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Getting to know Michigan’s Week 9 opponent: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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The Wolverines host their first rivalry game of the season on Saturday.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 21 Notre Dame at Georgia Photo by Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After a comeback fell short last Saturday against Penn State in Happy Valley, the Michigan Wolverines will look to get back on track in their first rivalry game of the season at the Big House against the 5-1 Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

The Irish, who have only lost on the road at Georgia, are a dangerous team all across the board, and will be another tough out for Michigan. Luckily for the Wolverines, this game is at home under the lights, a place where they have fared quite well no matter who they’re playing. But especially Notre Dame.

The Wolverines know Irish quarterback Ian Book briefly from last year’s game. He came in on two of their touchdown plays — running back rushing touchdowns — despite not accumulating any stats in the game itself. But the senior is having a very good season so far, throwing for 1,419 yards, 14 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. He also has 188 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns.

The Irish are multi-faceted on offense, with several players worthy of honing in on. Tony Jones Jr. leads Notre Dame in the running game, with 557 rushing yards on 80 carries for 4 touchdowns. They also have C’Bo Flemister (60 yards, 3 touchdowns) and Jahmir Smith (93 yards, 2 touchdowns). And, of course, Book is a running threat, too.

Wide receiver Chase Claypool is a freak of nature. At 6-foot-4 and 229 pounds, the Wolverine secondary will have a tough task ahead of them. Claypool leads the Irish in receiving with 394 yards on 27 catches and 4 touchdowns. Other receivers to watch include wide receivers Javon McKinley (200 yards, 3 touchdowns) and Chris Finke (182 yards, 1 touchdown) and tight ends Tommy Tremble (136 yards, 2 touchdowns) and Cole Kmet (265 yards, 3 touchdowns).

Defensively, the Irish are usually strongest up front, but honestly they are incredibly balanced from the line to the secondary. Their leading tackler is safety Alohi Gilman, who has 38 total tackles, 1.5 for loss, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

Other impressive players in the secondary include safety Jalen Elliott (26 tackles, 2 interceptions), cornerback Kyle Hamilton (21 tackles, 2 interceptions) and cornerback TaRiq Bracy (20 tackles, 5 pass breakups).

The linebacker group is led by three talented upperclassmen — junior Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, fifth-year senior Asmar Bilal and junior Drew White. Owusu-Koramoah has 37 total tackles, 5.5 for loss, 1 sack and 1 forced fumble. Bilal, meanwhile, is also having an impressive season, totaling 35 tackles and 5 for loss. To top it all off, White has 29 total tackles, 7 for loss (a team-high), 1 sack, 1 quarterback hurry and 1 pass breakup.

Up front, the U-M offensive line will have the biggest challenge from edge rusher Julian Okwara. The senior only has 12 tackles, but 5 for loss, 4 sacks, 5 quarterback hurries, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery and a blocked kick. Simply put, he gets work done.

Detroit native Khalid Kareem will also be a menace up front, who currently has 20 tackles, 5 for loss, 3.5 sacks and a whopping 7 quarterback hurries. He has done a really good job getting pressure on quarterbacks all year long, so he and Okwara are quite the 1-2 punch.

Others on the defensive line to keep an eye on are Adetokunbo Ogundeji (14 tackles, 1.5 for loss) and Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa (14 tackles, 2 for loss, 0.5 sacks, 4 quarterback hurries).

This is going to be another tough game for the Wolverines on both sides of the ball. I would not be shocked at all to see this game go right down to the wire, much like last week’s game. At the end of the day, Michigan needs to take care of the football and utilize its best offensive weapons — things that were actually done last week — in order to win.