Michigan (8-5) vs Notre Dame (10-3)
When: Saturday, September 1st 2018
Where: Notre Dame Stadium,
South Bend, Indiana
Time: 7:30 ET | TV: NBC
Opening Odds: Notre Dame -2/48
One of the most important matchups of the opening weekend of College Football is one between two of the most storied programs in NCAA history as the Notre Dame Fighting Irish host the Michigan Wolverines for the first time in four years. The schools haven’t played since the Irish posted a 31-0 shutout in South Bend in 2014 because Notre Dame opted out of the rivalry from 2015-17 due to its new agreement to play five Atlantic Coast Conference schools each season. The Irish remain an independent, and have agreed to play a home-and-home with Michigan, who had to cancel a series with Arkansas. Both coaches enter the season on the hot-seat with Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh trying to fix his 1-5 record against his two biggest rivals – Michigan State and Ohio State, while Brian Kelly saved his job by going 10-3 last season, but Irish fans are not very patient. Notre Dame opened as much as 7-point favorites a month and a half ago, but sharps quickly pounded Michigan and the line is all the way down to almost a pickem with the under set at 47. These are expected to be two of college football’s best defensive teams this year, especially Michigan, which ranked No. 3 nationally in total defense in 2017. Michigan leads the all-time series 24-17-1 and is one of only 13 teams that have a winning record against the Irish. The Fighting Irish have won five of the last six meetings with the Wolverines in South Bend and the home team has covered four straight. Notre Dame has won 25 of its last 31 season openers, while the Wolverines have won nine straight regular-season games against non-conference opponents under Harbaugh.
Michigan will be led on offense by Shae Patterson, who threw for 2,259 yards and 17 touchdowns in seven games for Ole Miss last year before a knee injury ended his season prematurely. Patterson was granted a waiver for immediate eligibility because of legal issues surrounding the Ole Miss program right now and will try and guide Michigan to its first road win against Notre Dame since 2010. Patterson will not have his No. 1 receiver for a while, as Tarik Black was ruled out indefinitely with a fractured right foot. Running back Karan Higdon flirted with the NFL after rushing for 994 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, but will return to form a dynamic duo with Chris Evans, who accounted for 842 total yards and seven TDs. Michigan’s defense, which gave up 18.3 points per game in 2017, leads this team for sure. They return nine starters, including preseason All-Americans Rashan Gary, a defensive end who is a projected top-10 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, and linebacker Devin Bush.
Notre Dame counters with the versatile Brandon Wimbush at quarterback – something that could disrupt the Michigan defense. He passed for 1,870 yards and 16 touchdowns to go along with another 803 yards and 14 TDs on the ground last season. Tony Jones Jr. is likely to replace last season’s leading rusher Josh Adams, who bolted to the NFL after compiling 1,430 yards and nine touchdowns, while Dexter Williams’ status is unclear following speculation of a university imposed four-game suspension. Offensive lineman Robert Hainsey is expected to play on Saturday after missing two weeks of practice with a calf strain and leads a unit that may not be as strong as last year’s.
The big question I have is how will Patterson fit into this offense early on. We already know the Wolverines defense is special, but they did struggle just a bit more on the road, especially at Penn State last year. Notre Dame’s defense comes into this season as one of the most underrated units and I think they cause Patterson a lot of trouble. Look for Wimbush to have a solid game running the ball and to lead the Irish to a close, low-scoring victory.
Pick: Notre Dame -1.5
- Wolverines are 5-2 ATS in their last 7 vs. INDEP.
- Wolverines are 1-3-1 ATS in their last 5 road games.
- Wolverines are 1-5 ATS in their last 6 non-conference games.
- Fighting Irish are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games in September.
- Fighting Irish are 5-2 ATS in their last 7 games on fieldturf.
- Fighting Irish are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games overall.
- Fighting Irish are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 vs. Big Ten.
- Fighting Irish are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 non-conference games.
- Over is 7-1-1 in Wolverines last 9 non-conference games.
- Over is 11-4 in Wolverines last 15 road games.
- Over is 24-9-1 in Wolverines last 34 games overall.
- Over is 5-2-1 in Wolverines last 8 games in September.
- Over is 19-8-1 in Wolverines last 28 games on fieldturf.
- Under is 4-0 in Fighting Irish last 4 games overall.
- Over is 4-0 in Fighting Irish last 4 vs. Big Ten.
- Under is 4-0 in Fighting Irish last 4 non-conference games.
- Over is 6-1 in Fighting Irish last 7 games in September.
- Home team is 4-0 ATS in their last 4 meetings.
- Underdog is 11-5 ATS in their last 16 meetings.
- Wolverines are 2-6 ATS in their last 8 meetings in Notre Dame.