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September 9, 2010
Both are coming off impressive season-opening victories -- Michigan with a decisive 30-10 rout of a Connecticut team expected to contend for the Big East title and Notre Dame with a 23-12 decision over Purdue in Brian Kelly's first game as Irish coach.
This week's winner likely will enter the polls next week, and the game sets up as an intriguing quarterback battle.
Michigan sophomore Denard Robinson was superb against the defense-minded Huskies, carving them up to the tune of 383 total yards; Robinson, considered more of an athlete than a true quarterback entering the season, threw for 186 yards and a touchdown and also ran for 197 yards and a score in directing coach Rich Rodriguez's version of the spread offense with aplomb.
Kelly certainly noticed Robinson's big game.
"What makes a difference is a quarterback that has real athletic ability," Kelly said in his weekly teleconference. "You're isolating a defensive end or linebacker on a quarterback that's not just a quarterback, but a great athlete."
Irish sophomore Dayne Crist, coming back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, didn't put up the same type of numbers -- 205 passing yards, with one TD, and 6 rushing yards on nine carries -- but he avoided big mistakes and looked comfortable in Kelly's version of the spread.
Both defenses were mysteries before the season, and not unexpectedly, both had some first-week issues. Potentially troubling for Michigan is that it gave up 205 passing yards against a UConn team that usually is not good throwing the ball. The Irish also were shaky against the pass, but unlike Michigan's, Purdue's offense is predicated on the pass.
If history is a guide, it should be close. Since the rivalry was renewed in 1978, 17 of the 26 meetings have been decided by eight or fewer points.
A Michigan win would seem to ensure a 4-0 start, as Massachusetts and Bowling Green are next on the schedule. Still, as last season showed, a 4-0 start that includes a win over Notre Dame doesn't mean it's going to be a good season for Michigan. After a 4-0 start last season, the Wolverines finished 5-7.
Notre Dame, meanwhile, has a front-loaded schedule. After the Wolverines comes to town, the Irish have Michigan State, Stanford, Boston College and Pittsburgh in their next four games. All four went to bowls last season.
Best matchup: Army rushing offense vs. Hawaii rushing defense. Army scares no one -- except maybe its coaches -- when it throws the ball, so the outcome of Saturday's game will depend upon how well Hawaii can handle Army's triple-option attack. USC ran for 249 yards on Hawaii last week using the I-formation. Hawaii had a ton of trouble stopping the run last season, too, ranking 107th nationally in rush defense (201.9 ypg). Worth noting is that Hawaii surrendered 248 yards to Navy's triple-option attack last season but still won.
Player on the spot: Temple QB Chester Stewart. Stewart, who was brutal as a passer last season, actually had some success through the air in Week 1, throwing for 200 yards against FCS power Villanova in a 31-24 win. Temple's offensive focal point is going to remain RB Bernard Pierce, but if Stewart can throw it well enough against Central Michigan in a key MAC showdown Thursday, Pierce might actually see some six-man fronts instead of the eight- and nine-man fronts he routinely saw last week. CMU has lost a lot of talent from last season, and Temple's aggressive defense should keep the Chippewas' offense somewhat under control. But Temple's chances for a win increase greatly if Stewart has a solid game.
Numbers game: San Jose State is at Wisconsin this week, a week after opening the season at Alabama. That means the Spartans have played more ranked non-conference opponents in the first two weeks of the regular season that Wisconsin has in the past eight seasons (one).
