Notre Dame Football: Big Ten Conference

Best B1G games of 2013: No. 9

January, 23, 2014
Jan 23
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We're back for another installment of our series looking at the top-10 games from the Big Ten in 2013. Remember that we're taking into account the stakes in the game, the excitement level, the quality of the performances and the atmosphere.

No game has ever had more fans in attendance than the next one on our list ...

No. 9: Michigan 41, Notre Dame 30, Sept. 7

The second-ever night game at the Big House didn't quite live up to the thriller between these two teams in 2011, but it was still a back-and-forth contest with plenty of intrigue -- and an NCAA-record crowd of 115,109.

[+] EnlargeDevin Gardner
Phil Ellsworth / ESPN ImagesDevin Gardner accounted for five total touchdowns in Notre Dame's last visit to Ann Arbor for the foreseeable future.
How it went down: A Blake Countess interception near the end of the first half set up a Michigan touchdown that gave the Wolverines a 27-13 halftime cushion.

But Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner helped the Irish get back in the game with an awful pick-six near his own goal line early in the fourth quarter, and a Kyle Brindza field goal with 9:15 left cut the score to just 34-30. Gardner responded by leading a touchdown drive -- aided by a pair of Notre Dame pass interference penalties -- that culminated with his four-yard scoring strike to Drew Dileo. Countess intercepted a Tommy Rees pass in the end zone on Notre Dame's final chance with 1:29 to go, and Michigan ran out the clock from there.

After the game ended, the "Chicken Dance" played over the Michigan Stadium loudspeakers, in reference to Brady Hoke's summer comments about the Irish chickening out of the series against the Wolverines. This was the last scheduled game between the two marquee programs in Ann Arbor. And if all that wasn't enough to put this game on our top-10 list, it also featured the priceless halftime exchange between Eminem and Brent Musburger..

Player of the game: Gardner -- who was wearing the No. 98 Tom Harmon legacy jersey for the first time -- threw for 294 yards, ran for 82 more and had five total touchdowns. Jeremy Gallon also starred with eight catches for 184 yards and three scores.

Stat of the game: Michigan's interior offensive line was a big question coming in and would be one of the team's main weaknesses going forward. But against a talented Notre Dame defensive front, the line allowed no sacks and paved the way for 166 rushing yards.

They said it: "It's an amazing feeling to wear that number," Gardner said about the No. 98 jersey. "I knew about all the great things that he did on the field, but there are all the other things he did. He played two years of basketball, he fought for his country and he was a great human being. It's an honor to know that his family felt I deserved to wear that jersey."

More best games

No. 10: Ohio State 31, Wisconsin 24

Michigan boosts schedule without Irish

December, 19, 2013
12/19/13
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Michigan didn't want the annual Notre Dame series to end. Whether the Irish chickened out or not is a matter of opinion.

What's not is that Michigan has responded by adding some beef to its non-league schedule.

The school on Thursday announced it will play Florida in the 2017 season opener at the Cowboys Classic in Arlington, Texas. Michigan will make its second appearance in the game after facing Alabama in the 2012 opener. The teams will play Sept. 2, 2017, at AT&T Stadium.

Michigan twice has played Florida in bowl games, most recently in the 2008 Capital One Bowl, Lloyd Carr's final game as Wolverines coach. Florida will venture out of the Sunshine State to play a non-conference game for the first time since 1991 (!).

"This is a great way to reach our fan base in the South and to continue to expand our recruiting efforts in the state of Texas," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said in a prepared statement. "Our goal is to have as many Michigan fans at the game as possible. Florida has been one of college football's best programs over the past 20 years, and we are excited to face the Gators in a regular season football game for the first time ever."

All good points from Hoke, especially the one about recruiting in the fertile state of Texas. Florida was a mess this past season but should once again be among the nation's elite by 2017. There are too many resources in Gainesville for the program not to be great again.

This is the type of game that can help Michigan in its quest to make the College Football Playoff, which is the program's ultimate goal, Brandon told me this spring. Then ask yourself: How often have recent wins against Notre Dame really helped Michigan? Games against Notre Dame typically have a lose-lose feel for Big Ten teams. Beat the Irish, and the national spin is that Notre Dame is down. Lose to the Irish, and you might be out of the playoff picture.

Wins against SEC teams matter more, perception wise. That's just the way it is. Michigan has given itself a chance for a big one to open the 2017 campaign.

The Wolverines' 2017 schedule is now complete, with home games against both Cincinnati and Air Force, as well as nine Big Ten contests, including home games against rivals Ohio State and Michigan State, and road tests against both Wisconsin and Penn State.

That's the type of schedule that should impress the Playoff selection committee.

Some Michigan fans undoubtedly would prefer a home-and-home against Florida, but looking at the Gators' reluctance to go anywhere for non-league games, that possibility seemed slim. Although Michigan's last trip to Jerry World didn't go well, the opportunity to play on the national stage against a marquee team is extremely valuable.

"We have a lot of work to do to regain our footing in terms of playing competition that's going to be attractive to our fans, help us build our programs and help us compete at the national level," Brandon told me in May. "I'm a big believer that we should be strengthening our schedule and working hard to go out and fill those nonconference positions with the kinds of programs that are going to excite our fans, bring a lot of attention to us as we are broadcast on television and ultimately put in a position where we're going to have better football programs."

From a local/regional perspective, the end of the Michigan-Notre Dame series is a bummer. But it opened up different doors for Michigan, and the Wolverines walked through one Thursday.

Michigan’s top ranked commitment in 2014, Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic), tweeted on Tuesday about a change of plans.

The No. 2-ranked prospect committed to the Wolverines on ESPN back in May. At the time LSU, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers were among the schools he was considering. It now seems Peppers will be reevaluating schools.

This is significant because Michigan coach Brady Hoke and his staff have a no-visit policy for their commitments. Any prospect who commits to Michigan is not allowed to take other visits.

If a prospect does take a visit to a different program then they are no longer considered a Michigan commit. That doesn’t preclude the Michigan staff from still recruiting that prospect, it just means they are no longer committed to Michigan.

Peppers is a five-star prospect and badly needed in Ann Arbor, Mich., so this proves to be a bad situation for Hoke if these visits do come to fruition. Peppers, however, did state he is still committed to the Wolverines.

"I am still 100% committed to the University of Michigan and that is the place where I want to go to college," Peppers said. "With the rumors about Coach Hoke possibly not being there I need to make sure that I have options and have seen other places in case the University of Michigan decides to go in a different direction. For the sake of my future I need to make sure I have other options. No need to look into it any further! Go Blue and beat TDS."

