Notre Dame entered the 2011 season with a lot of high hopes, buzz and big talk. All of that was shattered in week 1 when they lost at home to USF. Now, with an 0-1 record they head on the road to face rival Michigan in a Saturday evening showdown. Will they be able to turn their season around and get back on track, or will the Wolverines rebuilding project get off to a better than hoped start?
Brian Kelly had his team ranked as the number 16 school in the country heading into their opener. In his second year with the program, he was ready to capitalize on last season’s strong finish to begin making a major run towards BCS contention. The South Florida Bulls though had their own plans, and they felt they were being a bit discounted heading into the match despite their record for the past few seasons.
Skip Holtz, coach of the Bulls and son of former Notre Dame coaching legend Lou Holtz, wants to get a Big East conference crown under his belt, and desperately wanted a big win in South Bend. It was USF that prevailed, and Notre Dame was sent flailing away. They fell behind 16-0, committed costly turnovers, and ultimately ran out of time as they tried to come back in the game late. Now they sit at 0-1 and have an unexpected in-season rebuilding effort to take on.
Michigan had a much easier time of things in week 1, facing an overmatched Western Michigan team. They cruised to the 34-10 win to get a win on the record and get things started the right way for new head coach Brady Hoke. Now they play host to a big-time rival, and it’s also the school’s first night game ever at Ann Arbor, a kind of shocking first to have at this point. Will that help the Wolverines or hurt them as they prepare for a wounded team that is going to be looking for vengeance?
Notre Dame will be the 3.5 point favorites on the road for this match. If they had won their first game of the season, that probably would have been more like 14 point favorites. But they lost and didn’t look good, so Michigan is close for your betting lines. The over-under will be at 55.5 points.
Ultimately, Notre Dame really flubbed things up in week 1, but they are still a talented group, and they aren’t going to let their whole season be derailed from that one poor outing. They will get things back together against a Michigan team that actually is in the earlier stages of a rebuilding project. Look for the Fighting Irish to try to make a statement and beat their rivals big in the first night game hosted by Michigan ever. They’ll easily cover the spread and they’ll get that permanent W in the record books when people look back at Michigan’s track record and their first time hosting a night game under the bright lights.