Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 56 of 83 PRESEASON 2018 57 BY BRYAN DRISKELL MICHIGAN RUNNING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME RUN DEFENSE The Wolverines ranked 49th na- tionally in rushing yards per game (177.7) and 44th in rushing touch- downs (26) in 2017. Diving into the numbers tells a little different story, though. Michigan struggled mightily against its best opponents, averaging only 100.4 yards per game and 2.5 yards per rush against its five Big Ten opponents that ranked in the top 50 nationally in run defense. Senior Karan Higdon led the Wol- verines with 994 yards on the ground and 6.1 yards per rush last season, but like the rest of the offense his numbers were top loaded. Higdon racked up 558 yards and averaged 9.5 yards per attempt in wins over In- diana, Minnesota and Rutgers. In the other 10 games, he had just 436 yards and averaged 4.2 yards per carry. Notre Dame ranked 51st in rush- ing yards allowed per game (154.5) and 44th in yards allowed per carry (3.97). The Fighting Irish had their own stretches of inconsistency, though, surrendering 151.5 yards per contest in the first four games of the year and 199.5 yards per outing in the final four contests against non- option opponents. The Irish faced a brutal schedule in regards to ground attacks, with five opponents ranking in the top 30 nationally and eight in the top 50. Against the seven non-option teams, Notre Dame permitted 151.0 yards per game and a respectable 4.0 yards per rush. Digging into the numbers, Notre Dame held seven of those eight oppo- nents that ranked among the top 50 to at least 37.6 yards below their season average. Only Wake Forest topped their year-long clip against the Irish. Notre Dame returns five of its front seven starters and all but two of its rotation players from the 2017 defen- sive line. Senior defensive lineman Jerry Tillery and senior linebackers Te'von Coney and Drue Tranquill are Notre Dame's top returning run de- fenders. Advantage: Notre Dame MICHIGAN PASSING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME PASS DEFENSE This matchup isn't close based on last year 's numbers. Notre Dame ranked 53rd in passing yards allowed per contest (214.7) due in large part to it having eight blowout victories. However, it ranked 16th in yards al- lowed per attempt (6.3) and 18th in yards allowed per completion (11.1). Michigan ranked 110th in pass- ing yards per game (171.2), 109th in yards per attempt (6.4) and 81st in yards per completion (12.0). Notre Dame enters this matchup with the advantage, but Michigan should be far more productive throw- ing the football this season. Talented sophomores Donovan Peoples-Jones and Tarik Black will be dangerous, and the Wolverines also return lead- ing receiver Grant Perry to go with a strong pair of tight ends in Zach Gentry and Sean McKeon. Michigan will start junior Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson at quarterback. The former five-star passer averaged 322.7 yards per game through seven outings in 2017 before going down with a season-ending knee injury. Notre Dame boasts one of the na- tion's better cornerback tandems in juniors Julian Love and Troy Pride Jr., and returns its top seven pass rush- ers from the 2017 front seven. Notre Dame got after the quarterback at a high level during the first seven games last season — averaging 2.6 sacks per game, which ranked it 31st nationally up to that point in the season. However, the Irish notched a total of six sacks in the final six games. Notre Dame will need to be effective getting after the quarterback against a Michigan offensive line that yielded 36 sacks last season and must replace its best blocker, graduated offensive tackle Mason Cole. Advantage: Notre Dame On PaPer Ole Miss transfer quarterback Shea Patterson could hold the key to Michigan making much-needed improvements on offense. PHOTO COURTESY MICHIGAN PHOTOGRAPHY GAME PREVIEW: MICHIGAN

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