As the Notre Dame football game with Michigan approaches, we had a chance to toss some questions to Mike Bainbridge, who covers Michigan for Athlon Sports.
You’ve heard and read just about everything you’re going to get from us here at Slap the Sign and other Notre Dame football writers around the country. What you probably haven’t heard is a take on this weekend’s game from someone who covers the Michigan Wolverines.
We had a chance to lob some general questions about this weekend’s matchup at Mike Bainbridge of Athlon Sports. He does a lot of good work on the Michigan Wolverines for Athlon, and offered some unique insight on the season opener.
Notre Dame fans are excited to renew this rivalry. Is the feeling mutual with the Michigan faithful?
Mike: I think there is general intrigue and excitement having Notre Dame back on the schedule, yes. This is one of the most historic rivalries in college football history. But I personally believe it’s dampened a bit from a Michigan perspective because there is so much focus this season on Michigan State and Ohio State where head coach Jim Harbaugh desperately needs to improve his 1-5 record against them. Rivalry aside, I think Michigan fans know they can fall to the Irish this Saturday and still obtain their ultimate goals with the remaining schedule. That said, it will be a refreshing sight to see these two teams back on the same field once again this weekend.
In terms of a path to the College Football Playoff, is losing this game more damaging to Michigan or Notre Dame?
Mike: Touched on this above briefly, but a loss for Notre Dame this week would be far more damaging. Both teams have tough schedules, but if Michigan were to win the remainder of their contests, even after a loss against ND, they would get an appearance in the Big Ten title game whereas Notre Dame doesn’t get that opportunity. That would play a role in the CFP selection.
Is there a Michigan player nobody is really talking about who you feel could surprise everyone and be a serious factor in the game?
Mike: The injury news for starting WR Tarik Black was a tough pill to swallow for Wolverine fans, as they were anticipating a huge season from the redshirt freshman. Taking his place in the lineup will be sophomore Nico Collins, who is another massive target at 6-foot-4 and was a 4-star prospect coming out of high school with offers from the likes of Alabama, Georgia and several other high-profile schools. If the preseason reports come to fruition, there shouldn’t be a huge drop off with Collins in the lineup.
Is there a Notre Dame player or position group that concerns you as a Michigan fan when you think about matchups and players who could control the tempo and outcome of the game?
Mike: The biggest question mark for the Wolverines currently is along on the offensive line, specifically at the tackle spot where we still aren’t 100 percent certain who will line up there on the opening snap. If the Irish can take advantage of Michigan’s youth and inexperience up front and get consistent pressure on Shea Patterson, the Wolverines may struggle to throw the football. That’s not even taking into account a deep and talented Notre Dame secondary.
Give us a final score and a quick synopsis of how you got there.
There is little doubt that this will be a low-scoring affair, as both teams have tremendous defenses that should give the opposing offenses fits. Quarterback play will likely determine the outcome and I trust Shea Patterson more than I do Brandon Wimbush at this point. If the Wolverine defense can contain Wimbush in the pocket and force him to throw the football, advantage goes to Michigan. Good news here for both teams is that the season is salvageable with the opportunities that are ahead of them, should this game end in a loss.