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Preview: Notre Dame "Fighting" Irish

For this second straight year, this game could look a little something like this:

Of course, last year, Michigan ended up pantsing The Worst Team Ever, and the Irish limped to a 3-9 season (that, in all honesty, should have been worse). So, what do we know about this years game?

When I previewed the Irish back in the summer, I was slightly skeptical that they would see tons of improvement. However, that didn't stop nearly every preseason magazine from anointing them the #1 most improved team, including Phil Steele. Against San Diego State, however, the Irish looked downright pitiful against a team that got completely smoked by a 1-AA squad the previous week, and needed the benefit of a couple pretty bad calls to put away the Aztecs.

The Irish offense was once again bad. I am still shocked that John Latina has yet to be fired, as the offensive line is completely terrible once again (please don't fire him, Notre Dame, we love him). Four starters return from last year's line, so inexperience can no longer be the excuse for getting dominated at the point of attack by one of the worst teams in 1-A.

Jimmy Clausen and the running backs seemed to carry over some of the same major issues they had last year, as outlined (with video!) in this post. However, just from a one-game sample size, I would name Clausen the most improved Irish player.

On defense, the Irish didn't dominate, but they did only allow 13 points to the Aztecs. Then again, one must take into consideration that San Diego state put up 379 yards on Cal Poly, and 345 on Notre Dame. This puts the Irish into "about the same quality as Cal Poly" territory.

Michigan hasn't exactly excelled themselves this early in the year, but the moribund performance from the Irish has to put some hope into the sails of Wolverine fans. Of course, the majority of SDSU's yardage came through the air, and Michigan's quarterbacks are far from stellar. That said, there is little question that they are more talented than the Aztecs' Ryan Lindley. Considering San Diego State was a blown call away from icing the Irish early in the fourth quarter, Michigan should have a little hope.

Michigan's defensive line should prevent the Irish from getting anything going consistently in this game. Clausen looks much better on the deep ball than he did in 2007 ,but I don't think he'll have a lot of time to throw it.
On offense, Michigan should be able to incrementally increase their production, as the execution gets better with a little more game experience.
Michigan wins 17-3.

By the way, here's a way more complete list of prospect who will be at the game.

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“Preview: Notre Dame "Fighting" Irish”