Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Take Two: Wolverines, Irish under the lights
By Matt Fortuna and Michael Rothstein
Notre Dame and Michigan will meet again under the lights in 2012, this time at Notre Dame Stadium. Of the Irish's eight home night games, three have come against Michigan, with the Irish winning all three. Notre Dame's first-ever home night game was a 23-17 win over Michigan to open the 1982 season.
Conversely, Michigan's only home night game came last season against Notre Dame, a thrilling 35-31 win before a college football-record 114,804 fans. It will be tough to top that event, but these two squads will try Sept. 22. Notre Dame blogger Matt Fortuna and WolverineNation's Michael Rothstein look at the next step in this rivalry.
Matt Fortuna: Give Notre Dame fans credit. Everything about the Irish's home night game against USC last year -- the school's first in 21 years -- was well-executed, sans the final score (31-17 Trojans) and the choice of music (I still cringe every time I hear "Crazy Train"). Ergo, the school gets to do it again, this time against a rival that has won three straight thrillers in the series. We don't know who will be under center for the Irish this September, but we do know Denard Robinson is back for Michigan, meaning the potential for another wild ending will be there. Robinson has been Notre Dame's worst nightmare the last two seasons, passing for 632 yards and rushing for 366 more, helping the Wolverines eke out four-point wins in consecutive years. This time he will likely face stud sophomore ends Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt, who, controversially, were not used during last season's contest. Last year this game served as a springboard toward a BCS-season for Michigan under first-year coach Brady Hoke, while the Irish saw their postseason hopes all but vanish with an 0-2 start. What's all this mean for this fall? We can't know for sure, but every time we think this rivalry can't outdo itself, it does just that.Throw in Robinson's final game against the Irish -- under the lights, at that -- and the stage is set for what should be another remarkable finish. No matter the score, just make sure you don't turn the TV off after the third quarter.
Michael Rothstein: What this move signifies to me is that the Notre Dame-Michigan series -- forever a daytime deal -- could be moving to prime time more often. It wouldn't stun me to see this game be at night more years than not now that both Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon and Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick are committing to bringing night games to two of the most storied venues in college football. Michigan was pleased all around with its night-game experience -- although some fans loathe the Pop Evil "In the Big House" anthem that debuted this year -- and will do it again. It'll be Robinson's finale against the Irish, but for the first time in a while, this won't be the first marquee game on the Michigan schedule thanks to the season-opener against Alabama. So more will be known about the Wolverines going into this game than in most years. That could be critical when it comes to scouting Michigan and its new-look defensive and offensive lines (new starters in a bunch of spots there). As far as the rivalry goes, this year has the potential to be another good one and could solidify a Heisman Trophy candidacy for Robinson or Michigan running back Fitzgerald Toussaint or, if he has a dominant defensive performance, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o. One thing I do know -- I won't be writing much that night until the game's final seconds.