chance of bowl: 13.6%
|WHAT||Michigan vs Notre Dame|
Notre Dame Stadium,
South Bend, IN
|WHEN||7:30 pm Eastern, September 22nd 2012|
|THE LINE||ND -5|
|WEATHER||rainy and mid-50s most of the day, but clear by gametime, minimal wind|
the thing no one remembers about this is Te'o made this tackle about two yards downfield
This was a slog for Purdue and not particularly effective for Michigan State, though the Spartans may have been better off imitating their Boise State gameplan: LeVeon Bell averaged 4.1 yards on just 19 carries.
You're probably all like "none of those teams have Denard Robinson," and that's true. But Michigan only got 114 yards last year, almost literally all of them from Denard. Vincent Smith, Michael Shaw, and Stephen Hopkins combined on eight carries that gained ten yards with a long of three. Denard managed 113 on 15 carries. This was very early in Borges's wild ride with the spread, though, and his first against a real opponent. The next week Robinson would carry 26 times against EMU, which is either inexplicable or Borges trying to get a handle on something he hadn't been able to against the Irish. Much rests on that handle being acquired by now.
Notre Dame's star is of course Manti Te'o, the inside linebacker from Hawaii who etc etc etc you've watched him meet Denard probably thirty times, you know all about Te'o. He's kind of good, you guys. This year I'm not even sure the ND LBs are freaking out enough to burn them on misdirection—whatever reads they're making have been accurate. The other guys aren't quite to that standard. Chris Fox is pretty vulnerable in space, whether it's tackling a guy or covering one; Carlo Calabrese is good, but not great.
The line is getting nasty. Nose tackle Louis Nix was a stumbling battleship last year; he's slimmed down and is two-gapping opponents effectively. Stephon Tuitt is a 3-4 DE at 300 pounds who has five sacks on the year, about which more later. They'll put LB Prince Shembo down at DE on passing downs and use Kapron Lewis-Moore (a strong candidate for Brooks Bollinger eighth year memorial senior) as a stouter run defender. These guys are all playing effectively, albeit against questionable offensive lines.
ND's 3-4 is predicated on two things: making you double those linemen to move them and getting both inside linebackers to the gap clean. This is happening a lot. The results are above.
Michigan has Denard!
Right, so that. Denard is a problem for anyone on the ground because he gives the offense an extra blocker. Opponents generally combat this by bringing down a safety, which ND will likely do by splitting him over the slot when there's a slot. There is a not-insignificant danger ND will not have to do this. Michigan's interior line has been worrying, and it's hard to see any of Michigan's OL in there being able to prevent Nix from bulling his way into the backfield without help. If Schofield can't hold up against Lewis-Moore or Tuitt, two linebackers will be enough when one of them is Te'o quality.
Misdirection is called for. Neither of ND's first two Big Ten opponents could use much of that for whatever reason, but Michigan has a big threat wearing 16 and a mad scientist OC who had better damn well have something up his sleeve after two weeks in which the offense was "whatever because it works" and a third in which the offense was "don't get Denard hurt."
Key Matchup: ND ILB versus second level blocks. Must get hat on opponent or Denard goes no places.
[Hit THE JUMP for Hannibal Lecter DE, Brian Kelly cat, and oh God I have to predict something don't I.]
Hannibal Lecter over there is Stephon Tuitt, and he's earned the mask with five sacks in three games. Here he's returning a fumble 77 yards for a touchdown against Navy.
This was a disaster for Michigan State and Purdue. Caleb TerBush and Robert Marve combined to average 5.4 yards an attempt and threw two picks (with two TDs). Andrew Maxwell had a sub-Threet/Sheridan 4.2 YPA. Maxwell wasn't helped out by Michigan State's awful receiving corps, but he needed 100 more yards just to get to mediocre. It was bad. You saw it. You know.
Pressure had a lot to do with both bad days. Maxwell was sacked four times and rocked a half-dozen more, often on three-man rushes. If your quarterback is getting quick pressure when the opposition is dropping eight, you cannot succeed. MSU did not. ND also sacked Purdue QBs four times and chased them out of the pocket on several other plays. ND's pass rush has been absurd, and that's without Aaron Lynch. Those recruiting classes from a couple years ago are coming home to roost now.
This has prevented their secondary from being seriously tested. You know, their secondary featuring a true freshman, redshirt freshman, and sophomore who all switched from offense after a slew of recruiting defections, injuries, and transfers left the Irish secondary a smoking crater.
