The day is finally here. No more messin’ around. Game time is hours away.
The #14 Michigan Wolverines are facing the #12 Notre Dame Fighting Irish in South Bend. After finishing last season 8-5, Michigan wants 2018 to be a special year, and beating ND could propel them to bigger and better things. With that in mind, here’s what U-M will have to do to walk out of Notre Dame Stadium with a win.
Bottle up Wimbush
Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush is a scrambler, rushing for 803 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2017. When Wimbush is pressured and contained, he’s a much less effective player. Completing just 49.5% of his passes last season, Wimbush can make bad decisions when defenders are in his face. Look for the likes of Rashan Gary, Chase Winovich, Khaleke Hudson, and Devin Bush to all give Wimbush fits and rattled before this game is over.
If the Michigan defense is unable to knock Wimbush on his butt this quarterback can still dash and gash any defense on any given week. He has serious arm talent and open field running abilities, he’s just highly inconsistent to this point at ND.
Black is out, next man up must show up
So we thought Tarik Black would suit up against the Fighting Irish, but he got hurt once again and he will be out at least a decent chunk of the season. This puts everyone else on notice, they must perform and fill the shoes of Black. Nico Collins has been receiving rave reviews in practice, but will he play well during live game action? Grant Perry will need to carry some of the load as the vet of the bunch. Hopefully for Michigan’s sake Donovan Peoples-Jones has made big time strides and improvements. And then there’s Oliver Martin, who is another candidate that could see an increase in snaps with Black being out.
Shea Patterson is efficient
With a top-tier Michigan defense, all Shea Patterson is going to have to do is be good, he doesn’t necessarily have to be great. Don’t turn the football over, lead the team down the field and keep putting points up on the scoreboard. If Michigan can score north of 20 points, their chances of winning this ballgame are pretty high.
Find an identity on offense
We know the defense has an identity, they’re aggressive and fast as hell on the field. But what about this offense? We don’t know, but maybe the offense does. Even so, they’ll have to go out on the field tonight and mold their identity, because confidence can only grow in a huge manner once the games start mattering. What kind of offensive line is this going to be? Are they going to be throwing defenders around and driving them into the mud? Will the quarterback be a vocal leader and make his teammates even better than they are?
There are many questions, but by the end of the game we may be able to say what the identity of the offense is.
Don’t freak out
If Michigan stays disciplined by not turning the ball over or making mental errors that lead to blown coverages on defense, they’ll likely win this game. Penalties can also have a major say when we look at wins and losses. You have to limit the amount of penalties accrued on the road in a hostile environment.
This is a big game, but the team cannot play the game with an abundance of nervous energy. Nervous energy creates mistakes, freaking out leads to bizarro games unfolding.
Get the run game going early
Back to the whole offensive identity thing.
Karan Higdon and Chris Evans need to have solid games, but the offensive line has a major say as to whether that occurs. If the duo can keep racking up first downs and moving the chains, that’ll open up the passing game while also proving to the Michigan fanbase, and themselves, that the o-line is much improved and is up for any challenge.
With an above average quarterback at the helm in Patterson, if Michigan can get the run game rolling in the first half, it may be lights out for ND before the 4th quarter even begins.
What do you think Michigan has to do to win tonight’s game?