Originally posted on Crystal Ball Run  |  Last updated 9/17/12

No. 18 Michigan at No. 11 Notre Dame
Saturday, 8:00 p.m. NBC
Line: Notre Dame -6

(It's never too early to look ahead to next weekend's game, so with it, we here at Crystal Ball Run are breaking out a new feature called "Early Analysis. That's right, in the build-up to Saturday we'll be giving you quick previews all week, of all the games you need to watch up for.)

First up? Michigan's visit to Notre Dame)

When Notre Dame and Michigan get together this Saturday night in South Bend, two very conflicting emotions will be in place for Irish fans.

On the one hand, there is joy; Notre Dame is 3-0 for the first time in a decade (Yes, you read that correctly. For the first time since 2002, the Irish have won their first three games of the season). However, there’s also got to be concern; for whatever success the Irish have had in years past, Michigan has beaten the Irish in five of their last meetings.

As a matter of fact, if you want to know how bad things have been for Notre Dame over that time, think about it like this: In his three dismal years at Michigan, Rich Rodriguez finished just 15-22 overall. Yet even he had a winning record (2-1) against the Irish.

So what should you watch out for when these two get together under the lights this Saturday? Let’s take a look.

For Notre Dame to Win: They must keep Denard Robinson in the pocket, and keep him in check.

It’s no secret that Robinson was the difference in last year’s game and the star of their epic 28-point fourth quarter. Robinson finished the evening with 338 yards through the air and another 108 on the ground, meaning that of Michigan’s 452 yards of total offense last season, Robinson had a direct hand in 446 of them. Yikes!

At the same time, this is a different Irish defense too, as they are allowing just 96 yards rushing a game in 2012, after allowing 138 a game last season. That number ranks them 23rd in college football, and is even more impressive when you remember that two of their three victories have come against highly-regarded rushing attacks of Navy and Michigan State.

For Michigan to Win: It only seems obvious that Michigan needs to establish the run, but also do it with someone besides Denard Robinson.

On paper that’ll be tougher than it initially appears, as outside of Robinson the running game has been nothing short of abysmal so far in 2012. Through three games, Robinson has accounted for 60 percent of Michigan’s rushing total, a number that is misleading if you take out last Saturday’s 63-13 beat down of UMass. Do that, and you’ll see that Robinson actually accounts for 86 percent of their rushing offense, accumulating an incredible 245 of the Wolverines 283 yards on the ground.

Wow!

Key Player, Notre Dame: Everett Golson, who, despite the average numbers he puts up, continues to get better each game. He was at his best last Saturday, finding the perfect balance between run and pass, throwing and running for a touchdown each.  

If Golson can continue to evolve, and continue to force defensive coordinators to defend both his arm and legs, it makes Notre Dame’s offense that much tougher to defend.

Key Player, Michigan: Given the statistics mentioned above, it’s got to be Fitz Toussaint at running back, right? The running game was essentially a non-factor without him in Week 1 and he wasn’t much better in his return against Air Force, before finally breaking out last week with 85 yards and a touchdown score against UMass.

Now granted, no one expects Toussaint to put up the same numbers he did against UMass versus a much better Irish run defense. But if he can’t come close, well, it could be a long day for the Michigan offense.

Key Stat: In just 18 short months, Brady Hoke is an impressive 13-3 to begin his reign at Michigan, but he’s also taken advantage of a very favorable schedule.

Under Hoke, the Wolverines are 10-0 at the Big House, but just 3-3 on neutral fields or in true road games. In true road games the Wolverines are just 2-2, and the Wolverines lost the only road game they played to a ranked team in that stretch, last year against Michigan State.  

Now obviously that’s a small sample-size.

But with this game being played in South Bend, could it give the Irish the edge they need?

For all his opinion, analysis and insight, be sure to follow Aaron on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.
 

GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Report: Bulls trade Jimmy Butler to Minnesota for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, No. 7 pick

Top 10 takeaways from the 2017 NBA Draft

John Calipari thinks the one-and-done system is working just fine

Luke Walton responds to LaVar Ball saying Lonzo will lead Lakers to playoffs

Report: Spurs, Cavs trade talks now include LaMarcus Aldridge

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

LaVar Ball says ‘Zeus and Jesus’ told him Lonzo would go to Lakers

Cavs are reportedly talking about a trade for Danny Green with Spurs

Kings reportedly showing major interest in Andre Drummond

WATCH: George Springer exits game after HBP

Chiefs part ways with GM John Dorsey

Oilers, Islanders swap Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome

Sports & Politics Intersect: Washington gets a rare win

The 'NBA Draft going back to school?' quiz

2016-17 NBA Awards: The Gary Payton Award for best trash talk of the year

It’s quarterback contract silly season, starting with Derek Carr

Feeding your roundball addiction through the summer months

2017 NBA Mock Draft

Box Score 6/22: Emotion-filled Knight for Pens fans, Preds fans... and Knicks fans

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

The 'Golden Knights will begin with a Fleury of activity' quiz

2016-17 NBA Awards: The Ricky Davis Award for most irrationally confident shooter

It's time for Satchel Paige Day in Major League Baseball

Which vets the Vegas Golden Knights should build around

College Football News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Sports & Politics Intersect: Washington gets a rare win

The 'NBA Draft going back to school?' quiz

2016-17 NBA Awards: The Gary Payton Award for best trash talk of the year

It’s quarterback contract silly season, starting with Derek Carr

The 'Golden Knights will begin with a Fleury of activity' quiz

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Feeding your roundball addiction through the summer months

2016-17 NBA Awards: The Ricky Davis Award for most irrationally confident shooter

It's time for Satchel Paige Day in MLB

Which vets the Vegas Golden Knights should build around

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker