The No. 12 ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish are set to host the No. 14 ranked Michigan Wolverines in a huge Week 1 showdown between two Top 25 teams. Kickoff is set for 7:30 EST on Saturday, September 1st at Notre Dame Stadium and will be televised nationally on NBC.

As of right now there’s not a consensus number on this game. While the majority have Michigan listed as a 1.5-point favorite, I’m seeing some books that have Michigan as low as -1 and as high as -2. The total for the matchup has been set at 48.5 points. Click here for a full list of the Week 1 odds.

NCAAF Betting Odds & Vegas Game Preview: Notre Dame vs Michigan

After back-to-back 10-3 seasons in the first two years under head coach Jim Harbaugh, the Wolverines slipped to 8-5, which included three straight losses to end the year. There’s no question that Michigan fans expect more than a mediocre 8-5 campaign, but let’s cut Harbaugh and the Wolverines some slack in 2017. All five of their losses came against teams who ended the year with at least 9 wins and were competitive in every defeat outside of a blowout loss at Penn State.

The biggest thing to keep in mind when evaluating last year’s team is the Wolverines only had 5 returning starters back from 2016. This year Michigan is absolutely loaded with 17 returning starters (8 offense, 9 defense), plus they added in Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson at quarterback. There will be no pass given if the Wolverines underachieve in 2018.

Notre Dame is coming off a solid 10-3 season, which they capped off with a 21-17 win over LSU in the Citrus Bowl. It was quite the turnaround for the Fighting Irish, who were coming off that disastrous 4-8 record in 2016. Notre Dame started out 8-1 with the only loss coming by a mere 1-point at home to Georgia. They were No. 3 in the country and position to make the playoffs before getting annihilated in a 41-8 loss at Miami and would late lose by 18-points at Stanford.

Looking ahead to 2018, expectations are sky-high in South Bend, as the Fighting Irish bring back 15 starters (6 offense, 9 defense), including talented junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush. This will be the 9th season under current head coach Brian Kelly, who has compiled a 69-34 record at Notre Dame, but is just 2-6 against Top 10 teams.

College Football Free Pick & Predictions: Michigan -1

My early lean here is on the Wolverines to go on the road and find a way to knock off the Fighting Irish. Not to take anything away from Notre Dame, who I think is without a doubt one of the Top 25 most talented teams in the country, I just like Michigan that much more.

Click on the link for more free college football picks from our experts on staff.

I know the Wolverines have struggled to win the big games since Harbaugh took over, but a lot of that had to do with the lack of talent he had to work with at the quarterback position. In his first year he had to rely on Iowa transfer Jake Rudock. In year two it was Wilson Speight and last year it was a combination of Speight, John O’Korn and Brandon Peters. I think the addition of Shea Patterson finally gives Harbuagh the talent at quarterback to not just win the Big Ten, but the national championship.

Keep in mind we saw Michigan average 40.3 ppg in 2016 with Speight at quarterback. With all of their top skill players back and a solid offensive line that will have three starters back, I have a hard time believing this won’t be the most prolific offense of the Harbaugh era in Ann Arbor.

If the offense rounds into the form most are expecting, it’s going to be extremely difficult for teams to score enough to beat this team. Michigan’s defense is absolutely loaded with NFL talent and just might be the best stop unit in the country. They have 9 starters back from a unit that only gave up 18.8 ppg and 271 ypg. Keep in mind they put up those ridiculous numbers last year with a mere 1 starter back from the previous season.

I just don’t see Notre Dame being able to generate enough offense to win this game. Wimbush is a much bigger threat to run the ball than he is to throw it. He only completed 49.5% of his pass attempts last year and will be working behind an offensive line that has to replace two 1st round draft picks. The Irish also lose leading rusher Josh Adams and his replacement, senior Dexter Williams, is suspended for the first 4 games.