Notre Dame and Michigan play on Saturday night at the Big House for what will be one of the more anticipated games of the weekend. Unfortunately, the series between the two historic programs ends after next season. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly doesn’t see the lack of games between the two schools as much of a loss.
“I really haven’t seen it as one of those historic, traditional Notre Dame rivalries,” Kelly said on a conference call Sunday, via the AP. “I’ve seen it as just one of those great football games that Notre Dame has played.
“For me, I’ve been in Michigan a long time, I’ve always felt the Notre Dame-Michigan game was a big regional game. But in the Notre Dame history books, this game has (been) played, but obviously there have been some years where it hasn’t been played for a number of years.”
Kelly is correct on that point. The schools have played 40 times since their first meeting in 1887. There was a long stretch earlier in the 20th century when the schools did not play, but they’ve met 29 times since 1978.
Obviously it’s become a big rivalry, and it’s a game many fans look forward to early in the season. The problem is that Notre Dame joined the ACC for most sports, and the deal calls for the Fighting Irish to play games against five ACC opponents, which gives them less room for other teams. They decided to ax Michigan, perhaps because the Wolverines are usually a tough opponent. The teams have gone 14-14-1 since ’78.
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Other schools that Notre Dame considers their traditional rivals are USC, Navy, Michigan State and Purdue. They have also played Stanford on a regular basis and want to keep that game on their schedule going forward.
It’s disappointing that Notre Dame will be dropping Michigan, but I guess someone had to be cut. Should we be surprised they decided to get rid of one of their toughest opponents? There’s also some irony in Kelly previously calling out Ohio State for playing an easy schedule, when his Irish are avoiding one of the tougher teams in the country.