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Michigan Football: Gardner Must Protect The Ball vs Notre Dame

Michigan plays Notre Dame this Saturday night in a rivalry game, between two schools that aren’t rivals, according to Brian Kelly.  Michigan has a very good shot at beating the Irish.  They’re at home (where Notre Dame have not beaten them since 2005), are coming off an opener where they thoroughly dominated Central Michigan in every aspect of the game and are facing Tommy Rees, a quarterback who I just cannot take seriously.  As a result, Michigan are -3.5 point favorites.  But what could spoil the Wolverines’ night?

The answer to that question comes straight out of the first half of Michigan’s opener.  That is where, in the first 20 minutes of the game, Devin Gardner threw two picks.  Now obviously these interceptions were not very significant, at least in the sense that they had very little impact on the outcome.  Michigan still won by 50 points and Gardner had an impressive stat-line despite the picks (10-15, 162 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs and 7 rushes for 52 yards and 2 more rushing TDs).  So, Michigan was good and won easily and Gardner played well besides the picks.  One could easily say that Gardner was just getting some early jitters out of his stomach and it’s better to throw meaningless picks against a cupcake season opening opponent. And that is probably very true.

But I guarantee you this: if Gardner throws multiple picks against ND next week, Michigan will find it nearly impossible to win.

That’s really not that bold of a statement, as very few teams win when their QB gives the ball away twice.   At the same time though, Michigan fans have to be a little concerned abut Gardner.  He is an incredibly gifted QB, who also really seems to get it mentally.  he wants to be a great quarterback for Michigan (one glance at his twitter account will confirm this), but also has had a problem of giving the football away.  He has thrown an interception in every one of his 6 career starts at Michigan, with 7 picks over 6 games.  That’s not a terrible number for Gardner, but it certainly isn’t optimal.

So, while his turnovers didn’t impact the outcome of the Central game, they would against Notre Dame.  Centrawl Michigan defenders were able to take advantage of Gardner’s mistakes last week, but the Irish will be trying to force him into mistakes.  There is much less margin for error against a team as talented as the Irish, just look at last year’s turnover fest.

Michigan fans should be hoping that Gardner’s two pick last week were an aberattion, and that he protects the ball much better against ND Saturday.  They could and probably should win, but Gardner being lax against the Irish could open the door for a second straight loss to the Irish.

 

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