Players to watch: Notre Dame vs. Michigan

Carter Karels
South Bend Tribune

A look at a few players to watch in Saturday’s game (7:30 p.m. EDT on ABC) between No. 8 Notre Dame (5-1) and No. 19 Michigan (5-2) at Michigan Stadium.

QB IAN BOOK, Notre Dame

Taking chances may be necessary for Book and the Irish offense to advance the football. Chunk plays have been the key ingredient to exploiting Michigan’s defense. The Wolverine defensive backs mostly operate in man-to-man coverage while the front seven stays aggressive through linebacker blitzes and defensive line stunts. Book must respond by fitting the ball through small windows and making plays downfield. That will require the senior to keep his composure in the pocket and deliver timely throws against the nation’s No. 14 defense in total yards allowed.


How much Crawford plays remains to be seen, though the Irish plan to at least involve the graduate senior in some high-leverage situations. He will make his first return since suffering a dislocated elbow against Virginia. The field cornerback opposite of Troy Pride Jr. could have his hands full. Michigan wide receivers Ronnie Bell, Nico Collins, Tarik Black and Donovon Peoples-Jones are all threats to break loose. Sophomore TaRiq Bracy has played in every game this season and will at least share time with Crawford and senior Donte Vaughn. But Crawford’s health status and level of participation could be a factor.


How Bell responds after last week’s 28-21 loss at Penn State may determine the trajectory of Michigan’s offense. The sophomore dropped a catchable pass on fourth-and-goal at the three-yard line with just over two minutes remaining and down a touchdown. The Nittany Lions then ran out the clock. Bell has established himself as Michigan’s leader in catches (24) and receiving yards (432). The Wolverine offense also finally found a rhythm and nearly came back from a 21-0 first-half deficit. Look to see an inspired Bell that could exploit Crawford’s side of the field.


The lack of action on Hill’s side of the field explains his underwhelming tackling totals. He ranks No. 15 on the team with 11 tackles this season. The Associated Press named Hill to its third-team All-America list last year after he recorded 14 tackles. The 5-foot-11, 182-pound senior and three-year starter will look to continue to shut down his side, especially when matched up with top Irish receiver Chase Claypool. If Hill eliminates the big-play threat of Claypool, Book and the Notre Dame offense could struggle to move the ball.

Wide receiver Ronnie Bell leads Michigan in catches (32) and receiving yards (432) this season.
Notre Dame graduate senior cornerback Shaun Crawford is expected to return from an elbow injury against Michigan this Saturday.