What to watch: Notre Dame, Week 2

September, 9, 2010
9/09/10
10:15
AM ET
What to watch from Notre Dame in Saturday's rivalry game against Michigan in South Bend:

1. Defending Denard: Without a doubt, the No. 1 story going into this game is whether Notre Dame will be able to contain Michigan's electric sophomore quarterback, Denard Robinson. Against Connecticut, ran in his untied shoes for a school record 197 yards while completing 19 of 22 passes for 186 yards. The Irish defense looked improved against Purdue, but it did have some trouble whenever the Boilermakers moved their quarterbacks around. Bob Diaco won't be throwing jailhouse-break blitzes at the Wolverines like Jon Tenuta did last year when Tate Forcier ran wild. If the Irish can simply slow down Robinson a bit, that will put pressure on Michigan's running backs and receivers to make more plays. Notre Dame can live with that outcome.

2. Reins off Dayne? Brian Kelly clearly eased quarterback Dayne Crist into things last week, keeping things simple for the most part against Purdue's zone coverages. The Irish ran it 10 times more than they passed it and rarely looked deep. With Michigan's secondary suffering from injuries, transfers and inexperience, opportunity should be there for Notre Dame to exploit it in the passing game. UConn had opportunities but mostly shot itself in the foot with dropped balls and bad throws. Michael Floyd had a huge game against Michigan last year and could do it again if Crist is given the green light to let it fly.

3. In the trenches: Notre Dame's offensive line did a good job protecting Crist and opening running lanes against Purdue. They will have a tougher test against Michigan. On the other side, Robinson wasn't creating those holes to run through; his line pushed the smaller Huskies out of the way. The Irish front showed toughness and surprising depth in Week 1, but again, the challenge is raised this week. These may be two spread offenses, but a Michigan-Notre Dame game is always going to be decided in the trenches.

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