Imagine, for a moment, that Fielding Yost wasn’t a gigantic asshole. He took the 1909 loss to Notre Dame’s newly dubbed Fighting Irish like a good sport and the 1910 game wasn’t cancelled. Michigan sees no need to blackball Notre Dame and the Irish gain membership into the Western Conference which would later become the Big Ten.
Yes, Notre Dame and Michigan now have a guaranteed, annual inter-conference matchup. Considering the close geographic proximity to the schools, the game quickly becomes college football’s longest and most celebrated rivalry.
To steal a line from The Masters, it is truly a “tradition unlike any other”. Michigan, the school that taught the game off football to Notre Dame in 1887, created their biggest rival. It’s a game played annually since 1908 featuring the two winningest programs in college football history. Michigan’s annual tilt with Ohio State can’t even compare.
Notre Dame and Michigan don’t just compare national championships, but Big Ten Conference Championships and Rose Bowl victories. In fact, this game often decides the very fate of the Big Ten almost every year.
Mark May and Skip Bayless actually watched these games when they grew up. If you grew up in the Midwest, there was no doubt that you did too.
However, Notre Dame loses a few things in this alternate timeline.
The Four Horseman never existed. Notre Dame had no need to schedule powerhouse Army so Rice Grantland never penned his famous lede. As Notre Dame was able to nurture their regional rivalries over the past century, the core fan base remained stationary in the Midwest as Rockne’s Ramblers never needed to travel across the nation to take on all comers.
With a full Big Ten conference schedule, and Navy the only out of conference staple (even in this timeline Notre Dame still needed saving), the rivalry with Southern Cal never happened. The only meetings between the two schools was an occasional Rose Bowl appearance. Notre Dame never schedules Stanford either. West Coast trips in November aren’t a possibility when you are trying to close out conference play.
Notre Dame never plays in the Cotton Bowl. That means there were never any famous tilts against Texas. Joe Montana still had to fight off the flu, but it wasn’t against Houston and he never needed chicken soup to stay warm and fight off hypothermia in the beautiful Pasadena sun.
There were no classic games against Florida State or Miami. There was never a need for Lou Holtz to request his team to save Jimmy Johnson’s ass for him to kick.
When you step back and look at the big picture, this is probably one of the greatest ironies that college football has ever seen. Yost practically made it his mission to kill Notre Dame football and his weapon of choice was conference exclusion. By forcing the Irish into independence, he sowed the seeds for Notre Dame to grow into a national power. Had Yost not been so proactive in blackballing the Irish, ND would never be the national brand that it is today and many of ND’s legendary moments would have never happened much less received the amount of print that they did.
So, yes, it was indeed a swift stroke of justice when Jack Swarbrick handed over a notice of cancellation before last year’s ND/Michigan game. Now, the same program who was convinced ND needed them more than they needed ND is the one crying foul and throwing middle school level insults in our direction.
But before we embark on a series against Texas and take on our new friends and some familiar foes in the ACC, there are still two games left to be played. Two chances to land final blows on a hated enemy. It’s a chance to bring this story full circle until it is inevitably reignited once again — to have the series cancelled after a Notre Dame victory.
Regardless of your opinion of the “rivalry” aspect of ND/Michigan, the history is fascinating. I suggest you check out the entire history laid out in three posts by First Down Moses.
There is one major motivation to the modern resurgence of the series that is rarely discussed. Money.
Let’s get weird. Start off by checking out MS Paint Like a Champion’s latest entry. Then, follow it up by diving into the craziest chat session ever with the folks from MGoBlog and Stuffing the Passer.
Notre Dame way = Patriot way? Apparently, Bill Belichick is our friend now. Let’s see if this can eventually match up to Saban’s “process”.
Put These Games on Your Radar
Saturday, September 7
#12 Florida @ Miami, 12:00pm ET, ESPN/WatchESPN – Miami RB Duke Johnson should make this game very interesting. Should be a great start to Saturday.
#6 South Carolina @ #11 Georgia, 4:30pm ET, ESPN/WatchESPN - Georgia will be looking to rebound after a rough loss against Clemson to open their season. South Carolina steamrolled North Carolina, but now they are going to face their first true test of the season.
#15 Texas @ BYU, 7:00pm ET, ESPN2/WatchESPN - To me, this game has upset written all over it. It took Texas nearly two quarters to get going against New Mexico State and even trailed at one point. They can’t do that against BYU and expect to leave Provo with a win. Couple that with the fact I think Texas is one of the most overrated teams around right now and I think some craziness is bound to happen.
Washington State @ #25 Southern Cal, 10:30pm ET, FS1 - Washington State looked surprisingly competition against a rather woeful Auburn team last week. Southern Cal on the other hand looked like a dumpster fire against Hawaii and survived largely in part to Hawaii playing a QB that might be one of the worst I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure an upset will happen, but the chance for schadenfreude is high.
Thursday, September 12
#24 TCU @ Texas Tech, 7:30pm ET, ESPN/WatchESPN - Yes, we have a rare case of an early season Thursday game that needs to be highlighted before the next Roundup. Kliff Kingsbury seems to have re-energized the Red Raiders a bit and TCU gave LSU a run for their money for most of their tilt. I think this will be quite a fun watch, especially considering what we usually see on early week Thursday games.
Your winner last week was Irish Elvis and it wasn’t even close as he predicted a 30-6 score and damn near hit it on the nose.
While 2011 was a complete nightmare, there were still loads and loads of opportunities for the Irish to win that game. Stephon Tuitt didn’t play then. Our running backs are more talented. Tommy Rees appears to have improved greatly.
This time it’s different.
ND 31 – Michigan 27
The terror for ND that was Denard Robinson is over. Shoelaceless is gone, and super experienced and huge ND defensive line across from him. And, not Denard. Repeat, NOT DENARD. There will be no more Skunkbear Antics that give Notre Dame fans insane fits. Yeah, we took Shoelaceless down behind Manti Teo’s 38 interceptions last year, but that was the one time where Denard didn’t make crazy things happen to help ND pull defeat from the jaws of victory. NO MORE. Irish Chocolate and the D will have this thing super low scoring, and while our O will still be finding an identity, it will be enough.
ND Wins 17-10
Two dancers because it’s effing Skunkbears. But feeling good about a win in a slugfest.
Irish 28, Skunkbears 24. Tommy Rees hits TJ Jones for the go ahead TD with under two minutes to play.
1st Quarter: Start Fast
Wolverines are slothful creatures. Fig Things are more fleet of foot. TJ Jones scores early.
2nd Quarter: Attention to Detail
Brady Hoke remembers to wear short sleeves, but neglects return Prince Shembo’s bike seat…and that hampers Michigan’s offensive production.
3rd Quarter: Effort and Enthusiasm
“The Big House”? Methinks they’re overcompensating for something…
4th Quarter: Finish Strong
2013 #REESUS > 2011 Rees. Irish prevail 27-23.
I can only think of one beer that properly sums up my attitude about our next opponent. This one’s for you, Skunkbears.