Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  By DAVE HOGG  |  Last updated 9/2/13
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Brian Kelly might not think that Michigan-Notre Dame is a big deal. Brady Hoke and Taylor Lewan are quick to disagree. One day after the Notre Dame coach played down the rivalry -- one that the Irish are leaving as quickly as the contract allows -- it was time for Michigan to discuss their side of the issue. "This is a great week," Hoke said at his Monday press conference. "This is a historic rivalry that started in 1887, and it is always a lot of fun. "Coach Kelly said that it might not be a historic rivalry for Notre Dame, but it is for us. (ESPN's College) Gameday has been here six times for the Notre Dame, so it must have some national appeal." Not only was the 1887 matchup the first game in Notre Dame history -- Michigan had started playing in 1879 -- the Wolverines literally taught the sport to the Fighting Irish. On Nov. 22, 1887, the Michigan team traveled to South Bend and gave a group of Notre Dame students lessons in how to play the fairly new sport. After a while, the teams scrimmaged against each other, with six Michigan players playing for the Irish and six Notre Dame players switching over to the Wolverines. After all of that, the teams -- watched by a few hundred students -- played a 30-minute game, which Michigan winning easily. So, whatever Coach Kelly believes now, it's hard to argue with the fact that Michigan is as historic a rivalry as Notre Dame could possibly have. On Monday, Hoke wasn't quite willing to repeat his statement that Notre Dame was "chickening out" of the rivalry, but he wasn't backing away from them, either. "Did I say it?" he asked, referring to comments he made in May about the Irish continuing to play Michigan State and Purdue, but dropping Michigan. "Then I meant it." Saturday's game will be the second played at night at Michigan Stadium, but it will have a tough time living up to the standards set by the first -- Michigan-Notre Dame in 2011. In front of 114,804, the biggest college-football crowd since 1927, Notre Dame scored with 30 seconds to play to take a 31-28 lead, only for Denard Robinson to throw the winning touchdown passs with two seconds left. "Obviously, that was an incredible game," said Lewan, now Michigan's offensive captain. "That's one of those games that you will remember for the rest of your life. "This is one of our three big rivalry games, and I'm disappointed that it is going away." In fact, Lewan's biggest concern is keeping a young offense from getting distracted by all of the hoopla. "It's awesome that Gameday is going to be here, and there will be a lot of amazing things going on Saturday, but we need to remember that none of that is for us," he said. "That's for the fans, the media and the people watching on TV. "We just need to focus on doing the same thing we do every Saturday -- play a game of football. We can't worry about the lights or the fans or anything else. Just play football."
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