Prior to last weekend’s big game pitting the Michigan Wolverines against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, there were plenty of allegations thrown around, which oddly involved fowl of all things.
Michigan head coach Brady Hoke had accused Notre Dame of being “chicken” for backing out of the annual rivalry. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly lightly responded, saying that the Michigan game was expendable to the Irish in the national scheme of things.
What ensued was a war of words between fan bases, culiminating on ESPN’s College GameDay with plenty of humouous signs accusing the Irish of chickening out of the rivalry. On the field, though, the matter would be quickly and swiftly solved in a hurry.
Devin Gardner, Jeremy Gallon and Michigan’s offense, despite a few notable hiccups, throttled Notre Dame from start to finish, putting up 460 total yards. Defensively, the Wolverines forced two turnovers and plenty of periodic inconsistency from the Irish. When all was said and done, Michigan was the victor over Notre Dame at home once again, 41-30.
Now, thanks to Notre Dame’s, uh, scheduling manipulations, 2014 will be their last chance to respond in the rivalry. Kelly had better pull out all the stops on the field then, because nobody affiliated with the Irish will want to go out on a losing note to Michigan, no matter what the reasoning behind ending the yearly game is.
It will be a shame to lose that aspect of Notre Dame-Michigan most. In that game more often, teams enjoy responding to what the other has done in a year to year basis on the field. The best stretch of the rivalry came in the middle 1990s to the early 2000s, when the teams traded victories for a decade from 1993-2004. Notre Dame will have the chance to answer next year, but if they lose then, they’ll be stuck finishing at 0-2 against the Wolverines with no chance at redemption until their next meeting.
As far as recruiting, national perception and all the other variables Kelly and the Irish said they were walking away from the Michigan game due to, that would hurt the most for the longest period of time. Hoke would be able to walk into living rooms across Indiana and tout his winning record against Notre Dame (should it happen), not having to worry about it changing. That’s tough for perception’s sake, meaning Michigan will keep winning even if the competition between the teams is on hold.
The Irish shouldn’t fear games with Michigan more than any of their other yearly games. Instead, they should have viewed it as an additional opportunity to expand their reach. Games against Michigan in Ann Arbor are usually at night in front of a nationally televised audience. The Irish get that against the Michigan State Spartans and USC , but certainly not Purdue or UMass, who’ll they’ll play in 2015. Going from Michigan to UMass? Not exactly a dangerous leap of faith for the Irish.
Knowing that, is Notre Dame chicken? Nobody knows officially, but to Michigan, they’ll always look that way.
Laugh Of The Week: Michigan State defensive end Shilique Calhoun is making a push to single-handedly outscore his offense. After two more defensive scores against USF, Calhoun has more touchdowns than any Spartan wide receiver, and one more score than Jeremy Langford, Michigan State’s running back. Does that speak more to budding Calhoun’s talent, or the pathetic nature of Michigan State’s offense? Probably a little bit of both. Either way, Calhoun will try to maintain his lead as the Spartans’ top scorer this weekend against Youngstown State, and likely have a good chance to do so.
Local Big Ten This Week:
Akron at Michigan
Youngstown State at Michigan State
Players To Watch:
Michigan: Devin Funchess, TE. Though Gallon was the star against the Irish putting up 184 yards receiving, Michigan needs to develop other threats down the field. Funchess is coming along as an impressive tight end, but he only had three catches for 19 yards against Notre Dame. Akron coming to town presents the perfect opportunity for the Wolverine passing game to get healthy in a hurry, and Funchess can be a big difference maker for Michigan this season.
Michigan State: Macgarrett Kings Jr, WR. Someone needs to start catching the ball for the Spartan offense, and Kings had a decent start on Saturday, making some tough catches and finishing with a solid three reception, 24 yard effort. Michigan State needs to look for him more, especially if players like Aaron Burbridge, Keith Mumphery and Bennie Fowler aren’t going to be featured at all. This weekend, Kings should see plenty of passes, and given his speed, should perhaps even be used on special teams given Andre Sims had a fumble issue last week.
#12 Michigan 2-0 (0-0 Big Ten Legends)
Michigan State 2-0 (0-0 Big Ten Legends)
Max DeMara is a senior editor at The Detroit Sports Site. You can find him on Twitter @SportsGuyTheMax