Peppers’ high school coach, Chris Partridge, said he had not heard anything about the potential visits from his star athlete.
Jashon Cornell (St. Paul, Minn./Cretin Derham-Hall), the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2015, has narrowed his top list. After much deliberation, Cornell has cut the list of schools in the running down to 15.

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Warning for Michigan State fans: This post might depress you, at least initially.

But hear me out. If you're a glass-half-full person, you'll see that it won't take much for the Spartans to become a Big Ten title contender this season.

It's no secret that Michigan State has been a lopsided team the past 16 games. The Spartans have had a suffocating defense and an offense that, more often than not, suffocates itself. Michigan State has averaged just 4.9 yards per play and 22.6 points per game on offense, while allowing just 4.1 yards per play and 15.5 points per game during the span.

ESPN Stats & Information this week examined how Michigan State would fare with just a mediocre offense. We're not talking Oregon or Texas A&M here.

The Stats & Info crew notes that Michigan State has forced the most three-and-outs (104) and allowed the second fewest yards per game (256.1) and yards per play in the FBS since the start of the 2012 season. The "Spartan Dawgs" rank fourth nationally in third-down conversion defense (28 percent) during the span.

Looking at this season alone, Michigan State leads the nation in yards allowed (177 ypg), surrendering 13 fewer yards than any other team. The Spartans' numbers in relation to the rest of the Big Ten are staggering: they allow an average of 87 fewer yards per game than any other Big Ten defense, including 36 fewer rush yards per game.

To be fair, MSU hasn't been challenged yet, playing three weak opponents (Western Michigan, South Florida and Youngstown State). A better gauge takes the past two seasons into account.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, since the start of the 2012 campaign, the Spartans had "more expected points added per game than any other team in the FBS. This means that the defense contributed 12.4 points per game towards its scoring margin. In their first two games this season, the defense scored two more touchdowns (4) than their offense."

BYU is No. 2 in defensive expected points added with 12.2 per game, followed by Florida State (11.7), Florida (10.6) and Rutgers (10.6).

Here's the kicker: "Based on EPA, if Michigan State had an average offense in each game they played, the Spartans would have added four more wins to their total from last season, resulting in an 11-2 record."

That's tough to swallow, but hardly surprising for a team that lost five Big Ten games by a total of 13 points last season.

The optimistic view is that marginal improvement on offense could lead to a very different type of season for Mark Dantonio's crew. Michigan State doesn't need to win shootouts. It just needs to reach the end zone a few times a game and let the defense do the rest.

Few expect the Spartans to replace last week's offensive renaissance against Youngstown State on Saturday at Notre Dame. But a solid performance might be enough to knock off the Irish.

Michigan State then enters a favorable schedule stretch -- open week, at Iowa, Indiana, Purdue, at Illinois -- before a challenging November.

"Last week I saw our offense play excited," Dantonio said Tuesday. "I saw us execute and have some big plays, which was good for our football team. Hopefully, we caught fire a little bit. It's important that we continue in that vein."

It won't take much on offense for the Spartans to have a potentially special 2013.
Backup quarterbacks are always the most popular guys on campus. They offer the potential of the unknown, a possible cure for all the things nagging fans about their team's offense.

And then they get their shot to play, and that popularity quickly vanishes.

At least that's the way it usually goes. But as Indiana and Michigan State get ready for their biggest nonconference games of the year on Saturday, they will be led by two guys who began the season as second man in at quarterback.

[+] EnlargeConnor Cook
AP Photo/Al GoldisConnor Cook has given the Michigan State passing game and offense a spark heading into Saturday's game at Notre Dame.
Michigan State's quarterback carousel seemed to be spinning out of control this time a week ago, when Mark Dantonio once again opened up the competition. But at long last, the position may be settled after sophomore Connor Cook threw for 202 yards and four touchdown passes in a 55-17 win over Youngstown State. Sure, it was an FCS opponent, but consider that the Spartans had only four touchdown passes in their five previous games combined dating back to last year.

"It was fun to see a bunch of different guys make plays," Cook told ESPN.com. "Everybody was having a good time, and guys were feeding off each other. I'm glad we finally got the rock rolling."

Michigan State has a long way to go before its passing game ranks among the top half of the Big Ten. But Cook brings a little more swagger to the offense. At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, he's been described as a gunslinger for his fearlessness in making throws into tight spaces, and he can make more plays on the move than former starter Andrew Maxwell.

"If you lack confidence, something's wrong with you as a quarterback," Cook said. "You've always got to believe in yourself and your ability to go out there and make plays."

Cook will need that confidence this week as the 3-0 Spartans play at Notre Dame. Dantonio says it's a huge moment for Cook in making his first road start in a difficult environment, one that should prepare him well for Big Ten play down the road.

"Connor Cook is always a guy that moves forward," Dantonio said. "He's not going to back down from a challenge. He's pretty light in terms of how he approaches things. He's going to do the best he can and have fun with it. I think that's good right now for his mindset as he goes into his first big away game."

Indiana will play at home for the fourth straight week but will take on its first AQ team when 2-0 Missouri comes to Bloomington. Nate Sudfeld should make just his second career start for the Hoosiers, though it seems like he's been starting a lot longer.
The sophomore played often last year as Cameron Coffman's backup, and he logged far more time than starter Tre Roberson in Indiana's first two games. But Sudfeld didn't get his first start until last week against Bowling Green.

[+] EnlargeNate Sudfeld
Pat Lovell/USA TODAY SportsNate Sudfeld has thrown for over 300 yards in his last two games and seems to have taken control of the Indiana QB situation.
"He had always come off the bench and always been a guy who played well after maybe seeing some things," coach Kevin Wilson said. "But I thought that after the way he played in the previous game against Navy, he deserved to go in there first."

Wilson has approached his delicate quarterback situation carefully. He had a three-way preseason competition between Sudfeld, Coffman -- who threw for 2,700 yards last year -- and Roberson, who was the starter before he broke his leg early last year. Sudfeld and Roberson are both sophomores, and Wilson likely doesn't want Roberson -- an important recruit for the program out of Indianapolis and a big-time athlete -- to get frustrated and consider transferring. He insists that all three guys still play a major role on the team this season.