That's the theory, at least. In practice it hasn't been so bad. ND played a ton of man free coverage (i.e., one deep safety with man to man underneath) and Maxwell basically never had a guy running open farther than five or ten yards downfield—at least not one the TV allowed you to see.
They did have some major issues tackling on Purdue's second touchdown drive…
…and their reliance on man coverage should simplify a lot of Robinson's reads. ND will almost certainly use T'eo to spy Robinson so that they don't give up a ton of easy scramble stuff, which means more man free. Gallon, Gardner, Funchess, and company will have to beat their opponents; Borges will have to exploit the man to man that should be coming, and the line will have to give Michigan time.
Oh, right, and Denard has to keep calm and throw accurately. No big deal.
ND will try to get their front four (or three) to the QB, use Te'o as cleanup, and give their guys simple assignments. Michigan will try to block, read, and rub those guys. Funchess will be huge, as he's going to get those corner and wheel routes against linebackers and rookie former WR safety. But it's really all on Denard. Time to step up.
Key Matchup: Michael Schofield versus Kapron Lewis-Moore, Prince Shembo, Tuitt, whoever. I have to believe Lewan will display his first round NFL bonafides. Schofield is a complete unknown at this point, a guy with potential and a frame but who has not had his feet held to the fire. His ability to keep the pocket clean will be crucial.
First, a quick refresher on what happened in the MSU game:
ND was bizarrely pass-focused for much of the game, getting little more than the occasional scramble here and there plus the Atkinson counter draw, and then they clubbed out late field goal drives to salt away the game. The numbers are eh: 4.5 YPC after removing sacks and kneels. This may have been a hangover from the Purdue game, where they couldn't do much against Kawaan Short and Bruce Gaston. They acquired 97 yards on 29 carries.
Michigan does not have Kawaan Short and Bruce Gaston. They're just trying to hold it together at defensive tackle and will be giving big chunks of playing time to two freshman linebackers. They got destroyed versus Alabama, and while ND is not Alabama the extent of the carnage there implied bad things for the rest of the year.
ND was missing feature back Cierre Wood for the first two games; you remember him after he put up 143 on Michigan last year. He is Fitzgerald Toussaint with a little more power, precisely. ND also has slotback/RB Theo Riddick, a slashing runner with good speed, and George Atkinson, who's just a fast guy without a position. Golson also takes the occasional carry.
ND is primarily a zone team. They're not going to blow you off the ball with a 330 pounder—all of their interior guys are around 6'3", around 300 pounds, and just okay when it comes to drive blocking. Washington and Campbell may be able to hold up, maybe even should. They do use a ton of tight ends, which will bring Michigan's dodgy edge run defenders into play. They used quite a bit of a quick speed pitch against Purdue that I guarantee ND will run five times for eight yards a carry. The Air Force game showed that Michigan is vulnerable on the edges, and ND has the speed to get there.
ND's offensive linemen aren't the kind of mashers that will annihilate Michigan no questions asked, but we've yet to find out if there is any competent BCS offensive line that won't blow Michigan up in the middle and make the rest of the defense an exercise in dialing up the right cheat at the right time. Add in the rotating door at ILB and there's a recipe for a 200 yard day for ND on the ground.
The other side of the coin is Washington getting under guys and Black doing okay and Michigan giving up some big chunks here and there but also squeezing out enough long yardage situations to keep it under 150 and put it on Golson's shoulders.
Key Matchup: Washington/Campbell/Pipkins/Black versus the interior ND OL. This needs to be a push at worst, because you know Michigan's getting gashed on the edge quite a bit.
After watching the 2011 game again last night, I suggest we all say a little prayer of thanks that Michael Floyd is finally out the door to the NFL. Jesus. That guy.
Anyway, he's gone and so is Tommy Rees, mostly. Rees is Everett Golson's backup and official guy who gets the last drive of the game for some reason. Away go la fiesta del intercepcionnnnn and el fumblo inexplicablo. They are replaced by Golson checking his first read, then rolling out of the pocket and throwing the ball away. If ND football 2012 had a motto, "safety first" would be it. I took the opportunity presented by the above video to knock out a UFR passing chart for Golson. It looks like this:
[I am Hennechart legend.]
|Golson vs MSU||2||15(6)||2(1)||6(2)||2||5||1||-||1||46%|
(I hemmed and hawed and gave Golson a CA for his insane sack-prevention-into-completion, FWIW.)
