Every Thursday, Tom, Mike and Chantel will discuss three issues in and around Michigan sports. This week, they look at Notre Dame, freshman starters and the 2013 recruiting class rankings.
1.) What aspect of Notre Dame should the Wolverines be most worried about heading into this Saturday?
Tom Van Haaren: From the looks of the game Notre Dame played against Michigan State, I would say the defensive line. Spartans quarterback Andrew Maxwell looked like he was under pressure the entire game, and Michigan's offensive line has had its struggles so far this year. Michigan will need to keep the Notre Dame defensive line in check if it wants to see offensive success in South Bend.
Chantel Jennings: I second that. Michigan's offensive line is going to have to play much, much better than it has all year to give Denard Robinson the time in the pocket that he needs. Notre Dame's secondary isn't as strong as its front seven, so if the Wolverines can take advantage of that early and not allow so many blitzes from the Fighting Irish's D-line and linebackers and get the ball deep, it might provide a bit more rest for Robinson. Otherwise, Robinson can expect the same treatment Maxwell was given.
Michael Rothstein: While the obvious answer would be the front seven, I'm going with tight end Tyler Eifert. He is a matchup nightmare, as he is athletic and taller than Michigan's safeties and faster than the Wolverines' linebackers. I'll say it right now: Book Eifert for six catches, 110 yards and at least one touchdown.
2.) Michigan has played many true freshmen. Who, if any of them, will be the first to earn a starting spot during the Big Ten season?
CJ: Devin Funchess. I don’t see how Michigan can legitimately say Brandon Moore would be more productive when he returns. Funchess' non-conference production is going to make him a key during the Big Ten season. He gives the Wolverines exactly what they need at that position. Plus, he's only going to get better.
MR: Funchess essentially has locked up a starter's amount of snaps, even if he doesn't officially start a game at tight end. And while James Ross III picked up a start against UMass due to Desmond Morgan's head injury, I'd say Joe Bolden earns one first in the middle. He's already taking snaps from a fifth-year senior in Kenny Demens and is improving by the week. I'd start with him.
TV: I think you're probably seeing Funchess play himself into the starting spot despite Moore being hurt. Even when Moore comes back it's hard to argue Funchess should be replaced. He has shown off his athleticism and what makes him so valuable in this offense early on. If he can continue to progress he should continue to be the starter.
3.) If Michigan adds Laquon Treadwell and Derrick Green to its 2013 recruiting class, the Wolverines might push USC out of the No. 1 spot and grab it for themselves. But, does it really matter? Will there be any difference to this class or future classes what Michigan is ranked?
MR: It will be bragging rights, for sure, but it won't mean anything unless that class pans out on the field in college. There have been coaches who have won on signing day in both football and basketball yet couldn't turn it around during the season. Michigan doesn't seem to be in that boat, but what matters is how the staff develops them when they arrive in Ann Arbor.
TV: If Michigan lands Treadwell and Green it doesn't matter what class ranking the Wolverines end up with. Heck, if they land one of those two prospects it won't matter. The 2013 class is pretty balanced and it's filled with top prospects. Michigan has once again filled a class with guys who could help out early on in their careers. Treadwell and Green could be game-changers for them, but either way this class is exactly what Michigan needs at this stage.
CJ: Other than being able to say, "We have the No. 1 class in the country," I don't think it matters. Michigan got quality players in the 2013 class and 2014 prospects and beyond will be looking at that rather than rankings.