But it's getting harder and harder to deny that Sudfeld is the main guy. He has thrown for over 300 yards in each of his last two games, including a 335-yard showing in last week's win. He leads all Big Ten quarterbacks in passing yards and touchdowns, and ranks seventh nationally in pass efficiency. He's also tied for first in the FBS in most completions over 20 yards, with 19 of them.

"He's been on the money on some of those deep balls," Hoosiers offensive coordinator Seth Littrell said. "He's got a great touch."

The 6-5 Sudfeld wound up at Indiana in part because of Rich Rodriguez. He originally committed to Arizona, where Littrell had been the offensive coordinator under Mike Stoops. But when Stoops and his staff got fired, the Wildcats hired Rodriguez, whose style of play did not fit Sudfeld, a prototypical pocket passer.

The Littrell connection helped get Sudfeld to IU, and the quarterback has steadily improved. Littrell credits that to Sudfeld's work ethic.

"You'll be up there watching film at night, and he'll come in and want to sit down with you and watch cutups," Littrell said. "As you're game planning, he'll be talking through some of the things he likes. He wants to be involved."

Both Cook and Sudfeld are more heavily involved in their teams' respective plans we have anticipated a few weeks ago. Throw in the success of Kenny Guiton at Ohio State, and Big Ten backup quarterbacks may never have been more popular.

Big Ten predictions: Week 4

September, 19, 2013
9/19/13
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Three weeks in and we're all square in the season standings. Get ready for a tightly contested race most of the way.

The Week 4 slate isn't nearly as appetizing as its predecessor, although there are a few sneaky good games on the docket. Big Ten play officially begins at Camp Randall Stadium and 11 league squads are in action (Illinois is off).

Let's begin …

SAN JOSE STATE at MINNESOTA

Brian Bennett: Mitch Leidner could start at quarterback for the Gophers as Philip Nelson is questionable with a hamstring injury. That's not good news against a San Jose State team led by a future NFL draft pick in David Fales. The Spartans are the best team Minnesota has played, and I say they pull off the road upset. … San Jose State 24, Minnesota 20


Adam Rittenberg: A tough one here as the Gophers haven't been tested and San Jose State's Fales could stress a secondary already down one starter (Briean Boddy-Calhoun). There's some uncertainty on offense at quarterback, but I like the fact the Gophers have a full stable of running backs. Minnesota racks up 200 rush yards and three touchdowns to survive with a win. … Minnesota 27, San Jose State 24

FLORIDA A&M at OHIO STATE

Adam Rittenberg: The scoreboard operator will be busy as Buckeyes backs Jordan Hall and Carlos Hyde combine for six touchdowns. The quarterbacks don't have to do much in this one as Ohio State rolls on to 4-0. … Ohio State 59, Florida A&M 7

Brian Bennett: This is a ludicrous matchup. Buckeyes can name their score. … Ohio State 63, Florida A&M 10


WESTERN MICHIGAN at IOWA

Brian Bennett: Oh boy. We get to watch Western Michigan take on a Big Ten team for the third time in four weeks. The first two times didn't go well for the Broncos, and Mark Weisman will add to their misery with 150 yards rushing. … Iowa 35, Western Michigan 7


Adam Rittenberg: Northwestern ran roughshod on Western Michigan and Iowa will do the same. Coach Kirk Ferentz gives Weisman a bit of a breather and spreads the ball around, as both Damon Bullock and Jordan Canzeri reach the end zone. Iowa pulls away in the third quarter. … Iowa 31, Western Michigan 10

MAINE at NORTHWESTERN

Adam Rittenberg: Expect another vanilla offensive game plan from Northwestern as the coaches save the goods for Week 6 against Ohio State. Five different Wildcats rush for touchdowns, including true freshman Warren Long, in the team's final tune-up before Big Ten play. … Northwestern 48, Maine 13

Brian Bennett: Please don't feed the Black Bears! Ibraheim Campbell makes it six games in a row with a pick as the Wildcats roll. … Northwestern 45, Maine 17


MICHIGAN STATE at NOTRE DAME

Brian Bennett: The Spartans finally have a bit of confidence and stability at quarterback, but Connor Cook still has a ways to go and this is a tough road spot. The Irish jump out early on a special-teams touchdown and manage to hold on in a defensive struggle. … Notre Dame 17, Michigan State 10


Adam Rittenberg: Michigan State's renewed offense comes in with confidence and scores early. But reality begins to set in on the road, and the Spartans stall midway through the second quarter. The defense keeps it close as always, but Notre Dame rallies late behind Tommy Rees and his receivers. … Notre Dame 19, Michigan State 16

SOUTH DAKOTA STATE at NEBRASKA

Adam Rittenberg: The Huskers rest top quarterback Taylor Martinez (toe), and backups Ron Kellogg III and Tommy Armstrong both play and combine for three pass touchdowns. Imani Cross sparks the rushing attack in the second quarter and Nebraska fans can smile a little after a brutal eight-day stretch. … Nebraska 59, South Dakota State 14

Brian Bennett: The Jackrabbits are just what Nebraska needs right now. The Huskers get off to a sluggish start without a healthy Martinez, but Randy Gregory forces a fumble for a defensive score and the running game is too much for SDSU to handle. … Nebraska 38, South Dakota State 10


KENT STATE at PENN STATE

Brian Bennett: I think the Penn State defense comes out mad after last week's performance, and Kent State has had a tough time scoring so far this season. Zach Zwinak scores twice and the defense comes up with three turnovers. … Penn State 28, Kent State 10


Adam Rittenberg: Unless Blake Bortles secretly suits up for the Golden Flashes, Penn State should be OK in this one and takes control in the second quarter. Chalk up two more touchdown passes from Christian Hackenberg to Allen Robinson, and defensive end Deion Barnes finally shows up for the Lions. … Penn State 31, Kent State 20

PURDUE at WISCONSIN

Adam Rittenberg: No officiating blunders in this one as Wisconsin starts a bit slowly before getting Melvin Gordon and the run game going in the second half. Gordon records his first 20-carry performance and racks up 180 yards and two touchdowns. Purdue jumps out to an early lead but once again struggles in the fourth quarter. … Wisconsin 34, Purdue 21

Brian Bennett: Purdue hasn't been able to stop the Wisconsin running game the past couple of years, and it's no different in this one. Gordon and James White each eclipse 100 yards and the Badgers take out some frustration on the Boilermakers. ... … Wisconsin 42, Purdue 14


