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Where: Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Indiana
Notre Dame’s defense has looked impressive in winning its first three games. It will get a different sort of test when the 15th-ranked Fighting Irish host No. 17 Michigan and Denard Robinson on Saturday night. Robinson has been a thorn in the side of Notre Dame in each of the last two meetings between the schools, both of which ended in last-second Wolverines wins. But the Fighting Irish have allowed only 30 points total through their first three games and easily dispatched Michigan State last Saturday to announce themselves as a legitimate contender. Michigan failed its first test against a national opponent and could use the momentum of a road win over a nationally-ranked team heading into the Big Ten slate next month.
ABOUT MICHIGAN (2-1): The Wolverines have broken the hearts of the Irish in four-point victories each of the last three seasons. Tate Forcier threw the final touchdown pass with 11 seconds left in 2009 and Robinson ran in with 27 seconds left in 2010’s 28-24 win. The 2011 game was even closer, as Michigan recovered from a 24-7 deficit with 28 fourth-quarter points for a 35-31 triumph. Robinson hit Roy Roundtree on a 16-yard pass with two seconds on the clock to put that one away. Michigan was slow out of the gate in 2012, getting trounced by Alabama on the opening weekend and squeezing by Air Force before putting it all together in a 63-13 win over Massachusetts. Robinson put up 397 yards of total offense in the win and completed two-thirds of his passes for three touchdowns. He has accounted for 948 yards of offense in his two starts against Notre Dame.
ABOUT NOTRE DAME (3-0): The breakdowns in previous losses to Michigan seem to have been addressed by coach Brian Kelly, who has remade the Fighting Irish into a fearsome defensive bunch. Notre Dame held Michigan State to 237 total yards and forced a turnover in a 20-3 triumph on the road last Saturday thanks to a strong front seven. That front will have to be even better against Michigan without safety Jamoris Slaughter, who tore his left Achilles tendon against the Spartans. The Irish have not allowed a rushing touchdown and will try to keep Robinson in the pocket and force interceptions. Offensively, Notre Dame is succeeding by not making mistakes. Everett Golson has only one interception in the first three games and has been held under 200 yards passing in two of the first three games in the conservative approach.
1. The Irish have not started 4-0 since 2002 and have not beaten consecutive top-20 teams since that same season.
2. The Wolverines lead the all-time series 23-15-1 and have taken five of the last six.