slaughter should be back for this game, returning this thin unit to full strength.

The Irish are averaging just under three sacks per game. Darius Fleming and Ethan Johnson lead the team with two apiece.

Notre Dame Pass Offense vs. Stanford Pass Defense

Dayne Crist's numbers won't win him the Heisman, but he's been effective for a first-year starter. Crist is averaging 21 completions on 35 attempts per game, a 60 percent rate. Dayne is averaging 284 yards per game, and has seven touchdowns on the year to two interceptions.

Kyle Rudolph has been Crist's main target, averaging seven catches and 96 yards per game. Michael Floyd and Theo Riddick aren't close behind, averaging five catches per game (with Riddick's numbers helped largely by his performance against Michigan State). Floyd is averaging 76 yards per game, but has two key fumbles against his name. Riddick is averaging 60 yards per contest.

TJ Jones and Armando Allen are averaging three catches per game. Jones, Rudolph, and Floyd are leading the team with two touchdowns apiece.

Despite three new offensive linemen (including both tackles) and a new starting quarterback, the Irish have given up only five sacks through three games.

The Cardinal have switched to a hybrid 3-4 look, and it's been quite productive so far. The team has recorded 11 sacks in three games, led by outside linebacker Chase Thomas with 3.5. Thomas is one of seven linebackers or lineman who has recorded a sack for Stanford this year.

Cornerback 9 Richard Sherman is fourth on the team in tackles (nine), first in passes broken up (four) and defended (five), and has one of the team's three interceptions. It sounds like he's in charge of covering opponents' top receivers, and at 6'3", he's more than capable of giving Michael Floyd all he can handle.

Stanford is holding opponents to a measly 90 passing yards per game. Of course, that number is skewed by the fact that Cardinal opposition has attempted only 68 passes (and completed only 34) on the season.

Special Teams

Another old friend, 39 Nate Whitaker, is Stanford's placekicker. He's a perfect three-for-three on the year, although all of his attempts have come from 23 yards or less. Notre Dame's David Ruffer is also perfect, connecting on all five of his attempts with a long of 46.

36 Daniel Zychlinski punts for the Cardinal. Two of his six punts have gone over 50 yards, with a long of 64. He's averaging 48 yards per kick. Stanford is giving up 28 yards per punt return, a number marred by a 70 yard touchdown. Notre Dame's Ben Turk is averaging just 37 yards per punt, but Turk is all about hang time rather than length. None of Turk's 16 punts have been returned.

Usua Amanam and Doug Baldwin return kicks for Stanford. Amanam is averaging 35 yards per return with a long of 60; Baldwin 21 with a long of 24. David Ruffer also kicks off for the Irish. He's averaging 66 yards per kick with three touchbacks in 17 tries. Notre Dame is giving up 20 yards per return, giving opponents an average start on the 26.

Cierre Wood is Notre Dame's primary kick returner, although he's "on notice" to step up his performance. Wood is averaging 20 yards per return with a long of 38. Nate Whitaker has been booming kickoffs for the Cardinal. His 26 kicks have averaged 68 yards, with eight going for touchbacks. Stanford is giving up 25 yards per return, giving opponents an average start on the 35. Notre Dame should definitely win the hidden yardage battle in that regard.

Doug Baldwin also returns punts for Stanford. He's averaging only eight yards per return with a long of 22. Armando Allen should be back to returning punts for Notre Dame. He's averaging an impressive 24 yards per return with a long of 38.

Notre Dame Players to Watch

Michael Floyd, Carlo Calabrese, Darius Fleming, Jamoris Slaughter, Cierre Wood, Armando Allen


Notre Dame 31, Stanford 28

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Notre Dame Football 2010
Issue 3: Michigan State

Michigan State Run Offense vs. Notre Dame Run Defense

Michigan State has started the season by beating up on two lesser opponents. As has been their M.O. this decade, the Spartans are doing so with a multi-faceted running game. 4 Edwin Baker (5'9", 208) is averaging 16 carries and 150 yards a game, while 24 Le'Veon Bell (6'2", 240) is averaging 10 carries and 95 yards. That's right, both backs are averaging 9.5 yards a carry. Each have also cashed in three touchdowns.

