No. 19 Michigan just put together its best win of the season, dominating from start to finish in a 45-14 victory over No. 9 Notre Dame in the Big House. The victory was Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh's second against a top 10 opponent during his time in Ann Arbor, Michigan, while Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly falls to 4-12 against ranked opponents in true road games.
A heavy rain throughout the first half put severe limitations on what either offense could do with their passing attack, but Michigan established a 17-0 first half lead behind total domination at the line of scrimmage on both side of the ball. Notre Dame had its hands full trying to bring down the dynamic duo of running backs Hassan Haskins (20 carries, 149 yards) and Zach Charbonnet (15 carries, 74 yards, two touchdowns). When the Irish did force Shea Patterson into third-and-long situations, he was able to come up with enough key throws or scramble for first downs.
The game first turned when a Notre Dame fumble set up Michigan in scoring position, though the Irish did a good job of holding the Wolverines to a field goal. Then when Michigan got the ball back, it did not even attempt to throw it through the heavy rain, running on all eight plays of a touchdown drive that gave the Wolverines a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Notre Dame can blame the conditions, but Michigan had to play in the conditions, too, and found ways to be successful. This is the most disappointing performance of the season so far for the Irish, and for it to come against a rival after having the off week to prepare for the game doubles the hurt for Notre Dame fans.
Here's three things to know about Michigan's big win.
1. Harbaugh just doubled his number of top-10 wins: The Wolverines are now 2-10 against top-10 teams under Harbaugh, and that's not insignificant considering the context of Saturday night's win. Harbaugh was the subject of coaching rumor mill chatter, and the conversation of a supposed "exit strategy" had enough reach for him to send a letter to parents calling the claims "total crap." To follow that week with a win against a top-10 opponent both calms any consternation in the moment and adds a signature win for fans during a season where the Big Ten -- and beating Ohio State -- appear to be out of reach yet again.
Harbaugh's teams have been able to beat up on less-talented opponents throughout his tenure, but punching up has not been where his program has had great success. The rain indeed played a huge role, but to have Michigan better prepared to deal with the elements suggests the coaching staff and the locker room are not being shaken by what Harbaugh has described as "enemies"
2. Michigan's offensive line and running game might be peaking: It's been suggested by astute listeners of the Cover 3 Podcast that Michigan's offensive transition was bound to have some growing pains, and expecting everything to click in early September might have ignored the challenges inherent in making dramatic changes with a mostly experienced unit. Something seemed to click in the second half of the Penn State loss, though, and we saw Patterson again look comfortable running the offense and the offensive line open up running lanes for Charbonnet and Haskins. When you pair that with a Michigan defense that has been at an elite level these last couple weeks, it's a good recipe for Michigan to start racking up wins in November as its approaches that epic regular season finale against Ohio State in Ann Arbor.
3. The loss ends Notre Dame's College Football Playoff hopes: The Irish are going to be in the mix for a New Year's Six bowl, but the chances of finishing in the top four of the College Football Playoff Rankings at the end of the season after losing both at Georgia and at Michigan are slim. Notre Dame needed a split, at minimum, between these two primetime road games against quality opponents in order to have wins that might compare to other one-loss teams. With two losses, Notre Dame falls into a far less exclusive club of teams that also will likely not be in the mix for a top-four spot at the end of the season.
CBS Sports was be with you the entire way updating this story with the latest scores, highlights and analysis from Michigan vs. Notre Dame. If you are unable to view the updates below, please click here.
Thanks for stopping by.