MICHIGAN at CONNECTICUT

Brian Bennett: The Wolverines haven't been quite the same team on the road as they have been at home for Brady Hoke, but Rentschler Field ain't exactly the Horseshoe. UConn doesn't have enough offensive talent to do much damage, and Devin Gardner bounces back with four total touchdowns and just one turnover. … Michigan 38, Connecticut 9


Adam Rittenberg: Last week's near disaster against Akron will heighten Michigan's focus. So, too, will a road game under the lights (even if it feels more like a home game). Gardner delivers a turnover-free performance, and Fitz Toussaint has a big game on the ground (130 rush yards, 2 TDs). … Michigan 35, Connecticut 17

MISSOURI at INDIANA

Adam Rittenberg: This should be the most entertaining game of the day, as both offenses will put up points. Maybe I'm buying into Indiana too much after last week's impressive performance, but I like what I saw from the defense, which does just enough against Mizzou and records a game-ending takeaway. Expect another balanced offensive performance as Tevin Coleman rushes for two more touchdowns. … Indiana 41, Missouri 37

Brian Bennett: I expect a wild shootout where the punters can probably chill out on the sidelines. Ultimately, I don't have enough faith in the Hoosiers’ defense and think James Franklin and Henry Josey will be too much to overcome. But take heart, Indiana fans: I've been wrong on your team each of the past two weeks. … Missouri 48, Indiana 42


You've heard from us. Now it's time to see what this week's guest picker has cooked up. As a reminder, throughout the season we'll choose one fan/loyal blog reader each week to try his or her hand at outsmarting us. There's nothing but pride and some extremely limited fame at stake. If you're interested in participating, contact us here and here. Include your full name (real names, please) and hometown and a brief description why you should be that week's guest picker. Please also include "GUEST PICKS" in all caps somewhere in your email so we can find it easily.

We felt a little sorry for this guy after what happened last week in Tempe, Ariz. Garret Olsen from Madison, Wis., the floor is yours:
I am a born-and-raised Wisconsin fan and 2010 University of Wisconsin Grad in complete shock this week. I'm in need of a win. I attended my first Badger football game with my grandparents when I was 5 years old and have attended many more Badger games over the years with them. I never missed a home game during my time as an undergrad and traveled to many of the B1G stadiums and followed the Badgers to Indy and Pasadena. Each week my former Mifflin Street college roommate and I have a friendly pick-off between us and I can proudly report that I have beaten him the last two years. The blog is a daily read for me and I would be honored to pick alongside you and Adam and I promise not to botch any last-second pick situations.

Here are Garret's Week 4 selections:

San Jose State 35, Minnesota 34
Ohio State 45, Florida A&M 7
Iowa 28, Western Michigan 14
Northwestern 55, Maine 10
Notre Dame 17, Michigan State 10
Nebraska 42, South Dakota State 21
Penn State 33, Kent State 24
Wisconsin 49, Purdue 17
Michigan 34, Connecticut 13
Missouri 42, Indiana 38

SEASON RECORDS

Adam Rittenberg: 31-5
Brian Bennett: 31-5
Guest pickers: 27-9

Big Ten predictions: Week 3

September, 12, 2013
9/12/13
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After two relatively easy weeks of picking games, the challenge gets much tougher with a delicious slate of Week 3 games. Last week, our picks mirrored one another. There will be some disagreements this time around.

Let's dive in ...

BOWLING GREEN at INDIANA

Brian Bennett: Bowling Green has looked terrific in its first two games, while Indiana's defense was all but absent last week versus Navy. Different styles, but I think the Falcons seize on the Hoosiers' weaknesses. They kick a field goal late for my not-very-special upset special. ... Bowling Green 37, Indiana 34

Adam Rittenberg: I had Indiana beating Navy and losing this game entering the season, so naturally, I'm picking the Hoosiers to win after falling to Navy. The defense bounces back a little against a more conventional offense, and Nate Sudfeld consistently attacks downfield to Kofi Hughes and Shane Wynn. Sudfeld rallies IU in the fourth quarter and finds Ted Bolser for the game-winning touchdown. ... Indiana 38, Bowling Green 35

WESTERN ILLINOIS at MINNESOTA

Rittenberg: Can you wake me when Minnesota finally starts playing someone? Quarterback Philip Nelson adds two more rushing scores as the Gophers pull away early in the third quarter following a Ra'Shede Hageman forced fumble. Then we can look ahead to San Jose State. ... Minnesota 37, Western Illinois 17

Bennett: There's not much interesting about this game, except that we get to throw around the word "Leathernecks." It's a good week to get Mitch Leidner some experience. ... Minnesota 35, Western Illinois 13


UCLA at NEBRASKA

Bennett: I've gone back and forth on this all week, but in the end I worry that Nebraska's home-field advantage won't be enough to overcome its youth on defense. Brett Hundley amasses five total touchdowns, and the Huskers come up just short on their final drive. ... UCLA 38, Nebraska 34

Rittenberg: Nebraska's defense remains a big concern, especially against Hundley, but with no Johnathan Franklin, the early kickoff and a long trip, I expect UCLA to be a big sluggish. Martinez delivers a turnover-free performance in a big game and finds Quincy Enunwa for the game-winning touchdown pass in the final minute. ... Nebraska 35, UCLA 34

AKRON at MICHIGAN

Rittenberg: UCF's Blake Bortles abused Akron for big plays in Week 1. Devin Gardner, eat your heart out. The Gardner-Gallon connection cranks up again as Jeremy Gallon hauls in two more touchdowns. Fitzgerald Toussaint goes for 120 rush yards and a score as Michigan rolls. ... Michigan 45, Akron 17

Brian Bennett: Akron has won four games since the end of the 2009 season. Notre Dame hangover? Maybe, but it won't matter one bit. ... Michigan 48, Akron 10


YOUNGSTOWN STATE at MICHIGAN STATE

Bennett: Is Jim Tressel back coaching Youngstown State? Maybe then the Penguins would have a chance. The Spartans play Connor Cook and Damion Terry and get only two touchdown drives out of both of them. But the defense scores again. ... Michigan State 27, Youngstown State 3

Rittenberg: I'm tempted to go with the Penguins since Michigan State's offense is ice cold (be sure to tip your waitress). This will be close for three quarters, but Michigan State's Terry steps up late with a touchdown pass and a touchdown run (yes, two offensive touchdowns). Sadly, no touchdown for Bane this week. ... Michigan State 24, Youngstown State 10

