- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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When Notre Dame has the ball: The Irish had plenty of success running the football in their last trip to Ann Arbor, averaging six yards per rush by repeatedly pounding it up the middle. They should try to do that again early with an experienced offensive line, and with enough running back depth to keep everyone fresh. The Wolverines return just three starters from their front-seven last season, too. Tommy Rees has to continue to make smart decisions, and TJ Jones has to get in space to create the way he did in the opener against Temple.
When Michigan has the ball: Devin Gardner isn't as athletic as Denard Robinson, but he's a better passer. And he has arguably the top left tackle in the country protecting him in Taylor Lewan. The Lewan matchup with Stephon Tuitt will be one to keep an eye on throughout the night. Fitzgerald Toussaint is a threat in the backfield, and the Wolverines will likely try to stretch the field with Jeremy Gallon and Devin Funchess in the passing game.
Intangible: Michigan is hosting its second-ever night game, which could make for another record crowd like last time. This is also the last scheduled meeting between these schools in the Big House, and the Wolverines will have a bit of a chip on their shoulders after the Irish opted out of the series, and after Brian Kelly tried to downplay the rivalry earlier in the week. On Notre Dame's end, Rees was 30 seconds away from becoming the toast of the town in the 2011 game. He's only better now, and we've all seen his poise in big environments.
Prediction: Michigan 24, Notre Dame 20. The past four meetings have been decided in the fourth quarter, so why should this one be any different? The Irish will have trouble turning yards into points, and the Wolverines will make just enough plays down the stretch to pull out the win.