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October 25, 2019 - Image 13

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9/24/2019 4:19:40 PM

What to watch for as No. 17 Michigan takes on No. 8 Notre Dame

We’re about to find out how long
that hangover lasted.
There’s no rest for the weary, as
No. 19 Michigan welcomes No. 8
Notre Dame in a game that would
have meant far more six weeks ago.
The Wolverines, as you likely
know, suffered their second loss
of the season last week at Penn
State, a heartbreaking 28-21, the
ramifications of which will continue
to ripple. They have little more than
pride to play for through the rest of
the season, but this program could
sure use some pride these days.
The Fighting Irish come to town
scathed in their own right, with a
narrow loss at Georgia poking holes
in the sails of their College Football
Playoff hopes. They need to win out,
and they need to do so in impressive
fashion. Even that will require some
help from others.
Here are just a few things to
watch, in a top-20 matchup that
feels far more like the semifinals of
a consolation bracket.
Is Michigan up for this?
We’ll know early on whether
this is a game it truly wants to play
— if all that talk about moving on

quickly, refocusing attention and
rearing up for a night game against
Notre Dame was substantiated.
“We have an opportunity —
we have a decision to make,” said
senior quarterback Shea Patterson
on Tuesday, stopping just shy of
elucidating that decision. “Our goal
is to win every game the rest of the
season. I love this team. We’re all so
close, and we trust each other, and
we love playing together. I don’t
think there is any other goal than to
just win.”
That is an admirable goal, and
exactly what a senior quarterback
should say the week after a loss that
effectively ended his season hopes.
Point all you’d like at Notre
Dame’s weak schedule or pedestrian
California two weeks ago. The
Fighting Irish are ranked 21st in
SP+, which is slightly more bearish
than the more traditional rankings.
But if the Wolverines aren’t
mentally, emotionally and physically
invested in these outcomes, none of
that will matter. We’ll know pretty
early whether talk is cheap inside
Schembechler Hall or whether this
team believes it still has something
to play for.
If it does, there’s a real argument

it is the better team on Saturday —
and should win. If it doesn’t, nothing
else really matters.
How will the Wolverines start?
In two top-15 matchups this year,
Michigan has fallen into deficits of
28-0 and 21-0, both of which proved
insurmountable. Needless to say,
another early dud would spell doom
for a Wolverines team in desperate
need of a therapeutic win.
There are endless reasons for

slow starts, a trend that dates back
to Michigan’s 21-3 deficit in the first
half of last year’s season opener at …

Notre Dame.
The quickest way to sink hopes
of a season resurgence would be to
come out flat — squandering any
perceived energy carried over from
last week’s promising second half.
This offense needs to hit the ground
running, building on the back of
a lively 21-point second half last

week. It cannot revert to old ways.
This defense can’t afford to spot the
opposing foe multiple touchdowns
before it finds its footing.
complicated. Other times, you just
can’t afford to hand a top-10 team
a multiple-touchdown lead before
either team can catch its breath.
Most teams aren’t good enough to
do that. Michigan certainly isn’t.

Managing Sports Editor

The Michigan football team lost in South Bend last season, 24-17, to the Fighting Irish and gets a chance at revenge this week.

Continued ON PAGE 8B

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