Friday, September 12, 2008

Game Three: Ugliest Game Ever? UM vs. ND

This is the ultimate showdown for anyone who hates offense. Michigan and Notre Dame might have the two worst offenses in the country as of right now. For the two winningest programs in the country, this might end up being the most poorly played offensive game of the weekend (or the season). But Michigan at least should have a good defense, though they have showed their weaknesses against the passing game over the middle and short. Notre Dame will probably look to exploit that with short passes which might be the only thing their offense can do successfully. That could work. Michigan on the other hand is still looking for anything that resembles consistency on offense. It should be quite an....interesting game? Or maybe the worst Michigan-ND game of all-time execution wise. I prefer the glass half-full view. This still might be the ugliest UM vs. ND game ever.

Michigan Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense

All signs point to Steven Threet starting his second game in a row. But, since he struggled after the first couple of drives and Sheridan did well when he came in during the second half, they should split time more than we have seen the last two Saturdays. Michigan put together two sizable drives last weekend, but one was highlighted by 1 50-yard play (Odoms). The Wolverines are still looking for some semblance of consistency, but at least they ran the ball pretty well against Miami. Greg Matthews will play after sitting out last weekend with an injury. Starting Left Tackle Mark Ortmann, however, will be out at least this week with Perry Dorrestein filling in. Bryant Nowicki filled in when Ortmann went out vs. Miami, so it is a little confusing that Dorrestein will get the start, but he will. Though Ortmann was not that good, if he was above those two guys, it can only get worse, which is hard to believe. Also, the coaches are suggesting that John Ferrara is getting closer and closer to playing. If he does, he will step in at right guard with Moosman moving over to center and Molk out of the starting lineup.

Notre Dame’s defense is, well, not too good. Yes they held SDSU to 13 points last weekend, but that is SDSU who lost to Cal-Poly, yeah Cal-Poly. They have one experienced player in each unit. On the D-line, Pat Kuntz who is a DT who is now playing DE, is the lone returning, regular starter. That is from a defensive line that was a part of surrendering nearly 200 yards rushing per game last season and only amassing 19 sacks for the entire season. Maurice Crum has started at linebacker since his freshman year when he forced a fumble against Michigan. Then in the secondary Terrail Lambert is in his third year starting at cornerback. But really, this defense was awful last season and it does not look like they will be any better this year since those are their only 3 very experienced contributors. They also gave up 274 yards through the air to the team that lost to Cal-Poly so...uhh....

Jon Tenuta is helping coach the defense though and he likes to put pressure on the quarterback. Bringing heavy blitzes against Michigan’s bad offensive line can really throw off the two young QB’s who are yet to prove they can play decently under pressure. While Michigan had success in spurts against Miami offensively, there is still no semblance of consistency, and this will be the young offense’s first game on the road. To sum it up, Notre Dame’s defense is bad, but Michigan’s offense is just as bad if not worse. They are too young, inconsistent, unproven, and prone to shooting themselves in the foot, that all Notre Dame needs to do is blitz and Michigan will have a rough day. So Notre Dame gets the slight advantage by default since Michigan’s offense is still soul-searching. We saw glimpses last week though. But taking the terrible weather into consideration, we will probably see more drops, fumbled snaps, errant throws, and a couple of those throws where UM’s QB’s let go of the ball before their arms came forward.

Advantage: Notre Dame

Notre Dame Offense vs. Michigan Defense

Notre Dame is bad on offense too. But here, Michigan’s defense is too good for them too slide least it should be. Notre Dame still has a bad offensive line (remember the 58 sacks surrendered last year), an unproven (I’m being very kind) QB in Jimmy Clausen (also the ugliest player in America, at least the worst hair), and no real running game with only 105 yards against the team that lost to Cal-Poly (who lost to Montana last week) for a paltry 3.1 yards per carry. They threw for 237 yards last weekend, but Clausen also threw two picks, to the team that lost to Cal-Poly. The O-line didn’t give up one sack...but the 58 given up last year, plus a great D-line in Michigan should end that soon. Notre Dame had 4 turnovers against Cal-Poly with Clausen under zero pressure. What does that mean when there is some pressure on him?

The only place ND might have some success is in the short passing game over the middle which Michigan has really failed to defend in any respect the last two weekends. Michigan is one of the worst teams in the country in pass defense and have given Utah and Miami plenty of room to do damage through the air over the middle, reminiscent of App State and last season. Scott Shafer has not blitzed nearly as much as people said he does. The pressure has come from the D-line, and they have been most successful in the second half after opposing O-lines are worn down and they use their extra Barwis energy. Shafer and the D might be able to combat the success teams have had through the air by blitzing a little more from the linebackers and the safeties. If they finally decide to do so, Clausen is not good enough to make throws under pressure, and ND’s O-line should collapse leading to a performance similar to last season’s. Even if they don’t blitz, more press coverage would help as opposed to sitting back and giving the opposition the middle of the field. Stevie Brown could start playing the way the coaches thought he could, as well as Charles Stewart and this weakness in the defense could disappear.

Regardless if Michigan does fix those issues, the weather should make it ugly for a ND team that can’t run, against a Michigan D that has been able to stop the run. Notre Dame will probably have some success at times with the short passing game, but turnovers could be abundant and three and outs should dominate the time that they are on the offensive side of the ball.

Advantage: Michigan

Special Teams

This will be important tomorrow because of the bad weather, and the fact that both offenses should be punting alot and be giddy with a field goal opportunity when in range. Michigan showed some dents in the field goal kicking with some deflected kicks, and a missed extra point. Zoltan Mesko played better than in week one, but still seems to have a bit to go before reaching his first year form. He will have to do a great job giving the Michigan defense great field position. The defense should be able to keep ND from moving the ball so making sure they don’t get field position near field goal range or the goal line is key.

Mesko is probably better than Notre Dame’s punter Eric Maust averaged 39 yards on five punts last weekend. Notre Dame also has a kicker who is not very good in Brandon Walker who was 6-12 last season.

The return game should be hindered by the weather and both teams are searching for explosiveness at the spot but have not found it yet.

Michigan should have the advantage here and maybe in the game because of it.

Advantage: Michigan

Seidman’s Prediction:

Time for Michigan to take that step forward on the offensive side of the ball, thanks in large part to the defense setting up short fields, taking a lot of pressure off of the quarterback position. Michigan will get some big points (for Michigan this season) and Jimmy Clausen will be the only bright spot for Notre Dame, throwing well though he will be limited by the weather. Michigan will take care of business, winning against a team that looked absolutely terrible against one of the worst teams in the FBS division. Michigan wins 23-6

POTW: Brandon Minor

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