It’s going to rain in Ann Arbor tonight, there’s going to be a whole lot of it. Not only will the rain play a major factor when Notre Dame and Michigan square off at The Big House, wind will as well.
The rain will impact fans and players alike. Parking will not be available on the U-M Golf Course, and ticket prices for the game are dropping drastically on StubHub with the lowest price being $29 at the moment (were well over $100 a few days ago).
Per the National Weather Service, there will be winds 14 to 16 mph, with gusts as high as 32 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100% and when things are all said and done there will be 1 to 2 inches of rainfall.
It’s hard to determine who has the advantage in these nasty conditions, but let’s try to do so.
- Wolverines run defense is ranked 30th while Notre Dame is ranked 64th
- Michigan has lost 9 fumbles this season and rank 109th in turnovers lost and 124th in fumbles lost. Notre Dame has lost just 2 fumbles this season and rank 3rd in turnovers lost with 4 in all.
- The Michigan defense has recovered 7 fumbles and forced 5 interceptions while Notre Dame has recovered 8 fumbles and hauled in 6 interceptions.
- Michigan ranks 48th in tackles for loss on defense, Notre Dame ranks 7th
- Michigan ranks 10th in tackles for loss allowed, Notre Dame ranks 33rd
- Michigan ranks 14th in sacks, Notre Dame ranks 21st
- Notre Dame ranks 39th in sacks allowed, Michigan is 47th
The most eye-popping disparity resides in the amount of times Michigan has fumbled on offense compared to Notre Dame. However, one positive sign for the Wolverines is they didn’t fumble the ball away last week at Penn State.
Another factor to be determined is which quarterback can throw the ball better in the rain and make more plays with their legs. Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book and Michigan’s Shea Patterson are both scrappy guys in their own right and willing to scramble, so look out for them to be part of the run game. We’ll see how often each team decides to throw, but having a QB who can throw an accurate ball is one heck of an asset. Even then, though, which team has receiving options that can catch a wet ball? The rain is bad enough but it looks like there will be swirling wind on top of it, making throwing conditions absolutely putrid. Even so, both teams will have to throw at some point and we’re going to find out who the better QB is in the rain.
Michigan’s aggressive style on defense may serve them well on a sloppy field. The worst type of defense to play a rain-drenched field is a tentative style of defense where you’re flat footed and not flying downhill. Michigan’s defensive scheme requires its players to keep their feet moving and attack. If a defense is going to lay back a little in conditions like this and let a ball carrier come to them (somewhat), that’s the type of D that loses a game on a rain soaked field. Michigan’s safeties will play a crucial role in stopping the run as they’ll have the most space between a defender and the line of scrimmage. This extra space actually comes in handy during rainy games as this, the more momentum downhill in the mush the better.
For Notre Dame, they’ll be leaning on their offensive line, who made the midseason honor roll for the Joe Moore Award, which goes to the top offensive line in the nation. Pro Football Focus also graded them as the best pass blocking offensive line through seven weeks.
Michigan’s offensive line has looked much improved the past few weeks, in pass protection and in run blocking. It’ll boil down to whether they can wear Notre Dame’s defense down. There are bound to be a lot of runs that go for little to no gain, and they’ll need to stick with it in hopes of busting a big run here and there.
We also have to mention special teams, too, as a bad punt, missed kick, or muffed punt could cost either team the game in what could be a low scoring affair.
It’s truly a crap-shoot in determining what team has the edge in weather conditions like we’ll see tonight. Last week Washington took on the 49ers in heavy rain and the Niners lead was just 6-0 throughout most of the game, and the 49ers are undefeated while Washington is horrible and winless. Rain and win make a match-up much more unpredictable.
If you’re coming to the game, be sure to bundle up and buy a poncho. If you’re watching at home, get cozy and watch some madness unfold.