College football fans looking for a top-caliber game to invest their time in Saturday can't lose by watching No. 1 USC at No. 14 Nebraska. The same probably can't be said of this season's edition of Michigan-Notre Dame.
By Sunday, either the Wolverines or the Fighting Irish will be 0-3. Michigan coach Lloyd Carr's job security seems shaky at best. Notre Dame hasn't scored an offensive touchdown in eight quarters.
Amid the sourness is the spice Michigan running back Mike Hart tried to sprinkle on this weekend's game: He guaranteed a Wolverines victory in Ann Arbor.
"This team's going to be ready to go, there's no doubt in my mind. I'm not going to lose. We're not going to lose," Hart said Saturday, according to the Detroit Free Press. "It is what it is. Obviously, I talk. I talk a lot, everyone knows that. I mean what I say. It came out in there because I feel like we're being doubted. I feel like it's something we need."
That left Carr on the spot just a day after his Wolverines, who were upset by Appalachian State in their season opener, suffered their most-lopsided defeat in 39 years, 39-7 to Oregon, also at home.
"I'm not surprised by anything Mike Hart says," Carr said, according to the Free Press. "Do I like it? He said it, and he's got to back it up. We've got to back him up right now, I guess. What do you want him to say? We're not gonna win?
"That certainly will give Notre Dame some ammunition. But, hey, it doesn't matter what's said. It's really what happens when the ball is teed up. So we'll see."
The Irish have been outscored by 51 points in losses to Georgia Tech (33-3) and Penn State (31-10), their lone touchdown at Happy Valley coming on a 73-yard interception return by Darrin Walls for the game's first score.
Hearing Hart's pledge, a chagrined Charlie Weis said on Sunday, "If I watched the [Notre Dame] games the last two weeks, I might have made the guarantee myself."
Carr's Wolverines have opened a season with two straight losses at home for the first time since 1959 and have dropped four straight, dating to last season, for the first time in four decades. The 32-point loss to Oregon was Michigan's worst since losing 50-14 at Ohio State in 1968, the season before Bo Schembechler's debut in Ann Arbor.
By the second loss, discussion over whether Carr could hold on to his job through the season began to swell. Les Miles, who coaches second-ranked LSU and played for and coached under Schembechler at Michigan, has been labeled as a potential successor.
"You know what? I've got to be real honest with you. I have not given a lot of thought to it because frankly it's something that's not eminent," Miles said, according to the Lafayette, La., Daily Advertiser. "I want to look at this football team, and if anything that I did in talking about or thinking about that took me away from this football team, it'd be unfair to them. So I really don't want to talk about it. I don't like that talk.
"I can only tell you honestly that I'm not going to give any thought to it. I'm not going to worry about it. I've received no calls because I've put the word out, 'Leave me alone.' "
Adding to Carr's challenges is the absence of senior quarterback Chad Henne, who did not play in the second half against Oregon because of a lower leg injury and will not be available against the Irish. Henne's status is considered week to week.
Still, Carr remains upbeat despite a season that has lost all national championship appeal.
"I'm doing great," Carr said Saturday. "I've got great kids here. And you don't know me. But those who do know me, friend and foe, I think would agree that I'm a tough-minded competitive guy. And there isn't anything that comes my way that I can't handle, professionally. And there is nothing, there is nothing, that can keep me down. Not a loss to Appalachian State, not a loss to Oregon. Not a hundred losses. And not the loss of my job. And I think the same thing can be said for our team here, and the guys that play football at Michigan."