So… that's not good. In the world of conventional stats, Golson completed just 14 of 32 passes and just 8 of 23 those past the line of scrimmage. He picked up 129 yards on those 23 attempts, 57 of those were on two different punt-like chucks.
Yes, this has made reading ND message boards an exercise in irony meter explosions as ND fans constantly deride Robinson's arm-punt daggers of a year ago. Not one of them has any idea Denard went 14/17 in a superlative performance against OSU last year, because no Notre Dame fan on the internet has ever watched a game not involving Notre Dame. Thank you for asking.
Golson was much better against Purdue, completing two-thirds of his passes and nearing 10 YPA. A lot of that was ND lining up 6'6" tight end Tyler Eifert as a wide receiver against Purdue's feisty but extremely tiny corners. Golson put up jump balls (first play) that made a little more sense than chucking it up to Jeremy Gallon and Eifert ended the day with four catches for 98 yards, all of them throws on which Eifert skyed over a safety or corner to bring it in.
Golson has not thrown over the middle of the field much. Most of his stuff is long or on the sidelines or behind the line of scrimmage, which hampered Eifert when not lined up wide. He had zero catches against MSU.
Notre Dame's receiving corps is a lot like Michigan's. Rough equivalences:
Notre Dame has better depth with Theo Riddick available as a threat out of the slot or backfield and a couple additional tight ends, but it's pretty close. Slight edge ND unless Gardner has a breakout game.
ND spreads it around. No receiver has more than nine catches; five have at least six. Eifert is probably the go-to guy on fourth and whatever; Daniels is the preferred deep target.
On the other side of the ball, Michigan lost Blake Countess for the year in the opener and has promoted sophomore Raymon Taylor to starter. This leaves a decent to good rest of the secondary intact… but it's one that very little is known about. Air Force and UMass are useless data points; Alabama spent most of their game grinding out a win. There's a lot less to fear from the ND receivers this year, but it's easy to see Eifert bulling through the secondary after a linebacker sucks up on play action or just gets lost; Daniels is no Floyd but has some deep ability.
Michigan's pass rush doesn't seem promising, but Mattison zone blitzes have the potential to confuse Golson. While a veteran offensive line should pick most of them up, left tackle Zack Martin is just 6'4" and had a lot of trouble with Marcus Rush last week. Ryan and Clark can make hay, and will need to.
Key Matchup: Ryan/Clark versus ND tackles. Michigan needs to win that battle consistently enough to get Golson moving, at which point he usually throw it out of bounds or to a WR who is out of bounds by the time the ball gets there.
New ND kicker Kyle Brindza is 4 of 5 in his brief career to date; he was a highly rated guy out of high school, FWIW. Senior punter Ben Turk is not a Hagerup-like legcannon but has been effective this year. While he's averaging mediocre 41.5 yards per kick, ND's coverage has been excellent with just two returns on 15 punts. They're currently 17th in net punting, which is a massive improvement from last year's 102nd. Early yet, of course.
ND return units have not had an impact so far this year but primary kick returner George Atkinson had two TD returns a year ago and freshman punt guy Davonte Neal seems dangerous even if he hasn't broken anything yet. Atkinson is likely to be neutralized by Wile booming it into the endzone. Neal… well, I put up some stills about this yesterday:
31 yard punt coverage!
I'm concerned this burns Michigan at some point this year.
As for the Wolverines, Gibbons hasn't had many opportunities and so remains a guy you are pretty confident in out to about 45. Hagerup has not shanked one yet this year and has hammered several long ones. Punt coverage is that still above, and kickoff coverage has been basically irrelevant.
Jeremy Gallon has made some bad decisions on punts and has never been a huge playmaker, and in any case no returns against the Irish (and their *cough cough* spread punt formation). Dennis Norfleet may have an impact since ND kickoffs are not going eight yards into the endzone; the Irish gave up a long return against Purdue.
Overall this is a push, with the potential for big plays from freshman Neal and Norfleet waiting to push it decisively to one side or the other.
Key Matchup: COVER THE DAMN PUNTS
I call him Brian Kelly Kat
Cackle with knowing glee if...