IOWA at IOWA STATE

Rittenberg: Do I have to pick a winner here? Iowa took a step back last week in many ways, although the power run stepped up when the team needed a lift. This will be a sloppy game on both sides, but Mark Weisman and Damon Bullock, along with the offensive line, prove to be the difference in the fourth quarter. ... Iowa 19, Iowa State 17

Bennett: Kirk Ferentz really needs this game. Then again, so does Paul Rhoads after losing to Northern Iowa in the opener. I don't expect many fireworks, either, but the Cyclones are just a little more desperate and have the momentum in this series. They win it on an overtime field goal. ... Iowa State 16, Iowa 13

UCF at PENN STATE

Bennett: UCF is a trendy sleeper pick and has an experienced quarterback. But Penn State's defense is a major step up from Conference USA/American Athletic competition. It's close for a half, but Christian Hackenberg gets going in the third quarter with a pair of touchdown tosses to Allen Robinson, and Bill O'Brien tops George O'Leary. ... Penn State 27, UCF 17


Rittenberg: Tricky game for Bill O'Brien's crew, but I expect Penn State's defense to do enough against Blake Bortles and a talented UCF offense. UCF jumps out to an early lead, but Zach Zwinak and Akeel Lynch spark Penn State's rushing attack in the second half, each scoring a touchdown as the Lions prevail. ... Penn State 34, UCF 27

WASHINGTON vs. ILLINOIS (at Chicago)

Rittenberg: Washington is the more talented and experienced team, and a lot needs to go right for the Illini to pull off the upset. I see another fast start for Illinois against a Huskies team that struggles on the road and might be a little sleepy following a bye week. Nathan Scheelhaase throws two more touchdown passes, but Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins proves to be the difference with 120 receiving yards and a score. ... Washington 31, Illinois 21

Bennett: I'd like to pick the Illini here because it would be a great story. They certainly proved me wrong last week in a big way. I still think Washington is just a little too talented, though. Keith Price throws four touchdown passes, making him the best quarterback Soldier Field has seen in a while. (That one's for you, Adam.) ... Washington 37, Illinois 23


OHIO STATE at CALIFORNIA

Bennett: Cal played Northwestern pretty tough and then ... almost lost to Portland State? Inconsistency should be expected, I guess, with a freshman QB and a new coach. There are going to be a whole lot of big plays in this one, and I suspect Kenny Guiton will see the majority of the action. Big coming-out party for Dontre Wilson here. ... Ohio State 49, Cal 28


Rittenberg: Cal provides a nice test for Ohio State's young defense, but the presence of cornerback Bradley Roby should help hold one of the Bears' standout wide receivers (Chris Harper and Bryce Treggs) in check. Ohio State has too much at the line of scrimmage and will use its ground game of Jordan Hall, Rod Smith and Wilson to outlast the Bears. ... Ohio State 38, Cal 27

NOTRE DAME at PURDUE

Rittenberg: The Boilers have shown me nothing to suggest they can knock off a team like Notre Dame, which is pretty darn good despite last week's loss in Ann Arbor, Mich. Purdue starts strong but can't finish two early drives. The Irish then take over with their rushing attack, led by Amir Carlisle, and force two second-half takeaways. ... Notre Dame 38, Purdue 17

Bennett: Circle the wagons, Purdue. It's going to be a long couple months. ... Notre Dame 35, Purdue 7


WESTERN MICHIGAN at NORTHWESTERN

Bennett: Western Michigan just lost to Nicholls State. OK, then. Northwestern might not be quite as sharp after two big games, but it won't need to be. Kain Colter rushes for 100 yards and a pair of scores, and he and Trevor Siemian both get an early rest. ... Northwestern 38, Western Michigan 10


Rittenberg: Previous Northwestern teams might be ripe for a letdown, but not the 2013 squad. Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian deliver another strong performance, combining for five touchdowns (three pass, two rush), including two scoring passes to Christian Jones. The defense forces two more turnovers as the Wildcats cruse. ... Northwestern 41, Western Michigan 17

WISCONSIN at ARIZONA STATE

Rittenberg: I just don't like the matchup for the Badgers, even though they've been so impressive early on. Arizona State's strength (pass game) goes up against Wisconsin's weakness (secondary), and although the Badgers control the clock with their run game, the Sun Devils hit in too many big plays. Too much Taylor Kelly in this one. ... Arizona State 35, Wisconsin 28

Bennett: I think big Will Sutton will be a shock to the system to Wisconsin offensive linemen used to dealing with the UMass and Tennessee Tech lines of the world. The secondary also gets burned a few too many times. Joel Stave throws two interceptions to thwart a comeback attempt, and Big Ten teams stay thirsty in the desert. ... Arizona State 28, Wisconsin 20.


Wait, we're not done yet. It's time for our guest picker of the week. Oh, you haven't heard? Throughout the season, we'll choose one fan/loyal blog reader each week to try his or her hand at outsmarting us. There's nothing but pride and some extremely limited fame at stake. If you're interested in participating, contact us here and here. Include your full name (real names, please) and hometown and a brief description why you should be that week's guest picker. Please also include "GUEST PICKS" in all caps somewhere in your email so we can find it easily.

We found this week's picker in the desert: Adam Fraser from Gilbert, Ariz.

The floor is yours:
I'm a lifelong Husker fan living in Arizona. I'm a season-ticket holder and couldn't make it back for the UCLA game. I just started a new career at Prudential and my boss played football for UCLA. I've followed your blog for years and constantly smash your predictions. Let me put it on record at least one week, the Huskers biggest week of the year!! Thanks Adam (do it for your fellow Adam).

Other Adam's picks ...

Bowling Green 42, Indiana 40
Minnesota 30, Western Illinois 20
Nebraska 41, UCLA 37
Michigan 45, Akron 6
Michigan State 20, Youngstown State 13
Iowa 20, Iowa State 16
Penn State 24, UCF 13
Washington 31, Illinois 30
Ohio State 30, California 28
Notre Dame 38, Purdue 14
Northwestern 48, Western Michigan 10
Arizona State 34, Wisconsin 20

SEASON RECORDS


Brian Bennett: 22-2
Adam Rittenberg: 21-3
Guest pickers: 18-6


ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- If there’s anything this game has taught us recently it’s that it’s not over until the clock reads zeros. No. 17 Michigan held a 14-point advantage over No. 14 Notre Dame heading in to the fourth quarter but fate wouldn’t let that stand. How could it when the Wolverines would need to one-up the fourth quarter from two years ago under the lights?

