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Thursday, September 10, 2009
Notre Dame's what to watch, Week 2



Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett


Three things to watch for in Notre Dame's game at Michigan:

1. The offensive line vs. Michigan's pass rush: The Irish offensive line kept Jimmy Clausen clean against Nevada. But that was Nevada and this is Michigan. The Wolverines are going to try and bring heat with their athletic defensive front, and defensive coordinator Greg Robinson had Notre Dame's number last year as Syracuse's head coach. Has the Irish O-line actually improved? Or did it just look good against a WAC team? Saturday is a proving ground.

2. Clausen and his receivers vs. the Michigan secondary: Clausen has been nearly perfect his last two games -- again, against WAC defenses. Still, the Wolverines will have a tough challenge trying to slow down Michael Floyd, Golden Tate and tight end Kyle Rudolph, who comprise maybe the best set of pass-catchers Michigan will see all year. Michigan will have to try to stop the big pass play, which Notre Dame excelled at against Nevada.

3. Notre Dame's defense vs. Michigan's spread: Playing against Colin Kaepernick and Nevada's pistol offense was kind of like practicing against a scout team for Michigan. While the two offenses are different, they have similar principles, including a running quarterback. The Irish can take comfort in the fact that they shut out Nevada, even though the Wolf Pack averaged more than 5 yards per rush. Freshmen Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson will try to make the Wolverines' spread option go. Linebacker Brian Smith and Toryan Smith will have to play as well as they did against Nevada to stop it.