Notre Dame Football Gameday Primer: Michigan Wolverines

SOUTH BEND, IN - AUGUST 30: The mural at the Hesburgh Library, commonly known as "Touchdown Jesus" is seen on the campus of Notre Dame University before a game between the Norte Dame Fighting Irish and the Rice Owls at Notre Dame Stadium on August 30, 2014 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
SOUTH BEND, IN - AUGUST 30: The mural at the Hesburgh Library, commonly known as "Touchdown Jesus" is seen on the campus of Notre Dame University before a game between the Norte Dame Fighting Irish and the Rice Owls at Notre Dame Stadium on August 30, 2014 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

The 2018 Notre Dame football season starts today against heated rival Michigan.

The season is here for Notre Dame football. The Fighting Irish take on the Michigan Wolverines in one of college football’s most highly anticipated matchups of the (real) opening weekend of college football.

Essential Information

Opponent: No. 14 Michigan Wolverines
Date: September 1, 2018
Location: South Bend (Notre Dame), Indiana
Forecast: High 83/Low 69, winds 5-15 MPH, thunderstorms possible all day
Time/channel: 7:30 p.m. ET, NBC

A season with much hype begins today in one of the most anticipated openers in recent memory. The Michigan Wolverines come to South Bend for the 20th time in program history. The two teams have met 42 times, with Michigan holding a 24-16-1 all time series lead.

ESPN’s College Gameday will be broadcast from the Notre Dame campus, being chosen over another highly anticipated game, Auburn versus Washington.

Recent history has shown that Notre Dame does not do very well when starting the season. Starting 0-1 is also not great for national championship aspirations, either. One loss hurts Notre Dame because of not being in a conference, and an opening loss for Michigan could destroy any positive thoughts ahead of a brutal schedule. In short, this is one of the most important openers for either team in recent history.

When Michigan has the ball….

Michigan will be lead on offense by Shea Patterson, a transfer from Ole Miss. Patterson completed nearly 64 percent of his passes last season for 2,259 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Patterson lost one of his projected top targets when Tarik Black suffered a broken right foot during a scrimmage last week. This opens a potentially huge void for the Wolverines that will have to be filled quickly. Oliver Martin and Nico Collins, both sophomores, will be two top choices to replace Black in the lineup.

Senior wideout Perry Grant as well as sophomore receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones, both projected as starters, should each receive even more of the load.

Michigan’s run game was good last year, 49th in the country, with top running back Karan Higdon just six yards shy of 1,000 yards and backup Chris Evans at 685 yards himself. Both combined for 17 touchdowns.

The offensive line returns three of five starters from a year ago, losing two-time All-Big Ten left tackle Mason Cole as well as center Patrick Kugler. The line could use some work.

As a whole, talent is there, it just needs to be developed. With a new quarterback and another year of experience, this could finally be when Jim Harbaugh reminds everyone of what happens when he has a good quarterback.

When Michigan is on defense….

Don Brown’s Wolverine defense is a dominant force, returning nine starters from a team that had the No.13 scoring defense, No. 18 rush defense, No. 1 pass defense and No. 3 total defense in the country last year.

Michigan is lead by the strength of the defensive line, which is one of the best in the country. Maurice Hurst is gone, but Aubrey Solomon steps in for Hurst. Solomon was a top 25 recruit last year with a sky-high ceiling.

The rest of the line returns, headlined by Rashan Gary. Gary, now a junior, who had 67 tackles with six sacks last year. He’s one of the players to watch today and could cause havoc. As a whole, the three returning starters on the defensive line collected 14 sacks and 17 tackles for loss.

Another group that is great at getting to the quarterback are the linebackers, who accounted for 13 sacks returning this year.

Much like the defensive line, the linebackers are among the best in the country, lead by star middle linebacker Devin Bush. Bush had an incredible season last year, accounting for 100 tackles with five sacks, eight pass breakups and one interception.

While Bush gets most of the attention of the linebackers, watch out for Khaleke Hudson. Hudson doesn’t seem to get the attention as Bush or Gary, but is just as capable. Last year, he accounted for eight sacks and 82 tackles.

Matchup to Watch: Michigan DL vs Notre Dame OL

One of the best defensive lines against a Notre Dame offensive line that should be able to hold its own. It’ll be a very physical battle, one that will likely determine the game. Specifically, Rashan Gary vs. Alex Bars will be a great matchup that, by itself, could swing momentum up front.

Under the radar Michigan player to watch: Wide Receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones

Although a starter, Peoples-Jones is one of the least talked about players on the team. Look for him to be the main deep threat during the game, with Shea Patterson taking a couple chances. Peoples-Jones is also the punt returner, with 320 return yards and a touchdown last year. He could be the X-factor of the Michigan team.

Under the radar Notre Dame player to watch: Defensive End Khalid Kareem

This will be Kareem’s first season starting, although he did see action last season, he showed he can hang with the big boys. Kareem accounted for three sacks and six quarterback hits. With all the attention on the Notre Dame defensive line going to Jerry Tillery, Kareem flys under the radar, and today should be the beginning of a standout season.


As earlier stated, this is a game that will likely be won and lost on the line. Going into the game, we know both defenses are going to be stout and points will be at a premium. Given how good both defenses are, don’t expect to see many 20-yard plays. Seven-to-eight yard plays may be the maximum in this game.

This game may come down to whichever team can sustain a late offensive possession and drive down the field while picking up short chunks of yards.

Prediction: Notre Dame 17, Michigan 13