Since the series resumed on a semi-annual basis in 1978, the teams have fought to a 13-13-1 draw. 18 of those 27 matchups have been decided by eight points or fewer and the average margin of victory has been just 4.4 points over the span of the all-time series. Remove from the equation the blowouts of 2003, '06, '07 and '08, and the average margin of victory is 2.4.
Michigan has won four of the last five; five of the last eight; and 8 of the last 13 while the Irish prevailed previously in five of seven (with one tie) and three of the prior five dating back to the '78 resumption of the matchup.
Below is a look at the Notre Dame/Michigan series…by the numbers.
1 – Win by the Irish in Ann Arbor since 1993. Notre Dame's oft-publicized, last great season saw Lou Holtz's Irish upset #3 Michigan, 27-23 in Ann Arbor. It was Notre Dame's ninth consecutive win dating back to October of the previous season and one of 17 straight through mid-November '93.
Since, Notre Dame has visited the Big House on six occasions, winning only in 2005 – coincidentally in another upset of the #3-ranked Wolverines – the highlight of Charlie Weis' first season at the University. Michigan prevailed over Notre Dame in three classic contests (1997, 1999, and 2009) and in two epic blowouts (2003, 2007) during that span.
2 – Consecutive wins in the series by the Wolverines, tying Michigan's longest win streak vs. Notre Dame over the last 100 years. The longest win streak in the series for either team occurred near the turn of the century – the other century – when Michigan won its first eight games vs. the Irish from 1887 through 1908. Since, Michigan has never won three straight games vs. Notre Dame.
Notre Dame's longest win streak vs. the Wolverines is four games from 1987-1990.
3 – Previous night games played between the Irish and Wolverines in series history. Notre Dame emerged with a victory in each, winning in South Bend in 1982, 1988 (en route to the national championship) and 1990. The '82 game was the first night contest at Notre Dame in program history; the '90 matchup the most recent.
Notre Dame will play USC this October under the lights, 21 seasons after Rick Mirer defeated Elvis Grbac and the Wolverines, 28-24.
4 – Quarterbacks in series history that have guided their teams to two victories in the series. Michigan's Jim Harbaugh was the first, defeating the Irish in Ann Arbor, then in a classic in South Bend in 1986 – Lou Holtz's first game as Notre Dame head coach.
Notre Dame's Tony Rice returned the favor in 1988 and 1989; the second outing a battle between the #1 Irish and #2 Wolverines in Ann Arbor. 15 seasons later, Brady Quinn defeated Michigan in his sophomore and junior seasons, the latter an upset over the #3 Wolverines in Ann Arbor.
With a win Saturday, Michigan's Denard Robinson would become the fourth quarterback in the series' storied history to guide his team to two victories in the rivalry.
5 – Wins by Michigan over Notre Dame in the last nine matchups and since the series took a two-year break heading into the 2000s. The teams did not play in either 2000 or 2001 but resumed the series in 2002 and have played consecutively since. Of Michigan's five wins in that span, two have been 38-0 shutouts (2003 and 2007) while another was a 47-21 blowout of the then-No. 2 ranked Irish in South Bend, 2006.
The Wolverine's last two victories – in Ann Arbor in 2009 and in South Bend last fall – have been more in congress with the series modern history: classic matchups decided in the final minutes.
6 – The most wins Notre Dame enjoyed over Michigan in any 10-game span. The Irish defeated the Wolverines in four straight from 1987-1990, each under the guidance of head coach Lou Holtz. Holtz defeated Michigan legend Bo Schembechler in the first trio of those matchups; his successor Gary Moeller in 1990. Moeller gained revenge in 1991 thanks to the heroics of eventual Heisman winner Desmond Howard, but the team's tied the following season in South Bend – a matchup of Top 6 teams.
Notre Dame upset #3 Michigan in Ann Arbor one year later and the Wolverines returned the favor in 1994, winning 26-24 on a last second field goal, prevailing over the #3 Irish in South Bend. (Of note: current Irish defensive line coach Mike Elston was a sophomore linebacker on the ‘94 Michigan team.)
After a two-year hiatus, Michigan defeated Notre Dame 21-14 en route to a national championship and the Irish hammered the Wolverines one-year later in South Bend, 36-20. The 6-3-1 result in Notre Dame's favor over that 10-game span is mitigated by Michigan wins preceding (1985/1986) and following (1999) the stretch of success.
