Notre Dame is just a one-point favorite over the Wolverines in Ann Arbor so making a pick this week is essentially a 50-50 proposition. Here's how we see it playing out...
Another week is here and I feel like a broken record again. I still can't help but question Michigan's ability to beat a good team because we simply haven't seen it yet. Obviously Michigan is at home, but the offense has sputtered in Ann Arbor just like it has on the road. Playing in a downpour certainly throws a wrench into everyone's plans so that's obviously a wild card and something to keep an eye on as kickoff approaches.
Notre Dame 24, Michigan 20
The weather is the big wildcard here. I actually think it helps Michigan the most, because it likely diminishes the danger of the Kryptonite to Don Brown's defensive approach -- deep passes down the field (often in the slot) against man coverage. If the Wolverines don't have to fear the big play consistently because of the elements, their defense becomes the best unit on the field. However, last week South Carolina and Florida played in a monsoon from a tropical depression, and that game went well over the total, so who knows?
When you look at the Irish, so much of their statistical profile comes from playing two of the worst teams in the FBS -- New Mexico and Bowling Green. For example, 10 of Ian Book's 14 touchdown passes came in those two games. The Irish are averaging 39.2 points per game, but just 24.6 when you take away those two bottom-feeder games. Notre Dame averages 213 yards rushing per game, but just 148.2 minus the Lobos and Falcons.
Notre Dame, while solid, is not as good of a team as it was last season and probably doesn't merit being ranked in the top 10 as it currently is. The question lingers, though, about how good is Michigan? We don't know, which means this is another game that it's more about the Wolverines than the opponent.
I'm going to err on the side of optimism for the first time since before this star-crossed season began, and say (hope?) the Wolverines found something in Happy Valley last week.
Michigan 27, Notre Dame 21
I have no feel for how this game will go. I don’t know if Michigan turned a corner offensively last week or whether it was a one-half aberration. I don’t know if Don Brown’s stubbornness will lead to more big plays against his defense. I don’t know if Michigan is in the right head space after its crushing loss to Penn State. And I don’t know how the weather will impact Shea Patterson, the running game, and the opponent. What I do know is that on a neutral field, I’d take Notre Dame, and with the monsoon expected, I think that nullifies the home-field advantage. I’m taking the Irish.
Notre Dame 27, Michigan 20