Michigan's pass rush turns out to be a major weakness
Last week I wrote that the four-man pass rush was definitely improved. I'll go ahead and take those words back this week after watching Tommy Rees stand in a clean pocket time and time again. Brennen Beyer, not the hyped Frank Clark, seems to be the only player on Michigan's roster capable of getting consistent pressure on passers. The rest of the unit was stale and needed help from overload blitzes to get to Rees, who did a decent job of making quick reads with pressure in his face. His two interceptions don't mask the fact that Michigan needs more help with its pass rush.
The offense relies too heavily on Gardner and Gallon
Rees' interceptions don't mask the defense's weaknesses, and the offense's 41 points don't mask the fact that it relies far too much on Gardner tossing the rock to Gallon. Devin completed more than a third of his passes to Gallon, who is becoming more and more important in a Michigan offense that currently lacks other consistent options. Jeremy was slow to get up during the fourth quarter of last night's contest, and the crowd grew extremely nervous knowing that Gardner's main weapon might not return. The offense will be in major trouble if Gallon doesn't get up next time.
Turnovers remain an issue
This was actually a relative strength of Michigan's during the game, only turning the ball over once while taking it away from the Irish twice. The Wolverines still coughed it up during the most crucial period of the game, and Dennis Norfleet was extremely lucky to get his muffed punt back. It's nitpicking, but Michigan can still play a cleaner brand of football.
Devin Gardner is worthy of the hype
Gardner threw for nearly 300 yards and 4 touchdowns. He was nearing the 100-yard mark in rushing yards and registered another score on the ground. He made great decisions with the ball for the vast majority of the game, used solid footwork and mechanics, timed his scrambles well and showed what looked to be a psychic connection with his best target.
The best part? He did all of this against a defense that starts a ton of elite talent. All of the worry stemming from his turnovers against low-end Central Michigan has been wiped away by memories of him tearing the Notre Dame defense apart for four quarters.
Gardner to Gallon might be unstoppable
Jeremy Gallon finished the contest with 8 catches for 184 yards and 3 touchdowns, averaging 23 yards per reception. The duo continued to show an awesome on-field connection on curl routes, and Gallon made yet another tough catch with a defender all over him. Gallon could push for first team All-Big Ten honors.
Al Borges is utilizing his weaponry
Dennis Norfleet got the ball on a reverse and a fancy fake-iso toss. Jake Butt got more looks from Gardner than Devin Funchess. Drew Dileo is being utilized more than he was last year. It's very clear that Al Borges is more comfortable calling plays with Devin Gardner behind center, and it's beginning to show in his decision to spread the love on offense. Michigan's lack of a consistent weapon to put beside Gallon was mitigated by the contributions of a handful of role players, and the Wolverines just might be able to get away with it all season long if Gallon can stay healthy.
Rushing the passer is the D's only major weakness
Michigan's secondary concerns vanished quickly against Notre Dame as Jarrod Wilson looked ready for the big stage. The young safety didn't make any head-scratching mistakes, and he was ready to crush Irish receivers on more than one occasion.
The linebackers and corners came ready to play, too. Raymon Taylor came up with a critical crushing blow, Countess picked off a Rees pass and youngster James Ross nearly got one for himself. Notre Dame did gash Michigan on quite a few runs, but I like to think that it was a negative effect of Michigan's attempts to fill Rees' passing lanes without rushing more than four players.
This defense could go from good to awesome if Jake Ryan comes back ready to wreak havoc.
The offensive line can compete with elite fronts
Michigan ran for 166 yards against a defensive front that many thought was immovable. The zone was inconsistent, gashing the Irish for solid yardage on one play before moving backward on the next, but the offensive line at least showed that it can compete with great defensive lineman. Michigan won't see another starting defensive line like Notre Dame's this season, so there is reason for hope on Michigan's offensive front.
I still don't think this team is ready for a run at the national title, so don't go getting your hopes up. That being said, this team is capable of running the table in the Legends division before facing an Ohio State team that no longer looks superior, setting up another massive showdown between the two rivals. Overall, this Notre Dame game showed that this team is capable of playing with most–keyword: most– teams in the country.