Quick story before we get going, I first learned of how obsessed Brendo is with ND in 2009. We went up to Ann Arbor for the Michigan/ND game and Michigan won on Tate's (or Chode as Brendo likes to call him) last second throw. After the game Brendo was beyond livid. I feared that he was going to tear the bar to pieces. Luckily he left without doing anything but that was my first experience with how much he loves Notre Dame. I am sure all of you have similar stories of your own. I have nothing but respect for Brendo's passion and knowledge, which is why I was so excited when he started this blog. Enough with the pleasantries though, let us start the party...
Just to be clear, the rivalry with Ohio State is the most important one that we have. Not to get all Hoke on you but it is the most important game on the schedule. It is the foundation not only our program but the Big Ten as well. (It looks like we are headed back that way with PSU going away and Wisconsin falling apart.) I don't bring this up to be negative; I just want to make everyone to understand. (I have a problem. I think about Ohio as much as I do Michigan. They drive me insane.) Since we aren't your biggest rival I assume this doesn't offend anyone.
Notre Dame and Michigan State are our other two other rivals and it there is a split amongst Michigan fans over which rival is second on their hate list. That split is pretty simple, Michigan fans from Michigan hate Sparty more and those from out of state hate Notre Dame more. For example, I am from Pittsburgh and I knew no one growing up who rooted or went to MSU and I knew plenty of Domers for the simple fact that ND is national brand.
It wasn't until I got to Michigan did I find out how heated the rivalry is in the state with MSU. Split households and longtime friends argued around me and I just sat there wondering what the hell they were arguing about.
I always have looked at Notre Dame as our second biggest rival not only because I knew ND fans but because ND broke my heart so many times growing up. '93, '98, '02, '04 and '05 losses all still sting. '04 was the first loss I experienced as a freshman at U of M and I still remember being furious in my dorm room with my buddies. The '05 game was the first time I saw Michigan lose in person for the first time in a decade. I am sure these are some of your favorite memories.
It will be interesting to see how ND's merger with the ACC will affect the rivalry. If we start to rotate each other off the schedule it might move MSU up to number two on every Wolverine fan's list. Who knows though, the rivalry has survived with many hiatuses before.
The actual game
Advantage Irish: ND O Line vs Michigan Front Seven:
Michigan clearly misses D lineman Mike Marting and Ryan Van Bergen. So far their replacements have struggles versus Alabama and Air Force. (Don’t schedule Bama btw, not fun.) The ND O line is a veteran group and did a good job last week versus a stout MSU D. If ND controls the line of scrimmage and runs for 200+ yards you guys will be in good shape. Michigan must make Golson throw to win. We should find out pretty quickly in the game who has the edge here. (Work your magic Mattison.)
Advantage Wolverines: Denard vs ND Secondary (and Your Psyche):
ND’s front seven on defense is legit. Everyone saw this last week. Your secondary though is injured and lacks depth. Now, no one will confuse Denard with Tom Brady but the Michigan passing game is starting to show life with Gardner, Gallon and frosh TE Funchess. (The Funchize) The other factor is whether or not Denard is in your heads after the last two years. (This and this were nice. Real nice.) Will he continue to give you fits or will he get shut down like the first three quarters like last year? My main point is how comfortable will you feel if he has the ball in his hands with three minutes to go down by 3 points?
What do I expect to happen? If this series has taught me anything is to just buckle your seat belt and get ready from some craziness. I think ND has the lead in the 4th quarter and Denard breaks your heart one more time. Michigan 27-24. (What, did you think I was going to pick ND?) Have fun on Saturday everyone. Share you comments!