September 15, 2006
cTIje fiir.digan aiQ
Varsity ready for
tilt with Irish
By Kevin Wright
Daily Sports Editor
Former Notre Dame coach and
now ESPN analyst Lou Holtz knew
tomorrow would be a key date for
And that was back in the first week
"The Notre Dame game will be
critical for Michigan," Holtz said at
Big Ten Media Day.
When the l-ranked Wolverines
travel to South Bend for tomorrow's
3:30 p.m. game, No. 2
Notre Dame (2-0) will
Michigan (2-0) has Tomo
a chance to snap a N
series of streaks. The '. 2 No
Wolverines haven't 3:33:
won at Notre Dame e
Stadium since 1994, NB
when Wolverine kicker
Remy Hamilton hit a
goal. Michigan also has lost its last
six opening road games.
Michigan has the opportunity to
reverse the trend and show the nation
it's a different team than the 7-5 squad
from last season, which lost 17-10 to
Notre Dame at the Big House.
And the players know it.
"We want to make a statement to
show everybody that we're not the
team from last year," junior defen-
sive tackle Alan Branch said. "We're
a different team. We're the 127th
Michigan team, and we're ready to
go. We're not last year. And hope-
fully, (we'll) just come out and win."
Standing in Michigan's way is a
dynamic Notre Dame offense that
features Heisman hopeful Brady
Quinn. The senior quarterback
struggled in the Fighting Irish's first
contest, against Georgia Tech, but
rebounded nicely when Penn State
rolled into South Bend last weekend.
Quinn went 25-for-36 for 287
yards and three touchdowns to lead
the Fighting Irish to a 41-17 victory.
"He's probably one of the best
ever faced," senior
cornerback and pre-
R RO W season All-American
Leon Hall said. "It's
tre Dam111e definitely going to be a
pretty big task for us."
But the key for the
Stadiumm Wolverines will be
stopping Notre Dame
running back Darius
Walker. In the last
two meetings between the storied
programs, the junior has blasted
the Wolverines for a combined 218
All the early talk has surrounded
the struggles of Michigan quarter-
back Chad Henne and the Wolverine
aerial attack. Michigan has mustered
a measly 248 passing yards through
two games, but Notre Dame coach
Charlie Weis hasn't bought into it.
"Well, so far you've seen some
smash-mouth football,' Weis said.
"People can talk about, well, the
Alan Branch and the rest of Michigan's defense will face a big test tomorrow
when the Wolverines take on No. 2 Notre Dame's high-powered offense.
M' trumps Irish
as all-time best
A s much as I love to hate Because, let's be honest, without hype
Notre Dame, I have to hand they'd be ... wellcollege football's
it to the Irish: They have equivalent of Brett Favre. Used to
quite the football program. be great, but someone needs to give
I mean,just take look at some of them the hint that they're not what
the numbers - they're pretty impres- they used to be.
sive: So Notre Dame,
Eight hundred and here's the hint: It's not
thirteen wins. Wow, the 1920s anymore.
that's a lot. That's 300 But back to thatbowl
more than teams like _ thing - I should take a
UCLA, South Carolina step back. Maybe losing
and Brigham Young 4 to Ohio State in a bowl
have. game might have been
A 74.3-percent win- a step up from past sea-
ning percentage. Once sons. It's not like losing
again, quite the accom- SCOTT in bowl games is any-
plishment. That number BELL thing new to the Irish
dwarfs football power- Tu Soon? - they've lost eight
houses like Oklahoma, straight. And hey, Ohio
Texas and Florida. State was ranked, that's more than
Actually, both totals tower above we can say about some of the gems
every college football program in the our little Catholic friends from South
nation. That is, except for one. Bend have dropped over that span.
That would be the Michigan. Colorado State? Oregon State?
