Tell me again why the #20 Michigan Wolverines are favored this weekend at home over the #7 Notre Dame Fighting Irish, with the visitors having had an extra week to prepare for this game? ND’s body of work this season is much more impressive than Michigan’s and Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh is just 1-10 against top-10 teams in his career.
He has as many wins against top 10 teams at Michigan as Lovie Smith now has at Illinois. And as anyone who makes free college football predictions will tell you, he is 0-8 as an underdog. But hey, maybe Vegas knows something I don’t. Or they really believe in that Big House home field advantage; A LOT!
Spread: Michigan Wolverines -2.5, over/under 53
Radio: Notre Dame Radio Network • SiriusXM (Channel 129) • 96.1 FM, 101.5 FM & 960 AM
Series History: Michigan leads 24-18-1
Series Streak: Notre Dame won 2
Last Meeting vs. Notre Dame: 2018 (L, 17-24) Last Michigan Win: 2013 (41-30)
#20 Michigan Wolverines (5-2, 3-2) Preview:
Harbaugh, amid unprecedented hype and egregious fan fare, was brought back to Michigan in 2015 to do four things: win the Big Ten East Division, win the conference, compete for national championships and beat Ohio State. Thus far, he has failed on all four fronts.
In addition, the Harbaugh era hasn’t been great against Michigan State either. Overall, this team is just plain old overrated. It was obvious to anyone paying attentions that a preseason ranking of #7 was way too high. But give credit to all the talented playmakers they have on both sides of the ball.
Last week, the Michigan Wolverines rallied from a 21-0 deficit and almost won at Penn State, in a “white out” game despite despite getting some bad calls and bad breaks.
Shea Patterson (24-for-41, 276 yards) played well, and when he’s on he can be a dual threat.
“I thought Patterson probably had his best game of the year,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said yesterday.
“He’s tough. He’s gritty. He’s accurate when he throws the football. He can run it.”
Ronnie Bell is probably the best player in Michigan’s most stellar position group, the wide receivers. For him to drop that touchdown pass last week, one that would have tied the game, was very uncharacteristic.
“Bell is really the playmaker for them,” said Kelly. “You know, he’s their best receiver; extremely competitive kid. Look to see him have a really big game. He’s that kind of player for them.”
The Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry is a storied one, which has as much tradition and significance as any that is not played each and every year. Overall, when you look at the big picture, it seems like 8-4 might end up the best overall scenario this season.
#7 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (5-1) Preview
ND is still in great position for a New Year’s Six bowl, but they need to win out in order to make sure they stay in the mix. It’s not their fault at all, but the strength of their schedule keeps diminishing. Georgia and Virginia lost. Michigan, Virginia Tech, USC, Louisville and Stanford have all seen much better days recently.
This night game, which sees UM playing in the prime time showcase contest, called by ABC’s lead broadcasting team for the second week in a row, appears to be the biggest challenge that the Fighting Irish have left. At least on paper. Just 150 miles separate these two schools.
“I think it’s a game that our players are keenly aware of its great history and tradition over the years,” said Kelly at his weekly presser.
“A lot of these guys are recruited to Notre Dame as well. You know, you’re only a couple hours away.”
“It’s one of our only two bus trips, maybe three, with Purdue that we take in our time here. So the proximity is certainly one that we’re quite aware of as well. So clearly the guys know Michigan.”
One key to pulling the mild upset here is to get Jafar Armstrong heavily involved.
Kelly said Monday that Jafar will be full go for this one and a major part of the game plan. If not, you know that Tony Jones is more than capable, as he’s averaged more than seven yards a carry this season.
The Fighting Irish have found a lot of success running the football this season, and they have a healthy stable of backs that all bring different knowledge, skills and abilities to the table.
Jones broke out in Notre Dame’s 30-27 win over arch-rival USC on Saturday night, and he’s now tied for 14th in school history with four 100-yard rushing games in a season.
His 176 rushing yards against the Trojans were a career high, and his 557 yards lead the team.
“I think he’s grown a lot,” Kelly said of Jones. “I think one of the biggest things is accepting the role of the position in which we’re asking him.”
Notre Dame will have to be balanced on offense in order to pull out the victory. They will have to be effective both running and throwing it.
“We’re committed to finding ways to win first, but we also know that we have been most effective in winning games over the last few years finding a running game at some part of the game,” said Kelly.
“Maybe it’s not the first quarter. Maybe it’s the second or the fourth, but we’re going to have to carve out a run game at some time during the game. That’s just being persistent. That’s being patient.”
Prediction: Notre Dame Fighting Irish 31, Michigan Wolverines 27
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation.Follow paulmbanks