- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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As always, thanks to ESPN Stats & Info and sports information departments for these tidbits.
Tommy Rees and Devin Gardner were two of 17 quarterbacks in the FBS to post a Total QBR of at least 90 in Week 1. Rees had one start in his career in which he posted a higher Total QBR than he did last week against Temple. Gardner’s Total QBR of 90 against Central Michigan was the third time in six career starts that he posted at least a 90. Both Rees and Gardner bring something to their teams that their predecessors struggled with a season ago.
Rees had seven completions of 20-plus yards last week against Temple, more than Everett Golson had in any game last season. After throwing two interceptions against Michigan last season, Golson was replaced by Rees, who completed both of his passes thrown 20 yards or longer. In limited time the last two seasons, Rees has completed a higher percentage of his passes and thrown two fewer interceptions on such passes than Golson.
In five trips into the red zone against Notre Dame last season, Michigan did not score a touchdown and had as many as turnovers (2) as made field goals. Since Gardner took over as Michigan’s starter last season, he has led the Wolverines into the red zone 22 times in six games, resulting in 19 touchdowns (86.4 percent). No team has finished a season with a higher red zone touchdown percentage than 86.4 in the last five years.
Rees has completed 57 percent of his passes thrown 20 yards or longer in the last two seasons, 19 percentage points higher than Golson. Rees had two touchdowns on such passes in Week 1, both going to DaVaris Daniels.
Michigan has allowed six touchdowns and has no interceptions on passes thrown 20 yards or longer since the start of last season. The Wolverines and Utah are the only two AQ defenses that do not have an interception on such passes.
Since taking over as the starter for Michigan on Nov. 3, Gardner has posted a Total QBR of 98.8 on third down, second best among players with at least 25 action plays. All 19 of his completions on third down have led to either a touchdown or a first down. His touchdown percentage on third down (31 percent) since becoming a starter is almost twice that of the next closer player, Aaron Murray at 15.7 percent.
Notre Dame did not allow a rushing touchdown last season until Week 8 and entered the BCS National Championship having conceded two rushing touchdowns in 33 red zone trips. Since, the Fighting Irish have allowed three rushing touchdowns in eight red-zone drives, including a 1-yard touchdown against Temple in Week 1.
The Wolverines have yet to lose at home under Brady Hoke, winning all 15 games. Hoke is the first Michigan coach to go undefeated at home in his first two seasons since Fielding Yost in 1901-02. But only one of those 15 home games came against a ranked team: 2011 vs No. 17 Nebraska.
Meetings with both teams ranked used to be the standard, then became a rarity. Luckily for college football fans, they’re back now. This is the second straight season both Notre Dame and Michigan are ranked at the time of the game. None of the previous five meetings (2007-11) featured both teams being ranked.
For perspective on how far back the series goes: the first meeting in 1887 came just two years after the gas automobile was developed. It came two years before the Eiffel Tower opened. And in 1887, there were only 38 states in the union. North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Washington were next to be added, in 1889.
These programs rank first (Michigan) and third (Notre Dame) in all-time wins at the highest collegiate level (Texas is second) and first and second in winning percentage. They’ve combined for 10 AP national titles and 10 Heisman Trophy winners.
Notre Dame is 11-0 under Brian Kelly in games where it was turnover-free. In games Notre Dame committed a turnover under Kelly, it has a 18-11 record.