As impressive as Notre Dame's Georgia Tech? Come on guys: Just
numbers are, the Irish are still left because you pad your regular-sea-
looking up at Michigan on both of son schedule with the Armies and
those lists. And those aren't the only Navies of the college football world,
categories in which Michigan tops it doesn't mean you have to stay away
Notre Dame. from marquee bowl games so you
Michigan Stadium hovers over can keep your "storied tradition" of
Notre Dame Stadium to the tune of playing average teams in bowl games
about a 30,000 fan difference - a (ironically enough, Michigan has
mark our fans have no trouble filling played in more consecutive bowl
in. games, 31, than Notre Dame has
The golden domes? Kind of cool, played total bowl games,27).
but certainly no match for the Maize But that's right,I forgot, that's the
and Blue's winged helmet. past, I forgot I'm supposed to put the
And don't even mention Notre past aside. The Irish are the present,
Dame's Victory March in the same and they don't have to live off their
sentence as The Victors. That's like legacy anymore. Their savior ishere,
comparing Creed to The Beatles. Charlie Weis. What an offensive
How about when it comes to head- mastermind. How'd he make his
to-head matchups? Yep, still Michi- name again? Oh yeah, some guy
gan. We've got that edge, 18-14-1. named Tom Brady led him to a cou-
"You're just looking in the past," ple Super Bowls. Where did Brady
my Notre Dame friends tell me. go to school again? (And on that note,
"We're on the risejust look at last wasn't Ty Willingham your savior
year.' five years ago? What ever happened
Ah, yes. Notre Dame's "breakout" to him?)
2005 season. How could I forget? But maybe this is just sour grapes.
Maybe because I attend a school I could be jealous. I mean, you do
where 9-3 isn't praised. have something we don't have here
Maybe because my school doesn't in Ann Arbor: An annoying little
embrace seasons where it loses to leprechaun roaming the sidelines at
Michigan State at home, and allows your games.
itself to be embarrassed by having the And if there's any justice in college
opposing school's flag planted right football, after Saturday, they'll have
at midfield. something else we don't have:
Or maybe it's because Michigan A loss this season.
doesn't celebrate seasons that end with
a thrashing courtesy of Ohio State. - This column appears in
Yeah, Notre Dame's amazing this week's Sports Illustrated on
season must have just slipped my Campus. To see it, and a rebuttalby
mind, even with the excessive media a Notre Dame columnist, visit http:l/
hype the Irish create for themselves. sportsillustrated.cnn.com/sioncampus/.
quarterback not having to throw
it. Well, he hasn't had to throw it a
whole bunch. They've played smash
mouth and done a good job"
So far this season, Michigan
embraced its roots with a recom-
mitment to the running game.
Junior Mike Hart has led the
way, registering more than 100
yards in both Michigan victories.
After not making it out of the first
quarter of last season's game against
the Irish and playing just a few min-
utes late in the 2004 Wolverine loss
in South Bend, Hart can't wait to
take center stage in the rivalry.
"Of course you want to be the
back that does it for Michigan,"
Hart said. "The last two years have
been unfortunate (for me).... I am
just going in there with the mindset
Little separates Irish, Wolverines
By Stephanie Wright
Daily Sports Editor
Heading into last year's show-
down, Michigan was No. 3 in the
nation. The Wolverines had gotten
off to a shaky start against North-
ern Illinois, but they were expected
to bounce back. Notre Dame was
the No. 20 team, flying under the
radar as much as it could in coach
Charlie Weis's first season in South
This time around, things are a
little different. After Michigan's
17-10 loss at home to Notre Dame
last season, the Wolverines went on
to lose two of their next four games
en route to a disappointing 7-5 fin-
ish. This year, Michigan didn't have
sky-high expectations placed on its
shoulders. Two games into the sea-
son, the Wolverines sit at No. 11.
Instead, No. 2 Notre Dame is the
highly ranked team that failed to
impress in its season opener, a 14-
10 win over Georgia Tech, though
the Irish bounced back with a 41-
17 clobbering of then-No. 19 Penn
State last weekend.
Although their roles have
reversed, one thing has remained
the same: You never know what to
expect when the two winningest
programs in college football face
off. Here's how the two teams
Michigan passing offense vs.
Notre Dame passing defense:
The Wolverines' aerial attack
still hasn't gotten on track. After
two games, Michigan is averag-
ing just 135 passing yards per
contest. The only team in the Big
Ten that's worse through the air
is Illinois, which was shut out
in its loss to Rutgers last week-
end. That said, it's hard to judge
See IRISH, page 10
From the writer of
"Million Dollar Baby"
and co-writer of "Crash"
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