College Football Picks: Notre Dame vs. Michigan

Doug Upstone

Wednesday, September 4, 2013 12:50 PM GMT

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly may not think much of Michigan, but coach Brady Hoke and his Wolverines will get the chance to prove him wrong this coming Saturday.

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Over the years at his different stops, Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly is not above saying something outrageous which turns heads and lifts eyebrows. His comment Sunday about the end of the Michigan rivalry next season for the foreseeable future was not a big a deal because, "Well, I really haven't seen it as one of those historic, traditional Notre Dame rivalries,” Kelly stated.

Kelly was just toeing the company line as Notre Dame opted out of the three final years of the contract, since they are becoming a quasi-member of the ACC for football and essentially a full member in the other sports.

This past May, Michigan coach Brady Hoke chimed in during a Michigan event, accusing the Fighting Irish of “chickening out”, facing the Wolverines. This sets the backdrop to a riveting “regional rivalry” (Kelly’s words) on ABC Saturday night. Get your college football picks ready for this one!

Is Notre Dame Ready?

Check out our Notre Dame 2013-14 Futures Odds article for more info on the Fightin' Irish!

Kelly’s Irish had their moments against Temple offensively in the first outing, as Tommy Rees hit big plays against the Owls for quick scores. Rees looked in control for most of the game and was on track when throwing in rhythm, yet not as much when having to throw the ball down the field to secondary receivers. This matchup should provide a better indication where Rees really is as a senior quarterback.

Notre Dame has a plethora of running backs and can work to find the hot hand against Michigan and ride the player with the most juice.

The Notre Dame defense is supposed to be among the best in the country like last season, however, Temple carved them up for 25 first downs with short passes and runs and Devin Gardner is a superior athlete to the Owls QB Conner Reilly and can turn seven yard jaunts into 20 yards or more with his feet.

Big Deal at The Big House for Michigan

Ohio State is the Wolverines biggest rival by a wide margin, but Notre Dame is certainly second in the pecking order.

Beating Central Michigan 59-9 as 32.5-point home favorites only proved the Michigan has the ability to crush bad teams who will show up on the schedule.

For the first time really since Hoke took over a head coach in Ann Arbor, we saw the kind of variable offense Al Borges (offensive coordinator) prefers to use. Gardner was in the shotgun the first eight plays with the Wolverines trying to play fast and settled into more traditional quarterback under center role the rest of the way.

Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison has been raving about the defensive line and they held the Chippewas to just over 2.0 yards a rush. A far better test on the level of improvement goes this week.

Betting news on this encounter

Michigan is a 3.5-point home favorite in the college football odds; just remember, the underdog is 13-2 ATS the past 20 years with 10 outright upsets.

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Insiders Look

The Notre Dame defense under DC Bob Diaco typically tends to bend early in games to get a feel for the opposing offense before tightening the screws. Unquestionably, he will need more from his linebacker group, who failed too often filling gaps against the run and taking the right drops in pass protection. The defensive line with Louis Nix III and Stephon Tiutt has to be disruptive.

This is where we find out if Rees as really matured or makes the same old silly mistakes. Mattison defense is big on pressure and precise assignments with wrinkles of deception. Rees has to make the proper reads and has underrated receivers who will go get the ball.

Off the Irish’s below average defensive showing this past Saturday, Borges will change tempos and try and hit Notre Dame with few series of hurry-up offense to see how they react. Michigan usually has a solid offensive line and they will have to at least neutralize the Irish big guys to spring RB Fitzgerald Toussaint.

Defensively, Mattison will show different looks in an attempt to confuse Rees and create a turnover or two. In obvious passing downs, look to the Wolverines for your sports picks. They'll will bring pressure while playing zone in the back end to keep plays in front of them.

Selection Time

This is one of those peculiar college rivalries where you bet into the angle if the teams are evenly matched. 

NCAA FB Pick: Pick Notre Dame to cover +3.5 point spread at Bet365

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