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Five storylines: Michigan-Notre Dame

9/20/2012

Each Thursday, WolverineNation will take a look at five storylines for the Wolverines heading into Saturday's game. Here are the storylines for Michigan as it heads to South Bend to take on the Fighting Irish in a night game.

1. Play all four quarters: Fans remember last season's matchup because of the win and the incredible final moments. But what many forget is that a 17-point deficit is what allowed the Wolverines to make the kind of comeback that required last-second heroics. Left tackle Taylor Lewan said Monday that if the Wolverines play against Notre Dame this weekend like they played the first three quarters in 2011, they'll lose, and he's right. Michigan must play 60 minutes against Notre Dame. And it must start from the first whistle. As the Spartans proved last week, the Irish aren't a team against whom you want to try to come back.

2. Stopping the run: In three games the Irish have seven rushing touchdowns and nearly 500 yards on the ground. The Wolverines' defense has struggled against opponents' run games, and the Irish have a formidable duo in Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood. Michigan's D-line needs to get more push at the point of attack and make a few stops.

3. Can Denard pass the test? If Michigan is to have a chance against Notre Dame, quarterback Denard Robinson will have to throw the ball well. The Irish have given up only three touchdowns this season -- all were passing. Their front seven has proved to be strong, holding Michigan State to just 50 yards of rushing. Robinson has run well against Notre Dame in the past, but he'll have to do more than that this time.

4. Stepping up: The Wolverines are riding a wave of confidence after blowing out UMass last weekend, 63-13. But Notre Dame isn't UMass and Michigan needs to play much, much better than it did against the Minutemen in order to win. If the Wolverines come in feeling too good about their last performance, it won't end well. They need to elevate their game and play above the level of Notre Dame to steal a win in South Bend.

5. Playing on the road: Teams can make or break their seasons on the road. Michigan has an opportunity to make a strong statement about what kind of a team it is. The road isn't going to be any kinder from here on out. With a solid Purdue team on the horizon, as well as games at Nebraska and Ohio State, Michigan needs to pick up wins on the road and set the bar high. Here’s the Wolverines’ first chance.