Fear/Paranoia Level: 7 (Baseline 5; +1 for Oh Good Notre Dame Stadium, +1 for And Now They're Saying You Should Stand Up Maybe Sometimes, +1 for What Was That Last Year (Except For That Stuff At The End), –1 for Denard Versus ND Equals Money, –1 for Far Superior QB, +1 for Ugh DL Comparison, –1 for Recent Heart Stabbing Finish Lingers In The Heart Of The Enemy, +1 for Te'o's Revenge)
Desperate need to win level: 10 (Baseline 5; +1 for 2-2 Is Not A Good Record To Have, +1 for ND Nation Mass Suicide Benefits Us All, +1 for Win Means Denard Is Basically The Worst Thing To Ever Happen To ND Other Than Ty Willingham, Charlie Weis, and Bob Davie, +1 for This Is Where We Find Out What We Have And I Would Like What We Have To Be Awesome, –1 for It's Not Like We're Playing For A National Title This Year, +1 for Denard Plus ND Means Holy Crap)
Loss will cause me to... encounter a small child who says "you tried real hard," which only makes the whole thing collapse on itself.
Win will cause me to... wander through downtown South Bend hugging trees, vagrants, fire hydrants, and a confused streetlight.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
Dammit sometimes I hate this section. All right.
I'm pushing my chips in on Denard being able to throw. I watch Denard, I watch Golson, there's no comparison, because there shouldn't be. Golson is a redshirt freshman. Denard is a senior. They've looked like it so far except for Denard's requisite horrible interception per game. With targets quality enough to beat a makeshift Irish secondary and Lewan protecting his backside, Denard can and will put up an efficient passing day that opens up other stuff. He'll have to because ND's front seven is intimidating, especially when it comes to running on them.
Michigan will get some yards on screen stuff and Denard stuff and some touchdowns bombing it deep; something in the 20s is reasonable.
On the other side of the ball it's about being more like MSU in coverage than Purdue. Golson does not have a lot of patience right now and will play it safe if he has to. Mattison will zone blitz the balls off of him, getting free rushers that lead to sacks or bad decisions or jump balls to Eifert that Eifert is pretty likely to come down with; I don't think he's going to be going over the middle much. Man up on the outside and drop all manner of stuff when you can, get burned like last year on a few 20 yard runs when your NT drops, get blown up a few times because Mike Martin isn't walking through that door, and… something in the 20s is reasonable. FFFUUU. Predictions are stupid.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
40 - 17 Michigan. Yeah I think we just smoke them.
I so want Denard to be the worst thing to ever happen to ND. Denard Robinson 99-yd run for the 4 pt lead with :46 left
He'll still rank behind Gerry Faust.
46 seconds would give Kelly enough time to put Rees in for a last drive pick-six.
I hate Mussberger and Herbie and I despise Tom Hammond. Hell, I'd almost take Hammond over Burger; at least he always sounds vaguely sheepish with his homerdom.
Is WTKA who to dial into for that genuine Michigan play-by-play?
EDIT: it's on NBC. WTKA is here: http://www.wtka.com/
But the website doesn't say if they carry the game itself.
for the first time in 4 years and that bothers me...
Spoken like a "true Michigan fan." You don't feel good about feeling good about your team's chances. Very odd dynamic.
We're going to show those Domers that all they hype they've been getting is undeserved, and Denard Robinson is the best QB in the nation.
Go Blue, Beat the Irish!
It just depends how long you've been watching the Michigan team play football games. My experiences vs. Notre Dame includes names like Harry Oliver and Chuck Male. As a result I'm jaded as hell.
I've been watching since 1976. Sounds like you've been at it a bit longer than I have my friend.
But, being jaded is a sad state, IMO, and one that I refuse to allow myself to fall into. It's a defense mechanism to keep from being hurt when your expectations aren't met. I understand. But, if there is anything that I've learned in life, and in sports, it's that expectations are can be a dangerous double edged sword. When you put expectations upon things of which you have no control, you're playing with fire.
For example, I took a stab at playing professional golf years ago. As I developed as a player, I learned from ta great teacher that all we, as golfers, can control is the way the prepare for a shot -- the outcome of the shot beyond our control. In fact, as anyone that has played golf can attest to, the harder we try to control the flight of the ball, the worse it usually gets. As such, to become adept at playing tournament golf, one has to learn to control their thoughts, and the things that they do to give them the best chance to make a good swing. This is the "pre-shot routine" that players go through, as well as all the practice they've put in. Good golfers "control the controlables" and detach and observe the results.