What they're saying
"He needs to get hit a little bit. It's been a long time since he's been hit. We probably should have hit him in practice. I might go hit him on the plane." -- Boise State coach Chris Petersen, on QB Kellen Moore being off on some of his throws against Virginia Tech
"I was very pleased with the outcome of the game. I like the way it went because it left us frustrated. Not everything worked out the way it was supposed to. We didn't blow them out, and it didn't make us fat and sassy." -- UTEP coach Mike Price, on his team's 31-10 victory over Arkansas-Pine Bluff
"I think it's worth it for the athletic department and [for] our young men; it's worth it to play in those types of games, those types of atmospheres. I understand the need for it. The good thing about it is that we won't have to do this as much in the future, I believe. We're on good footing, good ground." -- San Jose State coach Mike MacIntyre, on playing at Alabama and at Wisconsin in back-to-back weeks
"We also have the same financial adviser, so that probably makes us really close friends." -- Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, joking with reporters about his friendship with Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez
"You know, I get a little disturbed at some of our student body. Before the game, the guy is announcing the starting lineups and we've got the students booing your starting quarterback. ? That's not how the kid should be treated." -- UCF coach George O'Leary, during his weekly news conference, on QB Rob Calabrese
"They've been the best team, and that's what we're trying to be. We've come a long way, but we have a long way to go to reach that level." -- Temple coach Al Golden, on his team's game Thursday night with defending MAC champ Central Michigan
"It's a great opportunity for us to get to play Kentucky. That's all you can ask for -- an opportunity. Like I tell our players, every time you get an opportunity, you have to take advantage of it." -- Western Kentucky coach Willie Taggart, on this week's opponent
"I had a lot of family here to enjoy it. I was pleased that my father was able to be here. ... [He] hadn't seen me coach in several years. From that personal perspective, it was obvious fulfillment, with what I want to do with my career, but we have a lot of work to do with this program and the time it took to answer this question is about as much time as I was given to thinking about that." -- Akron coach Rob Ianello, whose first game as a college head coach was last week's loss to Syracuse
Etc.: Temple has won six in a row at home heading into Thursday night's game with Central Michigan; the longest home winning streak in Owls history is seven in 1940-41. Since joining the MAC in 2007, the Owls are 10-2 in league play at home, the best home record in the league in that span. ? Idaho is coming off a 45-0 victory over FCS member North Dakota. It was the Vandals' first shutout since 1997. ? Hawaii did not commit a turnover in its season-opening loss to USC, snapping its streak of 37 consecutive games with a turnover. ? Four FBS quarterbacks threw five TD passes last week, and three of them -- East Carolina's Dominique Davis, Houston's Case Keenum (all in the first half) and Tulsa's G.J. Kinne -- are from Conference USA. USC's Matt Barkley was the other. ? Davis' five TD passes were the most for East Carolina since Jeff Blake tossed five on Nov. 9, 1991 -- a span of 219 games. ? Nevada QB Colin Kaepernick needs 34 rushing yards to become the eighth member of the NCAA's 3,000-3,000 club (rushing and passing). The other seven: Southwestern Louisiana's Brian Mitchell (1986-89), Air Force's Beau Morgan (1994-96), Indiana's Antwaan Randle El (1998-2001), Kent State's Joshua Cribbs (2001-04), Texas' Vince Young (2003-05), Missouri's Brad Smith (2002-05) and West Virginia's Pat White (2005-08). ? Florida International, which was one of just three FBS teams not to play last weekend (Louisiana-Monroe and New Mexico State were the others), opens Saturday with a visit from Rutgers. FIU coach Mario Cristobal was an assistant at Rutgers from 2001-03. In addition, Rutgers tight end coach Phil Galiano spent the past three seasons as FIU's defensive coordinator. ? Utah State plays host to Idaho State on Saturday; it will be Utah State's first game at newly rechristened Merlin Olsen Field. Olsen, an NFL Hall of Famer, is an Aggies alum who died in March. ? Army, which plays host to Hawaii, is looking for its first 2-0 start since 1996, when it started 9-0. ? San Jose State is playing back-to-back games in the Central time zone for the first time since 1999. ? Hawaii plays at Army this week and at Colorado next week; the Warriors will spend the week between games in Las Vegas rather than flying home. ? UAB sophomore David Isabelle set a C-USA record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 214 in the Blazers' season-opening loss to Florida Atlantic. The record (194) had been set last season by former UAB QB Joe Webb. ? .When Memphis plays at East Carolina on Saturday, it will mark the first time in C-USA history that two minority head coaches have faced each other as ECU's Ruffin McNeill meets Memphis' Larry Porter. ? The Central Michigan-Temple game will match FBS' sixth- and seventh-youngest coaches; Temple's Al Golden is 41 and CMU's Dan Enos is 42. ? Eight of the past 10 games between Arkansas State and Louisiana-Lafayette have been decided by six or fewer points.
Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.