Michigan Wolverines: Manti Te'o

Denard Robinson was the difference in the Michigan-Notre Dame classics in 2010 and 2011.

Robinson was again the key figure in the 2012 meeting, though not in a good way for the Wolverines. And the game was anything but a classic -- but Irish fans will gladly take the ugly 13-6 victory.

It was a bizarre game in South Bend that featured eight turnovers, including six of them by the losing team. Here's a quick look at how it went down.

It was over when: Tommy Rees found Tyler Eifert for a 38-yard gain on third-and-4 from the Notre Dame 31 with less than two-and-a-half minutes remaining. That play, coming against one-on-one coverage, allowed the Irish to run out the clock and keep Robinson from pulling off another miracle. It was Eifert's only catch of the game.

Game ball goes to: The Notre Dame defense. For the past two years, they were absolutely terrorized and traumatized by Robinson. This time, the Irish not only held Michigan out of the end zone, they forced Robinson to turn it over five times (four interceptions, one fumble). He had 228 total yards, and his longest run was only 20 yards. It was like a photo negative of Robinson's previous two performances in this series. The front seven got great pressure and stayed in its lanes, while Manti Te'o played an enormous game with two interceptions and two hurries that led to turnovers. That's why the Irish erased their nightmares from years past.

Stat of the game: Michigan had 299 total yards to only 239 for Notre Dame. But the minus-four in turnovers was too much to overcome.

How the game was won: Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly made the best move of the game when he lifted Everett Golson for Rees in the first half. Golson looked too skittish for this stage and had two bad interceptions. Rees settled down the offense and while he threw for only 115 yards, he was the only quarterback in the game who took care of the ball.

Second guessing: Michigan was driving the ball well in the first quarter and had the ball on the Notre Dame 10-yard line when offensive coordinator Al Borges got a little too tricky. He called for a halfback pass from the diminutive Vincent Smith, who jumped in the air with Te'o barreling down on him and lobbed an easy interception in the end zone. The Wolverines could have used the momentum early and ended up really needing the points.

What Notre Dame learned: While this one wasn't pretty, the Irish could hardly have asked for a better start to this season. Its defense is playing at a championship level -- to hold Michigan and Robinson to six points is an outstanding achievement. There are still questions for this team, and Kelly will have to answer even more quarterback controversy questions this week, but this is the toughest Irish team we've seen in a while.

What Michigan learned: The Wolverines still aren't ready for prime time. They got blown out in the opener against Alabama and then were ridiculously sloppy with the ball in this one. While Michigan had by far its best defensive performance to date and can build on that, Robinson is still making too many mistakes in the passing game. There's really no reason for the Wolverines to be ranked in the top 25 right now, but Michigan still will be a factor in the weakened Big Ten, which went 0-3 against Notre Dame.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- If it was possible, Michigan actually has put together a worse half than it did in either half against Alabama. The Wolverines trail 10-0 and have been inept on offense.

Here's some analysis of what happened.

Stat of the half: 7, as in the amount of interceptions thrown by both teams in a half. Denard Robinson was responsible for four of them with two thrown almost directly at defenders and the third a combination of a rough route run by Devin Gardner and a slight Robinson overthrow. His fourth was on a Hail Mary. Vincent Smith had one on a halfback pass. Notre Dame’s Everett Golson added two of his own before being pulled. Michigan's last five passes of the half were all interceptions.

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Notre Dame and Michigan will meet again under the lights in 2012, this time at Notre Dame Stadium. Of the Irish's eight home night games, three have come against Michigan, with the Irish winning all three. Notre Dame's first-ever home night game was a 23-17 win over Michigan to open the 1982 season.

Conversely, Michigan's only home night game came last season against Notre Dame, a thrilling 35-31 win before a college football-record 114,804 fans. It will be tough to top that event, but these two squads will try Sept. 22. Notre Dame blogger Matt Fortuna and WolverineNation's Michael Rothstein look at the next step in this rivalry.

Matt Fortuna: Give Notre Dame fans credit. Everything about the Irish's home night game against USC last year -- the school's first in 21 years -- was well-executed, sans the final score (31-17 Trojans) and the choice of music (I still cringe every time I hear "Crazy Train"). Ergo, the school gets to do it again, this time against a rival that has won three straight thrillers in the series. We don't know who will be under center for the Irish this September, but we do know Denard Robinson is back for Michigan, meaning the potential for another wild ending will be there. Robinson has been Notre Dame's worst nightmare the last two seasons, passing for 632 yards and rushing for 366 more, helping the Wolverines eke out four-point wins in consecutive years. This time he will likely face stud sophomore ends Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt, who, controversially, were not used during last season's contest. Last year this game served as a springboard toward a BCS-season for Michigan under first-year coach Brady Hoke, while the Irish saw their postseason hopes all but vanish with an 0-2 start. What's all this mean for this fall? We can't know for sure, but every time we think this rivalry can't outdo itself, it does just that.Throw in Robinson's final game against the Irish -- under the lights, at that -- and the stage is set for what should be another remarkable finish. No matter the score, just make sure you don't turn the TV off after the third quarter.

Michael Rothstein: What this move signifies to me is that the Notre Dame-Michigan series -- forever a daytime deal -- could be moving to prime time more often. It wouldn't stun me to see this game be at night more years than not now that both Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon and Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick are committing to bringing night games to two of the most storied venues in college football. Michigan was pleased all around with its night-game experience -- although some fans loathe the Pop Evil "In the Big House" anthem that debuted this year -- and will do it again. It'll be Robinson's finale against the Irish, but for the first time in a while, this won't be the first marquee game on the Michigan schedule thanks to the season-opener against Alabama. So more will be known about the Wolverines going into this game than in most years. That could be critical when it comes to scouting Michigan and its new-look defensive and offensive lines (new starters in a bunch of spots there). As far as the rivalry goes, this year has the potential to be another good one and could solidify a Heisman Trophy candidacy for Robinson or Michigan running back Fitzgerald Toussaint or, if he has a dominant defensive performance, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o. One thing I do know -- I won't be writing much that night until the game's final seconds.


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