22 Larry Caper adds a third weapon to the MSU running game. Caper, who scored two touchdowns against the Irish last year, has however missed the first two games with a hand injury. He's listed as questionable for this Saturday.

Quarterback 8 Kirk Cousins has had five non-sack rushing attempts for 18 yards. In addition, two Spartans receivers have each seen individual carries. Michigan State does employ a fullback in a base pro set, but he has yet to see a touch on the grouns

The Irish defense's rushing stats are no doubt tainted by Denard Robinson's performance from last week. However, the positive is that it is the middle linebackers, and not the safeties, who lead the team in tackles. Manti Te'o has 22 stops, and Carlo Calabrese has 19. A somewhat concerning stat is that Notre Dame has only three tackles for a loss, with one coming from Te'o and one each from cornerbacks Gary Gray and Robert Blanton.

Notre Dame Run Offense vs. Michigan State Run Defense

Armando Allen and Cierre Wood have been the primary ballcarriers for the Irish, with Allen getting the bulk of the carries. Armando is averaging 16.5 carries and 91 yards per game, while Wood is averaging 6.5 and 34. Both are over five yards per carry, a very positive sign.

Irish quarterbacks have had 13 non-sack rushing attempts for 60 yards, while the only receiver to run the ball so far is Theo Riddick. Riddick had limited success in two attempts against Michigan, running for zero and three yards.

MSU's 4-3 defense is led by an experienced set of linebackers. 53 Greg Jones is the star, and so far 43 Eric Gordon and 10 Chris Norman have been able to match his production. The trio have combined for 57 tackles in two games. As a whole, the Spartans defense has held opponents to just 65 yards per game on the ground.

Michigan State Pass Offense vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense

Kirk Cousins returns for his second season as Michigan State's starting quarterback. Thanks to the effectiveness of the running game, Cousins has only needed to attempt 19 passes per game so far. On average, he will complete 11 of those passes for 164 yards.

Cousins' favorite target so far has been wideout 2 Mark Dell, who is averaging 3.5 catches and 50 yards per game. After Dell, no one is averaging more than one catch per game.

Cousins does like to use his tight ends, as three Michigan State TEs have two catches apiece this year. That may not seem like much, but remember it accounts for over one-fourth of all MSU completions. Of the remaining 16 passes, 15 have gone to wide receivers (including Dell) and only one to a running back.

Due to nagging injuries to Jamoris Slaughter and Dan McCarthy, Harrison Smith and Zeke Motta were the only safeties available to play for Notre Dame last week. Slaughter does hope to be back this week though. Speaking of depth in the secondary, Notre Dame stayed in its base 3-4 set for the entirety of the Michigan game, although it's unclear whether that was because of the lack of defensive backs or because they wanted extra linebackers in against Robinson.

The Irish are giving up 232 passing yards per game. Ethan Johnson leads the team with two sacks, while Ian Williams, Kapron Lewis-Moore, and Kerry Neal have one apiece.

Notre Dame Pass Offense vs. Michigan State Pass Defense

Dayne Crist has been an effective, if not flashy, passer so far, completing 62.7 percent of his passes. Crist is averaging 25 attempts, 16 completions, and 241 yards per game.

Kyle Rudolph has been Crist's favorite target so far, due to his ability to get open in almost any situation. Rudolph is averaging 6.5 catches and 103.5 yards per game.

Michael Floyd is averaging five catches and 74 yards per game, yet the team thinks he isn't getting involved enough. Against Michigan, Floyd primarily played as the lone receiver on the short side of the field, and Michigan was able to shut him down with double coverage. The Irish will look to move Floyd around this week to get him more opportunities.

All the attention paid to Floyd has given a chance for TJ Jones to show his ability. Jones is averaging three catches and 57 yards per game, and leads the team with two touchdown catches.

Theo Riddick is averaging two catches per game, while backs Armando Allen and Cierre Wood are averaging one apiece.

