Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Michigan and Notre Dame renew a long-time rivalry under the lights

Photo Credit: Ezra Shaw- Getty Images

By: Jon Opiela
Twitter: @jonopiela24

The dawn of a new season. The renewal of a long-time rivalry. College Gameday.

South Bend, Ind., will be electric on Saturday night when the Michigan Wolverines (No. 14 AP, No. 13 CSO Mock CFP Top 25) come to town to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (No. 12 AP, No. 14 CSO Mock CFP Top 25) at Notre Dame Stadium.

Jim Harbaugh will lead the Wolverines throughout the 2018 season, looking to improve upon his 28-11 record over the past four seasons, coming off an 8-5 mark in 2017 and is on the quest for his first Big Ten championship as coach.

The quest presents an early challenge as Michigan’s wide receiver group suffered a major blow with Tarik Black out of action for several weeks with a fractured foot. Other receivers such as Donovan Peoples-Jones and Nico Collins look to pick up the slack.

“We feel like the best is yet to come for Tarik and he will be back,” Harbaugh said in Tuesday’s Big Ten teleconference.

“Receiver wise, we have made good strides in fall camp. They have made a lot of strides and improvement in every area. Coach McElwain has done a fabulous job and we are excited about the guys that will be lining up at receiver for us.”

Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson will be the starting quarterback for Michigan when the team hits the field for the first time. Patterson threw for over 2,200 yards and 17 touchdowns in seven games last season for Ole Miss.

Notre Dame still does not have a quarterback set in stone for the opener. Brandon Wimbush led the Irish under center last season, but Ian Book made the most of opportunities when available. Book led a come-from-behind victory over LSU in the Citrus Bowl for the Irish last season. Expect Wimbush to be the starter come game time, but Book will be primed and ready to come off the sidelines throughout the contest.

Notre Dame will have a potential dynamic duo in Chase Claypool and Miles Boykin returning at wide receiver. Claypool was the second leading receiver for the Irish last season behind Packers sixth round draft pick Equanimeous St. Brown.
Both teams boast a strong history of tight ends and this season appears to be no different.  Michigan’s tandem of Sean McKeon and Zach Gentry combine to make one of the best duos in the country. Notre Dame will feature Alize Mack and Nic Weishar; both of which who have seen significant playing time in the past.
Despite Notre Dame losing a pair of top-ten NFL Draft picks in Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson, the Irish will once again boast one of the top offensive lines in the country. Last season, Michigan ranked 110th in the FBS in sacks allowed and will look to crunch down on that gap this season.
Both the Irish and the Wolverines boast strong defenses and will be considered two of the top fronts throughout the season. Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich both have the potential to be All-Americans on the edges for the Wolverines. Notre Dame’s Jerry Tillery is another All-American candidate at defensive tackle. 
Both teams also have an impressive group of linebackers on their roster. Michigan has the duo of Khaleke Hudson and Devin Bush Jr., who can both make an impact at any time. Te’von Coney will be leading the Irish from the linebacker position and looks to continue on a strong 2017 season.

Navy transfer Alohi Gilman is finally eligible to hit the field for Notre Dame and looks to immediately make an impact. Gilman will step in and be a starter in the Notre Dame secondary.  Julian Love had a huge season for Notre Dame last year at cornerback and continue to become one of the best in the country.

The Wolverines boasted the top overall passing defense throughout the 2017 season and will return starting cornerbacks Lavert Hill and David Long. Michigan’s cornerbacks return with a lot of experience. 

Michigan-Notre Dame All-Time Series:

With 42 previous meetings in this storied rivalry, Michigan leads the all-time series 24-16-1.  In the schools’ last meeting in 2014, Notre Dame defeated Michigan by a score of 31-0 under the lights at Notre Dame Stadium.