The 2006 Season Begins and Ends in South Bend

Yes, the Michigan - Ohio State rivalry is the best in all of sports. Yes, every true Michigan fan should scorn all things Buckeye. The Nuts even start 2006 at the top of the polls. Hopefully that means they will come in to the third week of Nov. ripe for a huge fall at the hands of the beloved Maize and Blue. However, this season for Michigan truly begins and ends in South Bend.

This is a fan's perspective, one fan only. I don't speak for anyone associated with or the University of Michigan football program. This is my outlook, and mine only.

I deeply, thoroughly, and completely despise everything about the University of Notre Dame. I always have. While age and experience has taken the passionate emotional edge off many things, my hatred of Notre Dame hasn't subsided in the least.

I won't go into why I feel the way I do, most Michigan fans will understand the intensity, if not completely share in its ardor. Suffice to say it's real which is why, as a Michigan fan, Sept. 16 is the day of reckoning. Nothing matters before and nothing will really matter after. Michigan MUST win that game. And let me be clear - while a repeat of 38-0 would be welcome, I'll take a 2-0 win, or a 49-48 win - I don't care how it comes about just as long as U-M is the victor.

If Michigan loses again to the Irish I will cease to care. It won't matter if it's the only loss of the year. It won't matter if the Wolverines go into Columbus and knock off a No. 1 Ohio State. I don't care if you hate me for not caring, nothing will matter for me as a Michigan football fan if Michigan, and me, are not in glorious celebration on the evening of Sept. 16. I want to hear echos of "Henne to Mannigham for yet another score; Hart is again off to the races; Branch nearly decapitated Quinn."

Moreso, I do not want to experience the depression of watching Michigan hold a two-score lead, only to become Potsie and suffer through ND scoring 28 second-half points, as they did in 2004. I want the Wolverines to pour it on until the end - first-team on the field even if up by 50. I don't care about poor sportsmanship, I want to see the Bill Gates, "it's not enough to win, I want the other guy to lose," attitude. Do not "sit on it" Coach, destroy them. However, if you win by a point at the last-second, I will love you just the same. I want Michigan to win; I want Notre Dame to be humiliated, but will happily accept ND being humbled.

Now, I understand that the coaching staff is looking at the Vanderbilt and Central Michigan games. They are preparing their players to face two Division 1-A football teams and they need to be ready to play. However, if Lloyd Carr and Co., don't have a bullseye on Sept. 16, and I don't know whether they do or not, but if they don't I can't imagine what the thinking process is inside the Fort. A 1-4 record against Notre Dame over the last five years is unthinkable and unacceptable. U-M is 7-0 against Penn State - one of the premier programs in college football - over the last nine years. I want that same magic against ND.

If Michigan comes out of South Bend 3-0 and proceeds to tank the rest of the season, I will still smile and return next season for more. If they lose, I will find another activity for my fall Saturdays. Somehow I suspect I'm not alone.

The 2006 college football season begins and ends on Sept. 16.

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