In 2012, Michigan lost an epic 13-6 battle at Notre Dame in Week 4 of the season. The loss was one of three for Michigan by a touchdown or less on the season and the win for Notre Dame was one five games in which the Irish won by seven or fewer points. In the game between these two teams last season, Michigan generated 60 more yards of offense, yet threw five interceptions... on the road... and still only lost by a touchdown. Four of those interceptions came from Denard Robinson who is now playing running back (or wide receiver) for the Jacksonville Jaguars and one INT came from actual running back (and Jadaveon Clowney victim) Vincent Smith. Now, traveling to Ann Arbor with a weaker offense than 2012 and highly unlikely prospects of generating another six turnovers, replicating last season's victory in the last year of this "rivalry" will be very difficult for Brian Kelly's team to do.
Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner, who may be equally as athletic as Robinson (he caught three passes from Robinson in last year's game), yet is a far better passer and physically fits the mold, has taken over at quarterback for the Wolverines, leading an offense that helped put up 59 points last week in the home opener against Central Michigan (not a good team at all, but one that ranks essentially the same overall, 117, as Notre Dame's Week 1 opponent, Temple, at 104). Returning two elite tackles, Gardner and most of what is a physical and imposing (not unlike Notre Dame) defensive front seven from 2012 and adding an incredibly talented freshman class that is already making an impact, Michigan currently ranks as the 15th best team in the country in our updated College Football Power Rankings. The Wolverines are balanced with a top 15 pass and run efficiency offense and top 35 run and pass defense. They will be taking on one of the best defenses in the country, yet have enough on both sides of the ball to counter that talent (especially at home).
Notre Dame brings back a similarly talented defense to both what Michigan returns and what Notre Dame had last season, yet has lost most of its weapons on offense. Gone are starting quarterback Everett Golson, All-American tight end Tyler Eifert, the team's top two rushers - Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood - and four of its top six receivers from last year. Senior Tommy Rees starts in Golson's place. While Rees did start the Michigan game last year, he has thrown interceptions on 3.8% of his career attempts (average for college is 2.7%) and does not add the play making ability with his feet that Golson has/had. For our season projection with this team, we only see eight wins. The schedule gets even tougher than last year's undefeated season, it will be difficult to replicate the fortune in close games and the offense is not likely to be as good overall. In our Power Rankings, Notre Dame ranks #21 overall. The Irish rank seventh in pass defense and 11th in run defense efficiency, yet are just outside the top 35 in offensive efficiency passing and running.
It does not look like nearly as ugly as 2012, but the game this Saturday should be competitive, this time with Michigan winning and by more than a field goal. In 50,000 games played by the Predictalator, Michigan wins at home over Notre Dame 61.6% of the time and by an average score of 28.4-20.7. As 3.5 point favorites that win by about a touchdown on average, Michigan covers the spread 56.3% of the time. For a normal $50 player, this translates to a wager of $41. Clearly, Las Vegas is not expecting 19 points again. In fact, sports books expect more than that in the first half. With 49 points scored in the projection and a total of 52, the UNDER has some value, covering 54.1% of the time and warranting an $18 play from a normal $50 player.