I want Michigan to win every game it plays, and I am outspoken about my love for Michigan football. But, I also know that whether I am optomistic or pessimistic has nothing to do with the outcome of the game, it only has to do with what the outcome does to me, and my ego. I am invested because it Michigan football means a great deal to me, but I am not jaded because I am not protecting my ego -- which is all that pessimism really is. I find being a optomistic a more pleasurable way to live my life. Sure, I am disappointed from time to time, but only when I get wrapped up in the expectations of outcome.
This year? Night game, home field advantage for ND, and a much more explosive LB and DL corps than ND has had in probably 20 years. They can now create the kind of pressure that leads to bad reads, sacks, turnovers, TFLs and throwing off the back foot.
Despite all that I think Denard could still have a great game both running and throwing again, but it may not be enough. Michigan's tailbacks have been a non-factor, so all the weight is again on the Michigan QB's shoulders (like Forcier in 2009, like Shoelace in 2010 and like Shoelace again in 2011).
I'm thinking Wood, Golson, Riddick could gain a ton of yards rushing in this game, and simply keep Shoelace & Co. off the field.
It will seem close for most of the game, but ND's defense is going to score a touchdown or something to put the game to bed.
Notre Dame 28, Michigan 19
Of course, I've been utterly wrong the3 straight seasons.
ND will be ready and that place will be bananas. UM had better get off to a good start and take the crowd out of it. They want revenge from the last 3 years. Borges has to let Denard loose. I'll take a one point victory.
I mean I realize MSU's OLine is rebuilding, but ND looks good in BOTH trenches. Hoping the MSU OLine is even moar turrrrible than I thought, otherwise it's going to be tough to run OR throw.
I have faith in our coaches to plan well, but I think we'll need some big plays in the passing game to hang with ND. Fitz still looks a bit tentative, but in fairness hasn't had much room to get going.
Denard will break a few nice runs and use our size at WR to pull the upset. UM 31, ND 27
... and this looks like the kind of game where ND will be happy to hide passing weakness by running the ball up the gut every chance they get, while Denard will spend most of the game dodging tackles only to get roped down by T'eo.
I can see us winning, I can see us losing. I do think if anyone gets blown out it's us; we're more likely to win a shootout and they're more likely to win a defensive slugfest.
This is our first real "fair" test. We're not in Alabama's league (yet), but Air Force and UMass aren't in ours. ND is, so this game is a glimpse of things to come against MSU/Nebraska/OSU.
I hope we do well. I'm not confident we will.
and this year it looks like they could, the PAC-12 by then will have a nice array of pissed off teams (ranked well below ESS-EEE-SEE teams) vying for the Roses: Oregon, Stanford, USC and perhaps even Arizona.
With three games under Team 133's belt, I have a very good feeling about this game, despite the oft pointed out issues its having in the trenches. I think Michigan's "issues" are overstated and skewed because of the teams we've played, and ND's seeming strengths are overstated because of the teams they have played.
ND dominiated Navy, no surprise there -- expect for the fact that they've LOST to them recently enough to make Domers celebrate the win. They didn't look dominant against Purdue, and after watching the yawner that was the Boise State game last night, I am less impressed with the ND victory over MSU.
I am not saying that the ND DL isn't good, I know they are. But like everything ND, it's so over hyped, and a 50 gallon drum of gasoline was thrown on that hype fire when ND shut down MSU already pathetic offense. Add to that the fact that Dantonio himself said that Sparty went away from the run too early, and I don't think the victory was as dominant as everyone is claiming. The media loves to hype ND -- remember "multiple Heisman Ron Pawless"? MSU is 102nd in points scored, and 83nd in rushing. Granted, that is AFTER the ND game, but everyone is making is seem like ND shut down a prolific offensive juggernaut.
Much like Michigan probably being overrated for TV rating going into the Bama game, I think the pundits overlooked all the weaknesses on MSU's team and got them into the top 10 despite really not looking all that great against a HORRIBLE BSU team.
Further, people are making ND's offense out to be fearsom simply because they've not shot themselves in the foot 100 times aleady, and have a QB that can run a bit. ND is 60th in points scored, 69th in rushing, and 65th in passing despite a 50 point game versus Navy. They scored 20 in a 3 point victory over Purdue, and 20 against MSU. Domers will say it's because they didn't need to score more, that their defense is so freakin' good that they get the lead, and salt the game away. I say, "BULLSHIT."
I am by no means saying that it's going to be an easy game for Michigan, it never is against ND. But, I think the hype is getting a bit thick. I chatted on Facebook yesterday with a high school classmate of mine who is a sports writer in Detroit (won't mention his name) and he was all, "ND's defensive front is so strong, Michigan's OL is so weak, Denard can't throw..." He's a Spartan BTW.