But even with some really poor decisions and a few clutch plays made on offense and defense, Michigan was able to pull off the win over Notre Dame, 41-30. The victory keeps Michigan coach Brady Hoke undefeated in Michigan Stadium in his third year at the helm of the Wolverines.

It was over when: In most instances, an 11-point lead with less than five minutes remaining would feel pretty safe. But nothing really felt safe for the Wolverines -- especially against this Notre Dame team -- until Blake Countess intercepted a tipped pass in the end zone with 1:29 remaining in the game.

Game ball goes to: Jeremy Gallon. The wide receiver made catch after catch that he was seemingly too short or too covered to make. His three touchdowns on eight receptions, however, led the Wolverines, and his 184 yards were a career high. With quarterback Devin Gardner at the helm of this Michigan offense, it is allowing playmakers like Gallon to really come in to their own, and the senior's performance against the Irish showed just that.

Stat of the game: Louis Nix III recorded just four tackles and two of them (including the one for a loss) came when the game was already out of hand. Not once did Notre Dame’s stud defensive lineman -- who was going up against three interior offensive linemen from Michigan who all saw their first starts just a week ago -- get to Gardner.

Unsung hero: Fitzgerald Toussaint. Because of the nature of Gallon’s big performance, Toussaint’s 71 yards on 22 carries will largely go unnoticed. However, it is because of his ability to get short yardage and hit holes that the passing lanes were open for guys like Gallon, Drew Dileo and Devin Funchess. Offensive coordinator Al Borges has always said he wants a featured back in his offense and 22 carries is within their desired range.

Second-guessing: A safety isn’t the worst possible thing. And no, it’s not ideal either. But the only thing worse would be exactly what Gardner did -- incidentally throwing it to the other team as three Irish defenders closed in on him. It was a huge dent on a game that was relatively empty of errors on the quarterback’s part. But that play completely shifted the momentum of the game and what could’ve been a small dent in the game turned this game into the dogfight that it became.

Dig of the game: Michigan Stadium played “The Chicken Dance” following the win, which is a reference back to last May when Hoke said that Notre Dame was chickening out of the rivalry.

Michigan football mailbag

September, 4, 2013
9/04/13
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If you’ve been paying attention to college football over the last few seasons, Michigan’s rematch with Notre Dame under the lights this weekend is a game you’ve been waiting for. So why don’t we chat about it? You sent in your Michigan-Notre Dame questions and I answered. Here’s what we’ve got.

1. Paul, Chicago: Can Michigan’s O-line really hold up against Notre Dame’s defensive line?

A: That’s a great question. If Michigan doesn’t play well there, it doesn’t win the game. Plain and simple. Offensively, the Wolverines will have a really tough test with Notre Dame’s odd front (and front seven, but let’s just focus on the D-line for right now). On the inside, Louis Nix is going to be a challenge for the young interior offensive linemen. He’s 6-foot-3, 340 pounds, meaning the prospect of him outmuscling and overpowering center Jack Miller (6-foot-4, 290 pounds) isn’t completely out of the question. And defensive end Stephon Tuitt is going to be a challenge too, though one I think Taylor Lewan can handle.

2. Christian Sack via Twitter: Derrick Green arguably was one of the better RB's yesterday, will he share carries with Fitz Toussaint vs. ND?

A: I think we will. Offensive coordinator Al Borges still wants to have a featured back but he said Tuesday that from game to game we might see different looks. I think it’s smart to use both of them if both can be effective. I think as Green gets his sea legs we’ll still see more of Toussaint, but I don’t think it’s out of the question that we’ll see a fair amount of both.

3. Timothy, New York: Does Michigan have enough weapons in the passing game beyond Jeremy Gallon and Devin Funchess? Or is that all the Wolverines will need against Notre Dame?

A: I believe those will be the two biggest targets we see this season. However, Joe Reynolds proved himself effective on Saturday so I wouldn’t count him out for a reception or two a game, especially as Michigan works to get the ball in the air more. And Drew Dileo is a name that will always pop up. But if you have to pick just two guys who will be the big targets against Notre Dame, I would think it’s those two. They create mismatches (for different reasons) and the Wolverines will look for every way to exploit those.

4. Mark, Fowlerville: Why was Drake Johnson being used on special teams? Why would you have the No. 2 RB on special teams?

A: There are several coaches who look at special teams as the third tier of importance, however Brady Hoke doesn’t necessarily look at it that way. He has been very vocal about how there are three equally important parts of the team and he has offered scholarships to special teams players. Last season Blake Countess was also injured on special teams during the Alabama game, but I feel like both were injuries that could’ve happened in any aspect of the game. Now, Michigan has more depth at running back this season than it did at cornerback last season, if there’s any kind of silver lining here. However, it will be interesting to see if Hoke’s take on special teams changes at all going into the rest of the season.

Michigan-Notre Dame writers roundtable

September, 3, 2013
9/03/13
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Michigan StadiumAP Photo/Tony DingCan anything top Michigan's 35-31 win in 2011, which was the first night game in the history of Michigan Stadium?

Under the lights ... and two of college football’s oldest rivals in one of their last scheduled meetings … and College GameDay. Does it get any better than this? Only when Big Ten reporter Brian Bennett, Dame reporter Matt Fortuna and Michigan reporter Chantel Jennings get together to talk about it. Today, they discuss a few topics surrounding the highly anticipated matchup.

1. Over the past few years, this rivalry has seen its fair share of big stars excel during this game -- Denard Robinson's 502 yards in 2010, Roy Roundtree's game-winning catch in 2011, Manti Teo's defensive performance in 2012. Which player could you see having a mega game on Saturday?

Bennett: How about Jeremy Gallon? The Michigan receiver had the huge 64-yard catch that set up Roundtree's game-winner in 2011. While he wasn't as active in last year's game, that's primarily because the Wolverines were busy throwing the ball to Notre Dame. Gallon has been more effective ever since Devin Gardner started running the show, and I could see him burning the Irish secondary for some big plays.

Jennings: The heroes this game has helped create have kind of come out of nowhere in some instances. So I’m going to pick a guy who has been flying under the radar statistically, who I think has the ability to show up in big games, and that’s Michigan tight end Devin Funchess. He had a fine freshman year and a better offseason. I think we could see him be a big difference maker on Saturday.

Fortuna: If I'm Notre Dame, I'm gearing up for Gardner, since Michigan quarterback play has essentially decided these contests in one form or another in each of the past four years. From the Irish side, though, I think wide receiver DaVaris Daniels could break out. He was Notre Dame's best offensive player in the national title game loss to Alabama, hauling in six catches for 115 yards. On Saturday against Temple, the redshirt sophomore had three catches for 69 yards, including a pair of 32-yard touchdown receptions on the Irish's first two drives.

