Michigan-Notre Dame:

This game was extremely fun to watch and it was a thriller down to the end, especially in the fourth quarter. Michigan put up a staggering 28 points in the 4th quarter alone, and stunned Notre Dame with a touchdown with only two seconds left in regulation. They won 35-31, and perhaps gave credence to the notion that they aren’t the same old Michigan of the past few years. This was a tough game for them, but unlike in past years they found a way to win instead of screwing it up at the end. There were plenty of missed opportunities on both sides (the game had eight combined turnovers after all, five from Notre Dame and three from Michigan, all on interceptions thrown by Denard Robinson) but the litmus test of a potentially good team is whether they can win ugly or win despite not playing their best, and Michigan showed the ability to do that in this game. Do I expect them to dominate the Big-10 and win the conference championship? Not at all, but this was still an impressive win for them that should do a lot for their confidence.

Notre Dame, on the other hand, should be feeling pretty bad about themselves right now. They changed QB’s after their week one loss and Rees played pretty well overall, but their defense was awful in the fourth quarter and even before that they were allowing plenty of Michigan receivers to run free, Robinson just wasn’t able to throw a good ball (or even a remotely accurate ball) to take advantage of the opportunities being presented to him. Notre Dame lost despite scoring 31 points, throwing for 315 yards, having 198 yards rushing (134 of those yards came from Cierre Wood, a guy who really impressed me in this game), and holding Michigan to just 7 points through three quarters. Then, Denard Robinson and the rest of Michigan’s offense broke loose. They are now 0-2, and not to toot my own horn excessively, but I left them out of my top 25 preseason rankings intentionally. I felt that they were overrated (as they tend to be due to the vast amount of media attention they receive, at least in my opinion) and it’s hard to say that they weren’t overrated as a top 25 ranked team now that they are 0-2, and have a reasonable chance of being 1-3 or even 0-4 if they don’t play well.

As far as prospects go, Tommy Rees showed flashes of impressive ability but also showed some incredible inconsistency. He started out hot going 8/8 with no turnovers, but after that he was 5/14 the rest of the half with two interceptions that were a result of bad throws and poor decisions. He threw the ball a lot on the night and had a solid stat line of 27/39, 315 yards and 3 TD’s with 2 INT’s. He also lost a fumble in the red zone in the 2nd half. He made some very impressive throws at times, but other times he made poor decisions and didn’t place the ball accurately. It will be interesting to see if he hangs on to the starting role, and after playing relatively well in this game I would expect him to. If he does it will be interesting to see how he progresses as far as consistency is concerned, because he went from looking good, to playing quite poorly a couple of times in this game.

I was quite impressed with Cierre Wood though. He is Notre Dame’s starting RB #20. He ran effectively, showed a lot of speed, burst and explosiveness. He also showed some vision, though I need to watch him more to evaluate that better. But it looked solid in what I saw from him. He broke some ankles in the open field though, and Notre Dame has to continue to involve him in the running game as well as the passing game (screens, etc. He could be very effective in that part of the game). I’m excited to see him play the rest of the year, I had never seen him play before.

Michael Floyd was impressive. He was drawing some serious attention from the Michigan secondary and Rees was making sure he involved him which is why he had 13 catches and 159 yards receiving. He high points the ball very well, he’s a physical receiver and he’s dangerous on jump balls and has a lot of value in the red zone. He almost made an incredible catch over the defender on a fade route but the defender slapped the ball away as it got to him. It was a 50/50 ball but he almost came down with it. I still wonder just how well he will create separation in the NFL, but he’s got a lot of physical ability that allows him to get YAC even if he’s not the fastest WR. He can threaten teams deep due to his athleticism and his physicality.

Theo Riddick was impressive as well with 6 catches, 62 yards for two touchdowns. He’s a converted running back playing WR which I like to see because they tend to run really hard after the catch, and Notre Dame has had success with that recently with Golden Tate. I want to see more of Riddick to see how he catches the ball with his hands, how well he runs routes and if he runs after the catch like I think he does.