It's talking points, just talking points. Purdue scored 10 points in the 4th qrt., and could have very easily won that game, and ND WOULD have been tested against MSU if it weren't for the idiotic game plan of taking the ball out of the hands of your best offensive weapon, and putting in the hands of your inexperienced QB and terrible WR's.
Last night's 7-6 Boise game certainly voids the idea that sparty has a good defense and downgrades the Irish victory. I think the Irish are just like us in this game, they are going to find out what kind of a football team they are.
more homer-ish in my predictions (i thought we would beat alabama.....) but im not scared of ND. navy isnt good, they almost lost to purdue, and i dont think their performance against MSU warrants the fear about the front-7 (as MSU's offensive line is...not very good).
i may be crazy, but i think we win...comfortably.
Why do we get a pass for barely beating while they slaughtered Navy? Can't have it both ways.
I left out "Air Force".
I am not asking to have it both ways.
Air Force is a good football team,far better than Navy, and is 1st in the nation in rushing, and 30th in points scored, and 76th in scoring defense. Navy, as I said, is 42nd in rushing, 123rd in points for with only 8.5 a game, and 119 th in scoring defense with 42 points per game given up.
I am not saying that AF has a great defense, but they're a lot better 76th is a shit ton better than 123rd, is it not? Air Force is a very good team that has repeatedly gave a very good and well coached TCU team fits. I have a friend that is a big TCU fan and he warned me before the game that Air Force was no joke and that they were going to make the Michigan defense look lost at times. He was right.
Wait until you see AF play Navy on Oct 6th, and you tell me why Michigan gets a pass for "barely" beating AF.
While this wouldn't exactly be great fun to watch, I think the ultimate spit in the eye would be this: Michigan is up 4, Notre Dame gets the ball out on the 25 with a minute left in the fourth. They dink and dunk us all the way down to our 15. I'm pulling my f****** hair out. Then, Notre Dame baits us on a bootleg, throws a little flair out to Eifert, he turns up field, thinking endzone, and gets popped soundly by Ryan. As does the ball. It bounces around, only to also be recovered by Ryan. We take knees, game over.
While it would give me a heart attack, Notre Dame's tears would heal me. Their emotional devastation from an ending like that... ahh it'd be beautiful.
Does anyone read my posts? HAGERUP IS AVERAGING 44.7 NET. This is not a problem, folks.
and pick a score that is almost impossible to achieve 26-25? this would involve lets see 3 TDs - FG - Safety for michigan...6 FGs and a TD for ND?
how about 28-27? same score but plausible... then again, if it finishes 26-25, i will accept all mockery.
The U/O was 50.5. I've seen it at 49.5 as well.
Nitpick - we've never actually needed a TD in all our last-minute possessions against ND. We're always down only three and always manage to unexpectedly get the TD to win by four.
OK. Then we'll just keep doing that. Seems to work.
ND will go down falter under pressure!
Hoke only needs to make sure he brings these items to guarantee victory:
1) Jeremy Gallon's Cloak of Invisibility
2) Junior's Flying Duck Catching Gloves (now owned by Devin)
3) Mattison's ND QB Mind Blowing Turnover Voodoo Doll
4) 2 Extra Packs of Pahokee-brand Dilithium
5) Borges Patented ND Cornerback Complete Meltdown Spray
Unfortunately for us, these have been banned in the state of Texas.
Notre Dame is a pretty good football team this year. Hell, in the first half of the MSU game i felt real fear based on what i saw. But during the course of the second half i couldn't decide if was was watching two really good teams or two just pretty good teams. MSU couldn't attack ND's weaknesses, which made their strengths look that much better.
And i don't think Kelly is comfortable with a freshman QB. The way that first half played, ND could have lit MSU up like a couch in East Lansing .. but they didn't. I think Kelly's afraid of offensive mistakes and those are more likely if he has to push it to score.
I think this will be the D's coming out party. It won't be terrifying, but the positioning and technique issues will start to dissolve and we see solid play. Denard continues to show the progression as a passer behind good enough pass protection to soften the ND front seven. A back and forth game that ends without any last minute heroics and Michigan winning by a touchdown. The difference probably coming from a Golson mistake.
Based on all I've seen and read I've come to the conclusion that State is just not as good as people like to pretend.