Win the turnover battle
I'd be willing to wager a substantial amount of money that the team that wins the turnover battle tomorrow will win the game. In a defensive struggle, it's often the interception or fumble recovery that makes the difference between winning and losing. I want to see our running backs do a better job of holding on to the ball, and Jimmy be patient in the offense, as Michigan will not give him a lot of opportunities for big plays.
Okay, so I was 100% right about winning the turnover battle, as Michigan's butterfingers was definitely the biggest difference in the final score of the game, with Notre Dame scoring a whopping 28 points off of turnovers (counting the turnover on downs). I was wrong about Michigan not giving up the big play, but our backs did do a better job of holding on to the ball, not losing any fumbles in a sloppy, slippery mess.
Be sound in the kicking game
This game could very well be decided by a field goal. I'm concerned about our long snappers, as we face a tough choice between a snapper who is inconsistent and one that is consistent but undersized. I'm gaining more confidence in our kickers, but they need a clean snap and hold to have a shot at success.
Our coverage units have been very good, and I think that Anello and Bruton may be the best gunner tandem in the country.
We've been very good at blocking kicks the last few years, but that was largely due to the presence of Trevor Laws inside. I'd like to see somebody step up to the plate and get some pressure on the kicker in crucial situations.
The game turned into a good old-fashioned butt kickin pretty quick, but the kicking game was certainly crucial to our success. That tandem of Bruton and Anello made kick returns a nightmare for Michigan, as they couldn't seem to field a kick cleanly, and when they did, one of our gunners was blasting it out of their hands. We didn't need our field goal kicker, as we were extremely efficient at converting red zone appearances into touchdowns.
We did have a mistake on a fake punt, but other than that, I think we could call ourselves sound in the kicking game on Saturday.
Play shutdown defense on first down.
Too many times last week we let the Aztecs gain substantial yardage on first down, setting up long drives. I'd like to see a more aggressive stance on first down, giving up the occasional longer play in favor of shutting down the Michigan offense more often than not. With the system that Michigan plays in, 2nd and 3rd and long situations really limit their options on offense.
Also, their lack of a mobile QB should let us really pin our ears back and go after the QB when we force them into passing situations.
We CANNOT let them establish a ground game.
I broke it down, and looked at every first down Michigan had in the game. Then I broke them apart into two groups: when Michigan gained a first down (or scored a TD), and when Michigan was held on downs (punt, turnover, and field goal attempts).
The average yards on first down when Michigan converted? 5.7
The average yards on first down when they didn't? 1.27
If you average in the interception return by Gray as -41 yards instead of 0, that average drops to -2.45 yards per play.
Moral: sucess on first down leads to a better success rate at killing drives.
Quirk: We were 7 for 13 stopping Michigan from converting when we held them to less than one yard gained on first down. We were only 4 for 12 when they gained more than one yard on first down.