Opponents have gone to the air often against Michigan State, but that may be a result of the leads the Spartans have been putting up. MSU is giving up 247 passing yards per game, while recording only three sacks on 90 passing attempts.

Defensive end 89 Colin Neely leads the team with 1.5 sacks and 4.0 tackles for loss overall. Strong safety 11 Marcus Hyde has recorded the team's lone interception.

Special Teams

The strong-legged 4 Dan Conroy takes over as MSU's full-time placekicker this year. He's a perfect 4-for-4 on the season with a long of 50. For the Irish, David Ruffer has also converted all four of his field goal attempts. Ruffer's long is 46 yards.

18 Aaron Bates, a four-year starter, is one of the best punters in the nation. On eight tries, he's averaging 46 yards per kick, with a long of 57. But he's not outkicking his coverage, as the Spartans are holding opponents to six yards per return. Eric Maust is averaging 36.8 yards per punt with a long of 47. The good news is that Irish opponents have yet to be able to return a punt.

Receiver 82 Keshawn Martin and starting free safety 39 Trenton Robinson have been returning kicks for the Spartans, although Le'Veon Bell has been bumped ahead of Robinson on this week's depth chart. Martin is averaging 22 yards per return, Robinson 21. David Ruffer is averaging 62 yards per kickoff for Notre Dame, with two touchbacks on 12 kicks. Irish opponents are averaging 22.6 yards per return, giving them an average start on the 26.

Cierre Wood has been ND's primary kick returner, averaging 23.5 yards per with a long of 38. Theo Riddick has added one return for 19 yards. 17 Kevin Muma kicks off for the Spartans. He's averaging 62 yards per kick with two touchbacks on 14 tries. MSU is surrendering 22 yards per return, giving opponents an average start on the 30.

Keshawn Martin also returns punts for Michigan State. He's averaging a modest 13.4 yards per return with a long of 47 yards. Armando Allen has returned two punts for the Irish this year, one for nine yards and one for 38. That's an average of 23.5 yards.

Notre Dame Players to Watch

Dayne Crist, Michael Floyd, Ian Williams, Jamoris Slaughter, Eric Maust, Cierre Wood


Notre Dame 23, Michigan State 20

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Notre Dame Football 2010
Issue 2: Michigan

Michigan Run Offense vs. Notre Dame Run Defense

The Wolverines lost running backs Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown, but that didn't stop their ground game in week one. Led as always by a veteran offensive line, Michigan ran 61 times against Connecticut for 287 yards.

Michigan was led by quarterback 16 Denard Robinson, who had nearly half of the team's carries (29) and finished with 197 yards and a touchdown. Michigan's top two running backs, 2 Vincent Smith and 20 Michael Shaw, saw 14 and 15 carries respectively, and each finished with a touchdown and over 50 yards rushing.

Slot receiver 19 Kelvin Grady also had a carry in the game. So as if containing Robinson and the backs weren't hard enough, the receivers also need to be accounted for.

Inside linebackers Carlo Calabrese and Manti Te'o tied for the team lead in tackles against Purdue. That's great news for the Irish defense, as most of those tackle opportunities would have slipped to the safeties last year.

Gary Gray also tied for the tackle lead, and fellow corner Darrin Walls was just two behind. Most of those tackles came in run support as part of a very good overall effort to keep contain. The corners, outside linebackers, and ends will need more of that this week if they want to beat Michigan. Of course, the corners can't creep up too much and let Robinson pass over their heads at the last second.

The Irish run defense looks pretty sound despite a limited showing. Notre Dame played without Steve Filer and Prince Shembo for most of the game due to cramping, but still showed solid depth at linebacker. Anthony McDonald should also see increased playing time this week, and Manti Te'o will no doubt be ready to make up for all the missed opportunities he made last week.

The key for the Irish defense will be to win first down, and force Robinson and the Wolverines into passing situations in the quarterback's first road start.

Notre Dame Run Offense vs. Michigan Run Defense

Armando Allen and Cierre Wood both made impressive season debuts, with Allen running 18 times for 98 yards and Wood going seven times for 63 yards.