TJ Jones is a sophomore WR who flashed some potential. He’s a slot receiver for ND and he looked fast when he got the ball in his hands. It’ll be interesting to see how his role evolves this year, but since I imagine ND will be throwing the ball 25+ times a game on a regular basis I could see him getting some touches consistently. He strikes me as a guy who can be a game breaker.

Tyler Eifert is a huge WR on the Fighting Irish who I found very impressive. He is listed at 6’6”, 249 pounds and looked very athletic for his size when I watched him last night. I didn’t get to see him very much from a blocking aspect, but I love his potential as a receiving TE. He looked very fluid, he showed impressive hands and he looked like he adjusted to the ball very well while it was in the air. His combination of size and athleticism reminds me a bit of Jimmy Graham, so I am excited to see how he develops over the course of the season.

Denard Robinson looked solid for most of the game, but he absolutely took over in the 4th quarter. He had a substantial number of his yards in the 4th quarter, plus he threw for three of his four passing touchdowns in the final period in addition to running for his only score. He accounted for 446 total yards (338 passing, 108 rushing) and five total touchdowns (4 passing, one rushing). He also threw three interceptions, but more than made up for that during the fourth quarter. He is incredibly athletic and he has a strong arm, but he misses a lot of open receivers when all he has to do is put it near them or close to in stride to get a lot of yardage. He loves to stretch the field deep and that explains his poor completion percentage but his great YPA, but his accuracy really comes and goes and is the definition of inconsistency. His receivers regularly make plays on 50/50 balls that he throws up to the wrong shoulder and lets them attempt to make a play. I would love to see him in the slot or in the backfield as a running back, plus as a return man. But obviously in college he has the athletic ability to take over a game even if he isn’t passing accurately. But he definitely won’t be a quarterback in the NFL.

Junior Hemingway had a huge game averaging 55 yards per catch in this game. He had only three receptions but had 165 yards and one touchdown. I was impressed by his ability to go up and high point the ball in the air and he seems to have solid hands, though he dropped a pass at one point. He’s a big WR and he looks like a 4.55-4.6 guy as far as speed, almost looks like a TE at times, so I have to watch him more to decide if I think he can project to the NFL as a WR since I wonder how well he will be able to create separation since I didn’t see a lot of quickness/burst from him in this game.

Vincent Smith, #2, is Michigan’s 3rd down running back and he made the most out of his touches in this game. He was the guy who broke the screen late in the game to give Michigan the lead before Notre Dame responded with a score with 30 seconds remaining. He made about three or four guys miss on the play and it was truly an incredible individual effort to get into the end zone. It was a great play and is was a great flash of his potential when he gets the ball in his hands. I’m not sure he will ever be the feature back for Michigan or anyone else, but he’s got talent and players that can make guys miss are always a commodity in college or in the NFL.

This was a great game to watch and it really got exciting in the 4th quarter which you always love to see as a football fan. Notre Dame seemed to be in control most of the game but they absolutely blew it in the 4th quarter once Denard started to sling the ball around and improvise. It was extremely fun to watch, but I can’t help but gloat a bit about Notre Dame starting 0-2 when some questioned why I didn’t have them in my top 25 preseason rankings. I thought they were overrated, though I love some of the weapons they have on offense. They could very realistically be 1-3 or 0-4 after one third of the regular season. Michigan, on the other hand, has started 2-0 and has a relatively favorable schedule upcoming. It will be interesting to see if Denard Robinson can keep up this frantic pace of production he had in the 4th quarter against ND. One thing they should possibly worry about is their lack of any semblance of a running game beyond Robinson. He accounted for almost all of their offensive yardage, so they need someone to step up when he’s not running the ball. Perhaps Vincent Smith will be able to provide a spark.

Thanks for reading! More write-ups are on the way.

–Tom