2. Which mismatch between these two teams are you most intrigued to watch?

Bennett: On paper at least, it's the Michigan interior offensive line vs. Notre Dame nose guard Louis Nix III. Center Jack Miller and guards Kyle Kalis and Graham Glasgow are talented and played well together last week, but they have very little experience. Nix, meanwhile, is a 357-pound man-mountain who helped anchor a championship-level defense last season. He commands double teams, and it will be up to Michigan's young inside guys to keep him in check so Stephon Tuitt and others can't wreak even more havoc.

[+] EnlargeTaylor Lewan
Andrew Weber/US PresswireMichigan tackle Taylor Lewan will have his hands full with Notre Dame's talented defensive line.
Jennings: Left tackle Taylor Lewan on whomever or whatever Notre Dame tries to throw at him. He’s so crucial to Michigan’s offense, and I really don’t see him not dominating any matchup this season. Lewan came back for games like this and matchups like what he’ll have against Tuitt.

Fortuna: I'll say Notre Dame's offensive line against Michigan's defensive line. The Irish have three starters back from last season, along with a very talented center in Nick Martin. One of the reasons they were able to jump out to a 17-point lead in Ann Arbor two years ago was because of their ability to run up the middle, as the Irish averaged six yards per rush on the night. Notre Dame is now in its third straight year of starting Zack Martin and Chris Watt together on the left side, and it has started using pistol packages in 2013 to tailor to the strengths of some of its young backs in hopes of establishing a downhill run game. This is far from a "mismatch," but with Michigan returning just three starters from last season's front seven, and with the teams so evenly matched across the board, I'd say this is where Notre Dame probably has the biggest edge. Conversely, I can't wait to see Tuitt and Lewan go head-to-head. Both will be a lot richer eight months from now.

3. Is there any way this game could one-up the last time these two teams met in the Big House?

Bennett: It's possible that this could be an even better overall game than the one in 2011, just not as flashy. People remember the Michigan comeback and the crazy fourth quarter, but it was a pretty lopsided affair until then. That wild finish was made possible by major defensive breakdowns on both sides, and both teams are much more sound defensively now. I believe these are two legitimate top-15 teams, so we should expect a tight game. The atmosphere won't be quite as special because it won't be the first time under the lights at the Big House. But Notre Dame-Michigan usually finds a way to amaze us.

Jennings: I was on the sideline for the final minutes of that matchup two years ago, and to call the atmosphere electric would still be selling it short. I don’t know if the Wolverines have had a game as exciting since, so I’m going to go with no. I think it’ll be a great game and the fact that it’s the last in Michigan Stadium for the foreseeable future adds a lot. But as far as the plays themselves, jam packed into that short amount of time, I just don’t see that being topped.

Fortuna: I said no to this same question two years ago and was sadly mistaken, so I'll try not to be as definitive in my answer this time around. Whether it was Denard Robinson or Tate Forcier before him, magic seems to always happen in the late moments of this game. I'll just go ahead and make the bold prediction that if Notre Dame takes the lead with 30 seconds remaining this time, its secondary will hold up and secure an Irish win. Like I said, bold.

Video: Notre Dame vs. Big Ten

September, 3, 2013
9/03/13
11:00
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Bloggers Adam Rittenberg and Matt Fortuna break down Notre Dame's upcoming matchups against Michigan (Sept. 7), Purdue (Sept. 14) and Michigan State (Sept. 21).
ESPN’s “College GameDay” crew is head to Ann Arbor for the matchup between No. 14 Notre Dame and No. 17 Michigan next Saturday.

College GameDay was in Ann Arbor two years ago when the two rivals played in the first-ever night game at Michigan Stadium. The game ended with an exciting scoring surge, capped by then-senior Roy Roundtree’s go-ahead touchdown with two seconds remaining in the game. The Wolverines escaped with the 35-31 win.

This season’s game will not only once again be at night but it will also be the final Michigan-Notre Dame matchup at the Big House, as the two schools are taking a hiatus following the 2014 match up in South Bend, Ind.

Debating future of Purdue-ND, MSU-ND

May, 10, 2013
5/10/13
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Getty ImagesThe Big Ten's nine-game conference slate and Notre Dame's ACC arrangement will make it tough for Brian Kelly's Irish to keep up rivalries with Mark Dantonio's Spartans and Darrell Hazell's Boilers.
After Notre Dame finalized its arrangement with the ACC last fall, it decided to suspend its annual series against Michigan. It begs the question: What will become of Notre Dame's other two Big Ten rivalries against Purdue and Michigan State?

All three schools have decisions to make. The Big Ten's move to a nine-game conference schedule beginning in 2016 makes it harder for Purdue and Michigan State to play Notre Dame annually in a home-road alternation. For example, Michigan State's 2017 slate includes a home game against Alabama, a road game against Notre Dame and five Big Ten road games, limiting the school to just six home dates, one below its stated minimum to meet the budget. Purdue also says it needs to play seven home games per season, and its Notre Dame home-road schedule doesn't match up with when it will play five Big Ten home games and five Big Ten road games. "We're off cycle," Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke told The (Lafayette) Journal and Courier.

Notre Dame has its own scheduling concerns with guaranteed ACC opponents every year and a desire to play a true national schedule.

Although Michigan-Notre Dame gained the most national attention in recent years, both Purdue and Michigan State have more historic rivalries with the Irish. Purdue and Notre Dame first met in 1896 have played every season since 1946. Michigan State and Notre Dame first met in 1897 and have played in all but two seasons since 1959.

What will happen to these two series? We gave our takes on the three teams.

Adam Rittenberg on Purdue

The buzz around much of the Big Ten is to cut ties with Notre Dame altogether. The Irish didn't want to be in the Big Ten. They got a deal from the ACC they'd NEVER get from the Big Ten. So why should Big Ten teams keep playing Notre Dame? While it seems easy to tell Notre Dame what it can do with that Shillelagh, it's not so simple for a program like Purdue. In fact, I think the Boilers should do whatever they can to keep the Irish on the annual schedule as often as possible.

Purdue fans might skewer me for this, but Purdue needs Notre Dame more than Notre Dame needs Purdue. Why? National attention. When Purdue plays Notre Dame, the Boilers get the national spotlight. When Notre Dame visits Ross-Ade Stadium, ABC/ESPN immediately chooses the game for prime time. When else does that happen for Purdue?