Allen and Wood were aided by exceptionally coordinated pull blocking by the line, and by determined downfield interference from Michael Floyd. Of course, for some refs any blocking done by a wide receiver is immediately called a hold, so the Irish may not always be able to rely on Floyd to help them get to the second and third level.

Michigan's defense is led by its three starting linebackers, 88 Craig Roh, 45 Obi Ezeh, and Jonas Mouton. The three combined for 22 tackles against UConn, but the team as a whole did give up 138 yards on the ground.

Michigan Pass Offense vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense

Denard Robinson certainly was impressive running on UConn, but he was equally effective in the air. Robinson completed 19 of 22 passes for 186 yards and a touchdown against the Huskies.

Of Robinson's 19 completions, 12 went to wideouts, four to running backs, and three to tight end 86 Kevin Koger. 22 Darryl Stonum led all Michigan Receivers with five catches.

Robinson had only one completion go for over 16 yards; that was a catch by 8 Terrence Robinson for 43. Understandably, the Wolverines were probably trying to keep things simple for their quarterback's first start.

Notre Dame's gameplan versus Purdue was to stop the run and the big pass, and allow the underneath pass. So while Robert Marve completed 31 of 42 passes, the Boilers only finished with 12 points and 220 passing yards. Of course, interceptions by Darrin Walls and Ian Williams helped.

Notre Dame Pass Offense vs. Michigan Pass Defense

Dayne Crist at times looked like a seasoned passer, and at times like a kid a little too excited to be making his first career start at Notre Dame stadium.

Crist finished 19 for 26 despite missing a few open receivers in the end zone. Michael Floyd and Kyle Rudolph did their parts in keeping Crist's confidence level high, each making five receptions. TJ Jones added his first career touchdown, and backs Cierre Wood and Armando Allen combined for three catches.

Michigan switched to a 3-3-5 defense this year, a somewhat puzzling move considering the relative lack of experience in the secondary. Cornerbacks Donovan Warren (who led the Wolverines in interceptions and pass breakups in 2009) and Boubacar Cissoko are no longer with the team. 13 Carvin Johnson and 29 Troy Woolfolk are expected to miss this game due to injuries, although Johnson - who plays a hybrid safety/linebacker role - is still listed as a starter on the most recent depth chart.

That being said, Notre Dame shouldn't put itself in a position where it needs to pass to win the game. But if the Irish can get a ground game working early, they can use their talented receivers to put this game away.

Special Teams

Michigan is breaking in new placekicker 34 Brendan Gibbons, who missed from 43 and made from 24 last week. After Nick Tausch's success last year, it was somewhat surprising when David Ruffer was named the starting placekicker for Notre Dame last week. After a perfect day with makes from 22, 46, and 37, Ruffer will retain his position against the Wolverines.

The Wolverines also have a new punter in 43 Will Hagerup. Hagerup punted only once last week, and it covered 51 yards. Ben Turk did not get off to a great start for the Irish, averaging just 31 yards per punt on three tries with a long of 35. On a positive note, none of his punts were returnable.

Darryl Stonum and 9 Martavious Odoms return Kicks for the Wolverines. Both had a 19 return last week. David Ruffer kicked off seven times for the Irish last week, averaging 61.6 yards with one touchback. The Irish gave up 13.7 yards per return, for an average start on the 22. That was largely thanks to freshman receiver Bennett Jackson, who made four tackles on 10 special teams appearances.

Cierre Wood is averaging 25 yards per kick return with a long of 38. Brendan Gibbons also kicks off for Michigan. He had six kicks last week, averaging of 54 yards with two touchbacks. Michigan gave up 12 yards per return, for an average start on the 28.

10 Jeremy Gallon is Michigan's punt returner. He had one chance last week and ran for seven yards. Armando Allen returns punts for Notre Dame. He had one return for 38 yards in the opener.

Notre Dame Players to Watch

Dayne Crist, Michael Floyd, Manti Te'o, Steve Filer, Ben Turk, Bennett Jackson


Notre Dame 28, Michigan 24