A big test awaits the Michigan Wolverines in those Catholic boys at Notre Dame, as a big crowd is expected in South Bend for a prime time matchup under the lights. This game is the definition of a gridiron litmus test as Michigan has to find its identity during this fall’s campaign. Two outcomes can come from this and they are based on preconceived notions that many Michigan fans had before the season started. Many fans thought that Michigan would emerge from the end of the season with 10 or 11 wins and a possible Big Ten championship and a possible Rose Bowl berth. Many believed that Michigan was back to the “good ol’ days”.
However, after an embarrassing showing against Alabama and a closer than expected game against Air Force, Michigan fans are forced to look at their team after this game based on the outcome.
If Michigan defeats Notre Dame (a team that dismantled and abused Michigan State the week before in East Lansing) in South Bend, they will enter Big Ten play with a 3-1 record. Nobody seriously picked Michigan to defeat Alabama so they are actually living up to the big expectations set before the season.
But if Michigan loses in a poorly played game and Denard Robinson struggles against Notre Dame’s defense, they will enter Big Ten play with a 2-2 record and one of those wins was an escape game against an unranked team in the confines of Michigan Stadium.
Another thing that doesn’t work in Michigan’s favor is the fact that a lot of their important games will come on the road this year. Michigan plays a trap game at Purdue (October 6) and have a variety of tough contests on the road against Nebraska (October 27), Minnesota (November 3), and Ohio State (November 24).
Because of these tough games, I think Michigan should view Notre Dame as a must win. They beat the Spartans last week convincingly and this would give them the confidence they need to take on the rest of the Big Ten. This game will also say something about Notre Dame. Either they will beat Michigan and show the weakness of the Big Ten as a conference or they will lose and prove that they still have a long way to go to compete on a national level. Either way, the hype and the stakes in this game are very high.
NOTRE DAME- 21
Of course, I want Michigan to win but realistically (and as a sportswriter) I’m gonna have to pick Notre Dame in this one. The Irish defense held LaVeon Bell to 77 yards on 19 carries. Robinson is an excellent runner but for Bell to struggle this much against the Irish speaks volumes for the defense. Now if Robinson doesn’t have the running performance that Michigan fans would hope, they will have to rely on his arm for the offense. Most will agree that Robinson’s arm is not his strength and for Michigan to have to fall back on a dominant throwing performance, I don’t see Michigan coming out on top.
As for Michigan State, it is their turn to take a “week off.” Eastern Michigan, much like Massachusetts, is nothing to get excited about and the media will naturally focus the attention on the other rival. However, I think its important to note that Michigan State has the upper hand in their schedule, compared to Michigan. Bell and the Spartans have an easier opponent to deal with in the Eagles. Michigan, on the other hand has to fight for their lives right before conference play begins. This could have an impact further down the road.
MICHIGAN STATE- 48
EASTERN MICHIGAN- 10
Not really much to explain here as Michigan State will probably have their reserves in the game before the third quarter is over.
The final week of non-conference play has its headlines but expect bigger and more important headlines in at least a week.