Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 26, 2019*

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

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Page 32 of 55 OCT. 26, 2019 33 BY ANDREW MENTOCK P rior to the season, expectations were huge for the Michigan Wolverines. Midway through October, however, the outlook for the program's season looked dra- matically different, especially after a 35-14 road loss to Wisconsin. In July, Michigan's championship odds via SuperBookUSA were 12/1, the fourth highest in college football behind only Alabama (9/4), Clemson (9/4) and Georgia (6/1). Prior to this weekend, Vegas Insider had the Wol- verine's odds of winning it all at 100/1. Much of the optimism before the season was due to the hiring of of- fensive coordinator Josh Gattis, who brought with him from Alabama an up-tempo, "Speed in Space" attack. "This is not what they had in mind, especially offensively," said Chris Balas, the senior editor of The Wol- verine. "They brought in Josh Gattis to make it better — the co-offensive coordinator from Alabama — and the offense has been stagnant. "They haven't really found their niche in one area, even though Jim Harbaugh said that they've been hit- ting their stride offensively after a 10-point game against Iowa." Heading into its contest at Illinois Oct. 12, Michigan was 74th in scoring offense at 28.0 points per game. With that said, this Michigan team still has a fierce defense and enough talent on offense that a turnaround on that side of the ball is not hopeless. The weekend before the Wolver- ines take on the Irish, they will travel to Happy Valley to play the Penn State Nittany Lions. That matchup will provide Irish fans with valuable insight regarding the Michigan team Notre Dame will face one week later. OFFENSE As already mentioned, Michigan's offense has mostly underwhelmed this season outside of lopsided wins over Middle Tennessee and Rutgers, which were a combined 3-7 through games of Oct. 5. Much of the offensive struggles are due to the regression of senior quarterback Shea Patterson. The former five-star prospect and trans- fer from Ole Miss has not thrown for 300 yards in a game since arriv- ing at Michigan. He threw for more than 300 yards in seven out of the 10 games he played in at Ole Miss. "Shea Patterson has been inconsis- tent at quarterback," Balas said. "He was banged up in the first game and we have barely seen him run at all in the read option. He's misfired on a lot of throws." Through five weeks he had com- pleted 58.7 percent of his passes — low by today's standards — and was aver- aging 210.4 yards per game through the air with six scores and three picks. He has also seemed unwilling to push the ball down the field, which limits the impact of the talented Mich- igan wide receivers such as sopho- more Ronnie Bell, redshirt sophomore Tarik Black, and juniors Nico Collins and Donovan Peoples-Jones, who is just getting back from injury. Patterson's performance has been so poor at times that Balas thinks there's a chance backup Dylan Mc- Caffrey could be the starter by the time Michigan plays Notre Dame. But while the quarterback play has been subpar, the offensive line struggles are probably the biggest surprise. "The offensive line just needs to be more physical and more consistent," Balas said. "They just haven't been good enough this year, especially for a group with four returning starters that were All-Big Ten of some sort last year, including first- and second- teamers on the left side in [Jon] Run- yan and [Ben] Bredeson." The main issue up front has been that different members of the line are making mistakes too consistently, and when a unit isn't playing well cohesively, it's tough to find success. Another problematic area for this Michigan offense has been the run- ning game, which, of course, is hin- dered by the poor line play. GAME PREVIEW: MICHIGAN Facts & Figures NOTRE DAME AT MICHIGAN Game Info Date: Oct. 26, 2019 Site: Michigan Stadium (107,601) Kickoff: TBA Television: ABC/ESPN/ESPN2 Radio: This broadcast can be heard live on SIRIUS Satellite Radio (channel 129) and on Notre Dame's IMG affiliates. Series Facts: This will be the 43rd meet- ing between Michigan and Notre Dame. The Wolverines lead the series 24-17-1, but the Fighting Irish have won the last two matchups between the rivals. Head Coaches: Michigan — Jim Harbaugh (43-15, fifth season); Notre Dame — Brian Kelly (86-36, 10th season). Noting Michigan: With an all-time record of 957-343-36 as of Oct. 11, U-M has more wins than any other college football program … The Wolverine's all-time winning percentage (0.729244) ranks first … Michigan has won 42 Big Ten championships in its 130-year his- tory, more than any other team in the league, while only three other programs nationally have more overall conference championships … The Wolverines have compiled a 28-4 home record in five seasons under Harbaugh … As of mid-October, the Wolverines have been ranked in the national polls for 19 straight games dating back to the start of the 2018 season … U-M has been ranked for all but eight contests during Harbaugh's tenure (57 games through Oct. 5), the first four games in 2015 and four games during the 2017 season … Harbaugh quarterbacked the Wolverines to back-to-back victories versus the Fighting Irish in 1985 (20-12) and 1986 (24-23), the latter in Lou Holtz's debut as Notre Dame's head coach. Slow Start The Wolverines have not lived up to preseason hype, particularly their new 'Speed in Space' offense, but they will still be a formidable opponent for the Irish Senior quarterback Shea Patterson struggled during the Wolverines' 4-1 start, completing just 58.7 percent of his throws for an average of 210.4 yards per game with six touchdown and three interceptions. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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