The Notre Dame game resonates for Purdue fans. It fills the stands at Ross-Ade Stadium, which has looked like a ghost town on fall Saturdays in recent years. When Purdue beats Notre Dame, people pay attention. Sure, Purdue can add some other strong non-league opponents. I liked the Oregon series from a few years back. But playing Notre Dame and beating Notre Dame has tremendous value for Purdue, its program and its recruiting efforts.

Burke says Purdue can't have six home games for budgetary reasons. Well, Michigan had six home games last year, so it can happen from time to time. I'm OK with Purdue taking a short break from Notre Dame here and there, but the Boilers would be foolish to completely cut ties with their in-state rival. This series is good for Purdue fans and good for the program. Purdue should fight to keep it going.

Brian Bennett on Michigan State

Much like with Purdue, there is a lot of history in the Megaphone series between Michigan State and Notre Dame. That includes 75 all-time meetings, the so-called Game of the Century in 1966 and, more recently, the Little Giants miracle of 2010. Only four years since 1949 have the two schools not played during the fall. It's a great series and one that should be kept if possible. Now here comes the but ...

... But the two schools are already scheduled to take two-year breaks after every four games between now and 2032, with the first two-year hiatus starting next season. So playing Notre Dame every single year is already a moot point. With the coming nine-game Big Ten conference schedule and the Spartans' agreements to play high-profile nonconference opponents like Oregon (2014 and '15) and Alabama (2016 and 2017), athletic director Mark Hollis has some tough decisions to make. Michigan State will face a very difficult road in the stacked East Division during Big Ten play as it stands. Does it make sense to play the Irish along with another strong program in the nonconference schedule? No, probably not.

The Spartans should try to work things out to where they can play Notre Dame in years when they don't have other marquee nonconference opponents while taking on those other high-profile teams during breaks with the Irish. Michigan State fans wouldn't really miss the Golden Domers that much when they're playing a team like Oregon or Alabama instead. The Spartans should strive to keep Notre Dame on the schedule frequently, but not so much that they handicap their own seasons in the process.

Matt Fortuna on Notre Dame

Much like a team in a conference, Notre Dame has eight annual games from 2014 on that will be set for the foreseeable future: USC, Stanford, Navy and five against ACC opponents. The Irish have already canceled their series with Michigan from 2015 on, leaving the status of the Michigan State and Purdue series up in the air.

Both of you make fair points: The Boilermakers, frankly, need Notre Dame more than Notre Dame needs them, and the Spartans already have quite the nonconference slate on-deck in the coming years.

Where does this leave the Irish?

Some will argue that the program gets whatever it wants, whenever it wants and, like Adam alluded to, should be left alone. But there is no denying that this program moves the needle, especially when playing Big Ten teams.

Every Notre Dame game at a Big Ten stadium since its Sept. 20, 2008, tilt at MSU has been in prime time, save for a 2009 game at Michigan ... which just began playing home night games in 2011, the only two of which were scheduled against Notre Dame.

But there is history to be saved in these series, and efforts from all sides should be made to keep these two, along with the Michigan one, going on a rotating basis. Notre Dame has played Purdue 84 times, which is the same number of times it has played rival USC (which it is keeping on the schedule for West Coast exposure) and only two fewer times than it has played Navy (which it is keeping for history).

Notre Dame's cancellation of its series with the Wolverines was a matter of necessity for the Irish, who needed to create as much scheduling flexibility as possible. The program's series with MSU already has scheduled two-year breaks for 2014-15, 2020-21 and 2026-27. And if the Purdue series does not match up with when the Boilers will play five Big Ten home games and five Big Ten road games, I'm sure smart men like Burke and Jack Swarbrick can get creative, though the onus should fall primarily on Burke.

The irony should not be lost: In keeping with a true national schedule and bringing its brand to different parts of the country, Notre Dame cannot abandon its Midwestern home.
The Big Ten's move to a nine-game conference schedule has all kinds of ramifications. One that must be figured out quickly, at both Michigan State and Purdue, is how it will affect those schools' annual rivalry with Notre Dame.

Both the Spartans and the Boilermakers really want to keep playing the Irish every year (remember, Notre Dame and Michigan will officially change their relationship status to "on a break" after this season). But there are some issues to resolve.

Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis told the Detroit Free Press that he's been in talks with Notre Dame counterpart Jack Swarbrick the past couple of weeks. Meanwhile, Purdue AD Morgan Burke told the Lafayette Journal and Courier that he plans to meet with Swarbrick soon to discuss the future of that series.

Both the Spartans and Boilermakers need seven home games each year to make their budget. When the nine-league game schedule begins in 2016, teams in the East -- that includes Michigan State -- will play five conference home games. Teams in the West -- which includes Purdue -- will play four that year and five in 2017.

Purdue is scheduled to go to Notre Dame in 2016 and other even years when it has five Big Ten road games. That means Purdue could only play six home games in those years.

"I cannot balance the budget on six home games. Can’t do it. It doesn’t work," Burke told the Journal and Courier. "That’s the cold-hearted realities of the business we run. Our business model is built on seven home games. Everybody’s. Notre Dame’s too."

Michigan State is scheduled to host Notre Dame in 2016 and go to South Bend in 2017. So can't the Spartans and Boilermakers just flip? That would seem to make sense, if all parties are on board and can work it out. But Michigan State already has a road trip at Alabama on the schedule in 2016, and playing both the Irish and Crimson Tide on the road in the same season can't sound too appealing to Mark Dantonio. Notre Dame has its own obligations, including its new five-games-per-year deal with the ACC.

Michigan State and Notre Dame are scheduled to meet through 2032 in installments of four straight games followed by two-year breaks. The 2016 game is the first of a new four consecutive game streak. The two could switch up years if 2016 can't be worked out, but Hollis is confident the teams will keep playing.

"You’ll see a high degree of cooperation," Hollis said. "We’re both interested in keeping this series intact."

Purdue, meanwhile, has played Notre Dame every year since 1946 and has a contract to do so through 2021. The Boilers put a ton of value on their annual game against the Irish.

"I don’t think either one of us is eager to lose the rivalry," Burke said. "If it turns out we have to have a short break, we’ll have a short break in order to get on the right rotation. I don’t think we’re in a situation where Notre Dame and Purdue will never play. The issue is whether we can come up with a rotation that works for both sides."

And it's just one major ramification from the new Big Ten nine-game conference schedule.

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