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September 6, 2013The Michigan - Notre Dame series is coming to an end, leaving two games to decide who's been better since the series resumed in 1978 (it's currently tied at 14-14-1). The biggest question, of course - will Irish head coach Brian Kelly stick around to coach in both of them?
Yes, Kelly signed a five-year contract extension last week after leading the Irish to the national title game a year ago. At the time he said, "When we come to an agreement, it's not necessarily that within it I get a lunch stipend on Tuesdays and Thursdays - we decided by signing this contract, we're all in this together."
Sounds - well, a bit ominous, really (what is this, the Poseidon? The Manti Te'o Love Boat?), especially when Kelly was passed over by both Michigan and Michigan State a few years ago when they had openings. What did they know that the Irish didn't?
"That's what I was looking for," Kelly said of the extension.
Well - after getting passed up for the Philadelphia Eagles coaching job last year, one for which he interviewed a day after the Irish lost to Alabama. Some contend he was making his flight reservations at halftime in lieu of a rah-rah speech, which wouldn't surprise given how the game was transpiring.
But with no additional interest from the NFL, Kelly thought it in his - er, everyone's - best interest that he stick around to play a dumbed down schedule over the next few years and see if beating up on half the ACC could lead to a national title before he moved on again.
In all seriousness, given the schedule, the way he's recruited, his track record as a coach (wins and losses, we mean - not gaskets blown), he'll have a chance. And the one thing about the Irish, from a Michigan coach who recruited against them for decades - he never had to worry about a recruit being bought out from under him by someone affiliated with Notre Dame, while the same couldn't be said for many other national recruiters.
So, at the risk of some of you throwing up in your mouths a bit, you have to respect that about them.
Congratulations to last week's winner. This week's receives the novel Manti and Me: A Love Story written by nobody in particular.
Chris Balas: Irish eyes are smiling again on a football program that's relevant again - for real relevant, this time - and plans to stay that way by dropping some tough ones from the schedule, including their local (I mean, regional I mean, national I mean, greatest of all time!) rival to the north-northeast.
Michigan's interior offensive line has plenty to prove in this one, but the X factor wears No. 12 for Michigan (at least for a few more hours). Devin Gardner covers up a lot of weaknesses, and he and the defense will be the difference in this one.
Michigan 24, Notre Dame 20
John Borton: Spath's a not so secret chicken connoisseur, and he's planning to back his pick by wearing a kilt to the game. Balas owns the Platinum Super Extras DVD of "Rudy," complete with Mr. Ruettiger's stock scamming tips. Sullivan knows more about those playing in the 2017 Michigan-Notre Dame showdown than oops, never mind. And Reid was rattling the bars of his crib when Remy Hamilton hit the game-winner in '94.
So pay attention to the only pick that sees this spatchcocking for what it is: the penultimate smack-down before Irish eyes look towards Duke and Wake Forest for titanic tussles.
Michigan 27, Notre Dame 20
Michael Spath: As many of you know, I have a soft spot for Notre Dame. I dated two Irish grads over the last decade (one from a HUGE Irish family that I was extremely fond of), met, had lunch and enjoyed correspondence with Fr. Ted Hesburgh, I am Irish-Catholic and to this day have many friends (plus two step-brothers and a step-father) that wore the blue and gold and are as good of men/women as I know.
So I would understand completely if you thought I was making this pick for Notre Dame because of bias, but then remember I am a Michigan grad who has been going to games since I was seven, and I come from a Michigan family, with the proudest Michigan father you would have ever known (and a fanatical U-M brother), and I have been writing for The Wolverine for 11 years.
In other words, I make this pick for one reason - I think ND's front seven will be the deciding matchup against the Maize and Blue's offensive line. That said, I am prepared for the barrage from my colleagues and I will happily eat crow Saturday night.
Notre Dame 21, Michigan 20
Andy Reid: "The opposite of the happy ending is not actually the sad ending--the sad ending is sometimes the happy ending. The opposite of the happy ending is actually the unsatisfying ending." -- Orson Scott Card.
This is the last time any of you may see those Notre Dame golden domes walk down the tunnel of The Big House. Some of you claim to be happy, that getting Notre Dame off the schedule is a blessing hidden as a slap in the face from Jack Swarbrick.
The truth is, it's a stone-cold bummer that the Fighting Irish are off the schedule. In the last 35 years, it's turned into one of the most anticipated on the schedule.
So, Notre Dame won't be coming to dinner again. The only way to put a twinge of happy on this unsatisfying ending is to send the Irish back to South Bend with a tick in the 'L' column.
Michigan 17, Notre Dame 14
Tim Sullivan: The Irish needed every bit of their lucky namesake land a victory over Michigan last year. That doesn't happen two years in a row. Given that Michigan has transitioned to an offense that is much more comfortable to this staff, the offensive line showed well in the first game (something they really didn't do even against a poor Air Force run defense last year), this game isn't in Notre Dame Stadium, and oh yeah, the Irish lost a half-dozen players to the NFL, U-M should be able to turn the tides in that seven-point game for a similar margin in their own favor.
Michigan 24, Notre Dame 17
Doug Karsch (WXYT Radio, Guest Pick): Thomas Gordon is a difference maker in the back-end of the secondary. And we get to see the real Michigan offense this weekend. The biggest challenge is in the middle of the offensive line - Milller, Glasgow and Kalis. They will be good enough. Gallon will make big plays - you can't tell him he's not 6-foot-4. Meanwhile you CAN tell Borton and Balas they aren't.
Michigan 28, Notre Dame 13