7 – Of the last 25 games in the series have seen the winning points come in the final two minutes (1980, `88, `90, `94, `99, '09 and '10), including three that were decided in the final seconds (`80, `94, '09 and '10). Michigan won four (the last four) in the first and three (the last three) of the scenarios, respectively.
8 – Current Michigan and Notre Dame players who have scored a touchdown in the series: suspended WR/KR Daryl Stonum (2009), TE Kevin Koger (2009), WR Ray Roundtree (2010), RB Stephen Hopkins (2010) and QB Denard Robinson (twice in 2010) accounted for the Wolverines scores while WR Michael Floyd (2009), WR T.J. Jones (2010), and QB Dayne Crist (2010) hit pay dirt for the Irish.
9 – Touchdowns scored in excess of 30 yards between the team's in their last three contests. Five of the nine were scored by Wolverines including a then-scrimmage series-record 87-yard sprint-and-score by Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson in last year's 28-24 Wolverines win. Notre Dame answered with a new record-long strike from scrimmage: 95 yards from Dayne Crist to Kyle Rudolph. The number of 30-plus yard scores includes a special teams return (94 yards by UM's Darryl Stonum in '09) and a defensive touchdown (35 yards by ND's Brian Smith in '08)
10 – Upsets in the series over the last 14 contests, including two straight by Michigan and in six of the last seven games played between the longtime rivals. The Wolverines scored upsets over the Irish in 2010, 2009, 2006, and 1994 while Notre Dame upset Michigan in 2008, 2005, 2004, 2002, 1998, and 1993.
Notre Dame is favored by 3.5 points in Ann Arbor this Saturday. Dating back to 1985, the underdog in the matchup has won 15 lost 6 and tied once.
11 – Contests not decided until the game's final series since the matchup resumed in 1978: 2010, 2009, 2002, 1999, 1997, 1994, 1990, 1988, 1986, 1980, and 1979. The Wolverines have won six of 11 in that span.
12 – Passes or rushes by Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson in excess of 11 yards last season vs. the Irish. Robinson completed passes of 31, 31, 20, 12, 16, 12, and 15 yards while delivering gains of 36, 14, 87, 19, and 12 on the ground en route to one of the five best individual performances vs. Notre Dame in its storied history. Robinson totaled 244 passing yards, 258 rushing yards, and three scores (two rushing) including the game-winning 2-yard plunge with under 30 seconds remaining.
On the HorizonA look at Irish players who could reasonably accomplish statistical milestones Saturday vs. the Wolverines.
Michael Floyd: Caught a career-best 12 passes last week; his ninth grab breaking Jeff Samardzija's program record for receptions (now 183). Floyd needs just 15 yards to break Golden Tate's program record of 2,707 receiving yards. Tate (2007-09) reached his total in 37 games (22 starts). Saturday will be Floyd's 32nd game and 31st career start. (2,604 of Tate's yards were accrued in a two-season, 25-game span of 2008-09.)
Should Floyd exceed 100 receiving yards Saturday, the senior would tie Tate's program record with 15 games over the century mark in his Irish career. Floyd has totaled at least 100 receiving yards in four of his last seven outings.
Floyd extended his own program record for career touchdown receptions to 32 with a pair of scoring grabs last Saturday.
Ethan Johnson: With his next (full) sack, the senior defensive end will move into 10th place ahead of the late Wally Kleine (13 sacks from 1983-86) on the program's career sack list. Justin Tuck (2002-04) holds the program record with 24.5 sacks in 36 career games. Saturday's contest vs. Michigan will Mark Johnson's 40th game played as a member of the Irish.
A shade behind Johnson is classmate Darius Fleming with 12 sacks including a half-sack shared with Kapron Lewis-Moore last Saturday. The sack was made possible by Johnson's edge rush that forced Bulls quarterback B.J. Daniels to stumble into the waiting pair of teammates.
Harrison Smith: With 18 career pass breakups, Smith's next will tie Thomas O'Leary (1965-67) for eighth on the program's all-time list. Ralph Stepaniak (1969-71) and former teammate Darrin Walls (2006-10) are next in Smith's sites with 20 apiece. Program legend Todd Lyght (1987-1990) ranks fifth with 20.5.