I think it bears noting that Notre Dame plays Michigan on Saturday and most of the talk has not about been about the game itself. Nor have the pundits and talking-heads bothered, much, to analyze the respective performances, so far, of Irish or Wolverine. Instead, most of the bloviating has revolved around Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly’s remark on Sunday that Notre Dame-Michigan is not an “historic, traditional rivalry” and his disappointing, but clever and nuanced, course-correction on Tuesday in which he labelled the series as “great and historic.”
Now, this all started over the summer when word got out that Notre Dame would opt out of its series against Michigan in favor of its new ACC-heavy schedule. That Notre Dame would not play Michigan immediatley caused the Wolverine’s head coach to label the Irish “chicken,” because, well, his thoughts seem rarely far from the next calorie. And this got me thinking about two things: 1.) what is history when it comes to college football; and 2.) how good is the chicken bonne femme at Arnaud’s?
At the risk of being labeled a Brian Kelly-apologist, let me declare rather loudly that the chicken bonne femme at Arnaud’s is incredible, and as good an historic dish as you will find anywhere in the country. Wait. What? Oh. Right! Though Michigan may lay claim to being our oldest opponent, and, after observing the conduct of Michigan coeds, “hoariest” sounds the most appropriate, they certainly cannot claim to be our most traditional opponent. For, whether one considers total number of games or longevity of the series, Michigan barely bests Georgia Tech. Seriously.
Since the 1880’s, Notre Dame and Michigan have played forty (40) times. In that same span, Notre Dame has played Sparty seventy-six (76) times, Pitt sixty-eight (68) times, Army fifty (50) times, Northwestern forty-seven (47) times, and Georgia Tech, thirty-four (34) times. Do you get that? The Irish have played Northwestern MORE than they’ve played the Wolverines. I’ll happily conceded that Michigan is an old foe, but traditional? Like Mardi Gras or soft-shell crab season? Pffffffffft.
From 1910 through 1969, Notre Dame and Michigan played TWICE, both times in the 1940’s. From 1910 through 1969, Notre Dame played Navy FORTY-THREE (43) times. From 1920 though 1969, Notre Dame played USC FORTY-ONE (41) times. From 1910 through 1969 Notre Dame played Purdzzzzzzz THIRTY-THREE (33) times. So please let’s step back from the ledge of “historic,” given there are more gaps in the Notre Dame-Michigan resume than there are on George O’Leary’s. And considering Notre Dame played Michigan a total of two (2) games in the 1970’s, this kind of puts Mark May in some unique company. Lemme know if y’all find the real killer, brah.
Michigan hasn’t played ten games against the Irish in a decade ever. USC and Purzzzzzzz have each played ten games against the Irish in six decades.
Anyway, Michigan is a huge, regional rival that has become of national importance, probably only thanks to the generations of Notre Dame grads who have gone on to have careers, and cable subscriptions, outside of the Ann Arbor viewing area. All things considered, though, it’s really not surprising that Coach Hoke would have the word “chicken” on his brain when thinking about facing Big Lou, Stephon, Shembo and Ishaq without Shoelaces under center.