Two storied programs renew their rivalry in a primetime opening-week matchup, as the nearly four-year absence of Michigan–Notre Dame is the longest hiatus between the Wolverines and Irish since 1978. Much has changed since the teams last met on Sept. 6, 2014. Brady Hoke was the Wolverines’ top man in what would turn out to be his final season as Michigan’s head coach. His team’s 31-0 road loss to the Irish likely helped seal his fate.
Jim Harbaugh immediately turned things in the right direction in Ann Arbor after taking over as the Wolverines head coach prior to the start of the 2015 season. But while he led Michigan to back-to-back 10-3 records in 2015 and ’16, the team’s 8-5 mark last season marked a step backward. Michigan has consistently underwhelmed against quality competition. In the past 20 games dating back to the midway point of the 2016 regular season, the Wolverines have faced eight opponents that ended their season with a winning record. Michigan lost all eight of those games while covering the point spread in only two of them—both narrowly against rival Ohio State (in a three-point loss as a 3.5-point underdog in 2016 and in an 11-point defeat as a 12-point home underdog last season). It’s the offense that’s been mostly to blame, as only once in the six non-Ohio State games against quality opponents has Michigan managed to reach 20 points.
The lone common opponent between Michigan and Notre Dame last season was Michigan State, which lost by 20 points at home to the Irish two weeks before winning outright as a 13-point underdog in Ann Arbor. The only loss Notre Dame suffered at home last season was a one-point defeat to Georgia, which ended up falling three points shy of winning the national championship.
The home team is 7-1 ATS over the past eight games played between Michigan and Notre Dame since the start of the 2007 season, with the home squad outscoring the visitors by an average of 15.5 points per game. Notre Dame is 6-2 ATS in its past eight home games against Michigan. Meanwhile, all but one of the eight non-conference games Michigan has played since the start of the 2016 season have gone over the total.
Although much has been made over the fact that Notre Dame lost a pair of offensive linemen to the NFL draft with Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey both being selected among the top 10 picks, the Irish return 10 starters to a defense that improved from 62nd in FBS in scoring defense in 2016 to 31st last season. While it’s rarely a good idea to question the way Vegas bookmakers set their lines, there’s evidence to support the claim that Notre Dame should be favored in this one.
Side Pick: Notre Dame PK
Confidence Level: High (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)
Total Pick: Over 48
Confidence Level: Low