It’s not often that the opening game of the college football season for Brian Kelly’s Notre Dame Fighting Irish means so much. However, when the Michigan Wolverines travel to town for a primetime clash on Saturday, both teams will be hungry to prove themselves to the rest of the country.
Entering his ninth season at Notre Dame, Kelly has been a very solid coach. He has compiled an overall record of 69-34 with a 4-3 record in bowl games. Winning 67 percent of his games is no easy task, but Fighting Irish fans are yearning for more.
They want to appear in and win major bowl games consistently. Brian Kelly is on track to have enough wins to be mentioned in the same breath as Irish greats before him. For Notre Dame to officially be declared as one of the nation’s elite, a national championship must be delivered.
Similar to the position Kelly is in at Notre Dame, Jim Harbaugh is feeling the pressure to win this year now entering his fourth season as head coach of the Wolverines. After two consecutive 10-win seasons, Michigan took a step backward last year when they finished the season 8-5. There is nothing wrong with an 8-5 season at most places, but at Michigan, the expectations are very high for a program that consistently brings in top recruiting classes.
Whichever team comes out on top will have major momentum for the rest of the season. With the pressure to win now as well as the magnitude of the rivalry this year will give the winner extreme confidence in their ability to compete with the best teams in the country. For the coaches, it will somewhat alleviate the notion that they cannot win big games. Also, the players will feel confident and know that they can compete with the best athletes in the country.
I believe the starters that will benefit the most from a victory are the two quarterbacks because of the uncertainty among many about how they will perform opening weekend and throughout the season. If Brandon Wimbush is able to make plays with his arm and his legs it will further solidify that he is indeed the number one option at quarterback for Brian Kelly.
On the other hand, Shea Patterson leading the Wolverines to a victory over their longtime rival in his first start at Michigan would automatically make him the topic of many positive discussions. As the season progresses, his confidence will only grow and then the sky is the limit for the Wolverines potential in 2018.
As for my take on the game, I expect the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to come away victorious by a score of 20-10. It will be a close contest throughout, but with the game being played in South Bend, I believe the Irish will have a slight edge. Also, I believe that the experience of having played in multiple primetime games last season as well as his understanding of the playbook gives Wimbush an advantage over Michigan’s Patterson.
Patterson is a great quarterback who can hurt defenses with his arm and his legs, but his limited time being with the program certainly will not help in an environment like Notre Dame.
Feel free to leave a prediction below. Go Irish!
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