A Dose Of Rivalry

Both teams are 0-2. Both teams are struggling beyond imagination from back when they kicked off their respective season openers just three short or long weeks ago. This afternoon, both are getting the right medicine. A dose of each other.

Heck, it's Notre Dame versus Michigan. Throw the records out the window.

It would be easy for both teams to sulk and go into the tank, thinking about what could've been. But when players rolled out of bed last Sunday morning, circled on the calendar the next weekend was one of each program's bitter rivals.

"It's one of the best rivalries in college football," Notre Dame nose tackle Pat Kuntz stated with excitement. "It's a big game for both of us. We're both 0-2. We're each looking for our first win and that's all we're trying to do."

In 34 all-time meetings between college football's two winningest programs, this marks the first time that both schools come into the game unranked in the last 24 games. The last time the two played and were both unranked was 1909.

Nothing seems right.

Despite having head coach Charlie Weis, one of the nation's most respected offensive minds at the controls, the Irish offense ranks dead last in the nation. On the flip side, Michigan, known to annually have one of the best defenses in the country, ranks a lousy 108th nationally in total defense, 109th against the run (245.5 yards per game) and 116th in pass efficiency defense. Something's going to give.

"I'm not worried about Michigan," Weis said. "I'm worried about us. I just remember we're 0-2, and I'm going to do a better job this week.

"I can't worry about what's going on at Michigan," he continued. "They've got their own set of problems. I like to control mine. I think that's what I'm trying to do. I would, in no way, say anything disrespectful against Michigan. I have too much respect for Michigan and coach (Lloyd) Carr.

"But I do know one thing, we need to do a better job, and that's what we're going to try to do this week."

Though this game is easy for the players to get up for, no matter what the records are, Weis thinks that it's too early for both teams to quit.

"I think there is too much pride on both teams to just throw in the towel, but the normal psyche of teams in this mode right now that are 0-2 is to be a bit fragile," Weis explained. "That's the normal psyche so, obviously, the better start you get, the better things will go. I don't think anyone from either team is ready to cash in the season here. I think both teams want to go and right the ships"

Believe it or not, the Irish ship may finally be sailing in that right direction. Weis said that instead of seeing his players sulk, he's seen a greater sense of urgency, which he's pleased with.

As far as the start thing goes, if Notre Dame gets off to the same start it did against Penn State, with an interception return for a touchdown, they could have the home crowd quickly booing their team like they did last weekend.

"That could happen, that could happen, I hope it happens," Weis said. "That could happen, just like it could happen here. When you're the home team and things haven't been going too well, the fans want to see the home team do well. When they're not doing well, they usually voice their displeasure."

The last time Notre Dame and Michigan both finished the season with losing records was 1963. The winner of this game will likely stretch that streak another year. As for the team that loses, it'll be close to panic mode.

So at about 6:30 p.m. tonight, after getting their medicine, one team will be a whole lot healthier than the other.


IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories