The Michigan-Notre Dame game is often decided by great players making great plays.
In 1989, it was Rocket Ismail returning two kickoffs for touchdowns. In 1990, it was Rick Mirer leading a Montana-like drive in the closing minutes. In 1991, it was "The Catch" by Desmond Howard.Unfortunately for Michigan, the Wolverines must play this year's game without their greatest player.
Running back Tyrone Wheatley, the preseason Heisman Trophy favorite, will be sidelined with a separated shoulder Saturday when the sixth-ranked Wolverines meet the No. 3 Fighting Irish at South Bend.
In Michigan's 34-26 victory over Boston College last week, sophomore Tim Biakabutuka rushed for 128 yards and one touchdown. But no one can fill the void left by Wheatley, whose personal performance has been closely tied to Michigan's success or failure.
The Wolverines are 13-1-1 when Wheatley has rushed for at least 100 yards, but only 5-3-3 when he hasn't.
Notre Dame is 1-0 with Ron Powlus as starting quarterback. After missing last season with injuries, the ballyhooed sophomore made an impressive debut last week, throwing four touchdown passes in a 42-15 win over Northwestern.
ESPN's Beano Cook has already predicted that Powlus will win two Heisman Trophies. This week, Powlus would simply settle for a win over 5-point underdog Michigan.
Northwestern held Notre Dame's normally powerful rushing attack to 161 yards by stacking as many as nine defenders on the line of scrimmage. If Michigan tries the same strategy, Powlus will pick the Wolverines apart.
Notre Dame holds a 5-1-1 edge over Michigan since 1987, although most of the games have been close. The trend will continue Saturday. . . . NOTRE DAME 28-24.
No. 1 Nebraska (minus 24) at Texas Tech: Cornhuskers No. 1 for first time since 1987 . . . NEBRASKA 35-10.
Kentucky (plus 241/2) at No. 2 Florida: Billy Curry 0-7 vs. Gators . . . FLORIDA 44-17.
No. 4 Florida St. (minus 33) at Maryland: Terps were blown out by Duke . . . FLORIDA ST. 61-7.
No. 5 Miami (minus 111/2) at Arizona St.: Hurricanes 0-3 at Sun Devil Stadium . . . MIAMI 24-10.
No. 14 Southern Cal (plus 51/2) at No. 8 Penn St.: Lions won 21-10 thriller last year at Beaver Stadium . . . PENN ST. 28-21.
New Mexico St. (plus 37) at No. 9 Arizona: Aggies haven't beaten Wildcats since 1938 . . . ARIZONA 42-0.
Eastern Michigan (plus 37) at No. 10 Wisconsin: Badgers return 15 starters from Rose Bowl team . . . WISCONSIN 48-0.
Vanderbilt (plus 19) at No. 11 Alabama: Tide has won nine straight over Commodores . . . ALABAMA 34-10.
Northeast Louisiana (plus 36) at No. 12 Auburn: Terry Bowden still perfect in I-A . . . AUBURN 41-7.
SMU (plus 24) at No. 13 UCLA: First meeting since 1947 . . . UCLA 45-14.
No. 15 Oklahoma (plus 2) at No. 16 Texas A&M: Sooners handed Aggies only regular-season loss in '93 . . .OKLAHOMA 27-24.
No. 18 Ohio St. (plus 4) at No. 25 Washington: Huskies rebound from loss to Southern Cal . . . WASHINGTON 28-21.
No. 19 Tennessee (even) at No. 23 Georgia: Vols off to rough start . . . GEORGIA 32-28.
Louisville (plus 101/2) at No. 20 Texas: Longhorns looked shaky against Pitt . . . LOUISVILLE 27-24.
No. 21 Virginia Tech (minus 81/2) at Southern Mississippi: Tech's DeShazo one of nation's top QBs . . . VIRGINIA TECH 24-17.
North Carolina St. (plus 6) at No. 22 Clemson: Tigers win defensive struggle . . . CLEMSON 14-7.
No. 24 Stanford (minus 131/2) at Northwestern: The Cardinal wins Brain Bowl . . . STANFORD 31-21.
Last week: 17-2 (straight); 5-11 (spread).
Season: 19-2 (straight); 7-11 (spread).