Any remote chances Notre Dame had to return to the College Football Playoff went out the window on a rain-soaked Saturday night in Ann Arbor.
The No. 8 Fighting Irish were trounced by No. 19 Michigan, 45-14, and mustered a measly 180 yards of offense in the process — 75 of which came on one garbage time drive. It was that ugly. A complete no-show.
Ian Book turned in a miserable performance, completing just eight of his 25 passes for 73 yards. The running game — 47 yards on 31 carries — was equally dreadful.
Plenty of that ineptitude can be attributed to a swarming Michigan defense, but the Irish — coming off a bye — had no juice all night. When, in the first quarter, Notre Dame somehow managed to give the ball back to Michigan despite blocking a punt (a Notre Dame tried to recover the loose ball, only for it to deflect off him and get recovered by a Michigan player), you knew it wasn’t going to be a good night for the Irish.
Michigan got on the board with a chip shot Jake Moody field goal in the first quarter before adding two Zach Charbonnet touchdown runs in the second. That 17-0 halftime deficit proved to be insurmountable for the Irish, who ended up punting 10 times and were a horrendous 3-of-15 on third down in what ended up being a complete blowout.
Now 5-2 on the year and without a potential conference championship to buttress its resume, Notre Dame will essentially play out its season for a favorable bowl trip.
What does this mean for Michigan?
Now 6-2 and 4-2 in Big Ten play, Michigan is the clear third-best team in the Big Ten East. But at least the Wolverines are improving.
The offense was underwhelming all year, but seemed to get some things going in the second half against Penn State. But Michigan fell behind 21-0 in that one, and the late flurry of offensive execution was not enough to pull off the upset in Happy Valley.
But it certainly carried over against the Irish, despite the rainy conditions. Notably, the weather sort of forced Michigan to revert back to its power-heavy, run-first offense that it employed for years under Jim Harbaugh.
The Wolverines have three very winnable games in the coming weeks: Maryland, Michigan State and Indiana. After that Ohio State will visit The Big House. If Michigan keeps playing at a high level, perhaps that game will be more competitive than we all anticipated.
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