Before anyone will take Michigan seriously again, though, they will need to have an inspired performance this weekend against one of their greatest rivals, the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. Another once-revered program that has slid in recent years, Notre Dame is also seeking a big win in the Big House in order to cement their place as a team to be part of the national conversation.
ESPN.com writer Jon Greenberg has a great article about the meaning that this game holds for both programs and its coaches, Rich Rodriguez and Charlie Weis. You can read the complete article here but here is a highlight:
"This game is just a game, they'll say. It's the second week of September, they'll say. But it's not true. College football is winner-take-all. Every Saturday counts, and when you look back on the season later, some count more than others.Go Blue!
I'm not a slave to the past, or to the orthodoxy of collegiate traditions, but Michigan versus Notre Dame is about as pure a college football rivalry as it gets, and there should be some celebration of that.
From Bo Schembechler to Touchdown Jesus, an air of religiosity abounds in both programs. More people pray in their stadiums than in Vatican City on a Saturday. And of course, more people swear as well.
More than 30 years ago, Charlie Weis, Class of 1978, was one of those congregants, even though Notre Dame and Michigan didn't play each other during his undergrad years. He knows how this game will be looked upon.
"I think because both teams were somewhat question marks going into the opening week and both had sound, convincing wins, it's increased the interest of everyone else as it relates to the game," he said. "The trickle-down effect is that it permeates to the players."
The coaches, he said, know this is just another game to prepare for, another game to lose sleep over, another game they must win. A little more, perhaps, than the others."