Sunday, June 25, 2006

2006 Spring Opponent Preview - Michigan Wolverines

Top player: Mike Hart, RB
Make-or-break player: Steve Breaston, WR
Biggest offensive strength: Running Back
Biggest offensive weakness: Coaching
Biggest defensive strength: Linebackers
Biggest defensive weakness: Coaching
Spring Depth Chart

Michigan struggled through a 7-5 season last year in which they lost all five of their games by a touchdown or less. They return amazing amounts of depth on their defense, including most of the secondary that gave our offense fits last year. However, the defensive coordinator from last year is gone, and it will be interesting to see if the new defensive coordinator uses the same schemes that were in place last year or if he tinkers with a defense that wasn't broken to begin with.

Their offense should be better this year. Much like the Irish, they return all of their skill players save one receiver. They will be as loaded as ever on the offensive line, and the key to a successful season for the Wolverines will be newly crowned #1 receiver Steve Breaston taking some pressure off of the running game, and the uber-conservative coaching staff to loosen the reins on the offense. Luckily, the coaching staff hasn't changed, and the Wolverines should be as predictable as ever on offense.

Of all of the games on Notre Dame's schedule, this one has the most potential to turn into a loss for the Irish. A victory at their house last year, and two straight wins for the Irish, could translate into motivation for the Wolverines and some overconfidence for the Irish. Also, Notre Dame will be coming off of back-to-back battles against talented teams in Penn State and Georgia Tech. Michigan will have just cruised through creampuff games against Vanderbilt and Central Michigan. Their defense gave us fits last year, and their offense is full of juniors that struggled through a sophomore slump last year and should be much better this year. Oh, and the underdog in this matchup has had the edge going back to 1942. And the Irish will be the favorite.

However, as this game is being played at home, and the Irish should improve as much if not more than Michigan in year 2 of the Weis era, I expect the Irish to eke out another win, but this could be a nail-biter. The Notre Dame offense will likely test whoever steps into Michigan's second cornerback role, as whoever plays will be only a sophomore.

9/9Central MichiganW
9/16at Notre DameL
9/30at MinnesotaW
10/7Michigan StateW
10/14at Penn StateW
11/4Ball StateW
11/11at IndianaW
11/11at Ohio StateL

No comments: