I like to look at the small things. I can say that this will be a key matchup of two programs trying to return to national relevance.
I could say that Rich Rodriguez' team will play to remove pressure from their coach who is on the "proverbial" hot seat because of the poor performances the team produced during the last 2 seasons.
I could say that Michigan will be distracted with the "Tate Forcier" situation. By the way, do you think he will dress? Would you?
No. What I like about the game this Saturday is all the "non game" comments I have heard while listening to interviews on mgoblue.com and und.com websites. From the first interview earlier this week, when asked about the rivalry with Michigan, ND coach Brian Kelly was clear: We don't play to the rivalry. I understand and respect it but we will play this one game at a time. I will play to win. Packages? There are plays I would like to call but we will keep it simple. It is about winning. You can expect the same plan as against Purdue.
Ok. But what about Denard Robinson? While ackowledging that he is a special player when opening his press conference, Kelly also mentioned that the danger from Michigan comes also from running backs Michael Shaw and Vincent Smith who shared the workload against the Huskies and combined for 100 yards against what was to be a stingy defense. Brian Kelly's recipe is the way Notre Dame played against Purdue.
"We played disciplined football, with a lot of enthusiasm and with effort and if we are going to apply that each and every week, we will be succesfull as long as we execute better."
Rich Rodriguez meanwhile, in a very contrasting interview said: '' All our players understand this is a rivalry''. The plan seems simple. Get the ball to Robinson who ran for close to 200 yards and passed for another 186. As long as he can sustain the hit, it could be the right and only recipe needed Saturday.
The setup by Notre Dame? On a video posted today on UND.com, every single player was singing the praise of Robinson, how good he was, how elusive he could be, how tight his spirals were - a clear break and contrast from the conservative statements made all week. Consciously or not, Robinson was praised by the Irish players the same way 13 year old girls praise Justin Bieber. I think it is a setup. They want him to believe that he is superior. And then, they will do what they can to prove him wrong. Do they have a package to frustrate the star Wolverine? No doubt. Will they be successfull? We'll see Saturday.
As far as I am concerned, I owe it to have a prediction. Vegas odds puts ND favored by 4. Using the formula that the home team usually gets an average of 3pts in their favor for being home, it is a technical tie. I don't think that Robinson will pass or run for 200 yards. I don't think that he will sustain the hits from the front line and the hits coming from the Manti & Co. The over / under is at 53 points and I believe it is too high. I say Notre Dame takes it but with a 25-20 win. I welcome your thoughts.