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  • Establishing the run at Notre Dame on Saturday could be key for Michigan and running back Karan Higdon.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • Michigan-Football-12

    Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson will be making his first start Saturday at No. 12 Notre Dame.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

1. Who will establish the run? Michigan’s offensive line is aiming to prove itself, and there’s no time better than Saturday when the Wolverines have a primetime audience against No. 12 Notre Dame. Karan Higdon and Chris Evans, who are both gearing up for big seasons, don’t want to wait until Sept. 8. The Fighting Irish return five of their front seven, including three linemen and linebacker Te’von Coney, one of the defense’s cornerstones. An underrated factor: Notre Dame defensive coordinator Mike Elko is gone.

Notre Dame’s offensive line is missing two high-end draft picks — and tailback Josh Adams is also in the NFL. The Irish had the nation’s No. 7 rushing attack last season, which should see a dip in production. Dexter Williams is the new running back and a rejiggered offensive line features new right and left tackles.

A solid run game would be a significant boost for the teams’ quarterbacks.

2. Can Shea Patterson deliver in Game 1? A lot is expected of the Ole Miss transfer. But how realistic is it that he’ll put up gaudy numbers in his first game, on the road, at night, against the nation’s 12th-ranked team? Notre Dame returns nine starters on defense. Julian Love and Troy Pride, Jr., are the Irish cornerbacks and Patterson’s chief competition. Pride, a first-year starter, will probably be the main target. With Tarik Black out, Nico Collins becomes the ‘next man up’ for UM.

3. Can Michigan win a big game? This isn’t meant to be a cheap shot at Jim Harbaugh or the Wolverines. The facts are neither have done much in games that matter. Michigan hasn’t won a road game against a ranked opponent since 2006. Harbaugh is 1-5 against his rivals. Everyone knows those numbers. The players on Michigan’s roster aren’t used to playing their best when the lights shine brightest. A win at Notre Dame would go a long way in proving doubters wrong and sparking early momentum in a season with high expectations.

Contact Kyle Rowland at [email protected], 419-724-6110 or on Twitter @KyleRowland.

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