(Sports Network) - Two of the nation's most accomplished programs add another chapter to their storied history, as the Notre Dame Fighting Irish make the trip to Ann Arbor to take on the Michigan Wolverines this weekend.
Brian Kelly's Irish began the season ranked in the top-25, but a 23-20 upset loss at home to South Florida in the season-opener last weekend, has the team on the outside looking in. A wild game that featured two delays due to weather and plenty of miscues on Notre Dame's part, resulted in a dejected squad looking for a quick turnaround.
Brady Hoke's first season at the helm at Michigan began with a game affected by inclement weather as well. The Wolverines opened the 2011 campaign with a 34-10 win over Western Michigan, in the first-ever game in UM history shortened by weather. The game was halted toward the end of the third quarter due to thunderstorms.
Michigan's 885 victories are the most of any program at any level of college football. Texas ranks second (851), followed by Notre Dame (843) in wins by BCS programs.
The Wolverines lead the all-time series by a count of 22-15-1 and have won five of the last six meetings in Ann Arbor.
With three turnovers inside the red zone and inconsistent play under center by starter Dayne Crist, coach Kelly has made a change and has named sophomore Tommy Rees the starter this weekend. Rees relieved Crist against the Bulls, and played well, completing 24-of-34 passes, for 296 yards and two TDs. Rees did what Crist couldn't and that was get the ball down the field with regularity to All-American candidate Michael Floyd. Regarded as one of the nation's premier receivers, Floyd did not disappoint in the opener, hauling in a career-high 12 balls, for 154 yards and two TDs, earning FBS Independents Co-Offensive Player of the week.
In all Notre Dame amassed 508 yards of total offense, with the bulk of it coming from the arm of Rees. The ground game managed a modest 117 yards, but Cierre Wood was effective, averaging 5.0 yards per carry and racking up 104 yards and one score.
The Irish will be at their best with a balanced attack, but must find a way to get Floyd into the action early and often at Michigan this week if they are to bounce back quickly from the loss to the Bulls.
Defensively, the Irish were continually placed in bad situations by offensive mistakes. The team was in the game until the end, thanks to a unit that held the Bulls to a mere 254 yards of total offense.
All-American candidate Manti Te'o led all Notre Dame defenders with nine stops, in addition to recording one of the team's two sacks. A junior, Te'o is one of the nation's premier linebackers and should find himself at or near the top of the tackles list each and every week.
Senior LB Darius Fleming and senior end Kapron Lewis-Moore finished right behind Te'O with eight stops, with the pair splitting the other sack.
Heisman hopeful Denard Robinson didn't exactly light up the scoreboard against the Broncos last week, rushing for just 46 yards and passing for 98 yards. Tailback Fitzgerald Toussaint led the way on the ground with 80 yards and two TDs, as Michigan rushed for a hefty 190 yards on 7.3 yards per carry.
Hoke has installed a pro-style offense in Ann Arbor and it may take some time before Robinson posts big numbers. Last season saw a balanced, yet prolific attack, spearheaded by Robinson's production on the ground. This season expect others like Toussaint, WRs Roy Roundtree and Junior Hemingway and tight end Kevin Koger to play more prominent roles.
Fifth-year senior LB Brandon Herron had quite a season-debut, becoming the first Wolverine in the modern era (since 1948) to score two defensive touchdowns in the same game. A 94-yard INT return and a 29-yard fumble return helped Herron earn Big Ten Player and Walter Camp National Player of the Week honors.
Herron headlined a strong defensive performance in the opener, that saw Michigan hold WMU to just 279 yards, including 98 on the ground. Herron was not the only Wolverine with a strong outing, as strong safety Jordan Kovacs led the team with 10 tackles, two sacks and one forced fumble.
Both teams have All-American talent on the offensive side of the ball. Robinson and Floyd are both dynamic, but unless the Irish can limit their mistakes, it won't matter how good Floyd is.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Michigan 24, Notre Dame 20