When the Notre Dame Fighting Irish make the trip north to Ann Arbor from South Bend to play Michigan on Saturday, ESPN’s College GameDay crew will be right behind them. The Week 2 showdown is scheduled to be played under the lights in a rare night game in the Big House. It is going to be rowdy, it is going to be on national television and even (possibly) carry national title game implications.
However, it is not going to be a rivalry game, if you ask Irish coach Brian Kelly.
“I really haven’t seen it as one of those historic, traditional Notre Dame rivalries,” Kelly said on a conference call, according to the Chicago Tribune. “I’ve seen it as just one of those great football games that Notre Dame has played.
“I’ve been in Michigan a long time. I’ve always felt the Notre Dame-Michigan game was a big regional game. But in the Notre Dame history books, this game has (been) played, but obviously there have been some years where it hasn’t been played for a number of years.”
Kelly joined the Grand Valley State staff in 1987. He took over as the head coach in 1991 and went on to win 118 games in 13 years there. He definitely understands the football culture in the state of Michigan.
However, he may have forgotten that these two teams first met all the way back in 1887. They have played a total of 41 times since, with Michigan owning a 23-16-1 record.
Kelly may not want to think about Michigan-Notre Dame as a rivalry, but Wolverines coach Brady Hoke and his team are pretty pumped to remind him.
*Update* 9:05 a.m., Sept. 3
Obviously, Michigan coach Brady Hoke was going to be asked about Kelly’s nonchalance towards Saturday’s big game. He was not impressed.
“It is (a big deal) for us, yeah,” Hoke said. “Everybody looks at everything differently.”
The way Hoke sees it, the national appeal of the game has this rivalry squarely on the national map.
“‘GameDay’ has been here six times for this football game,” Hoke said. “That’s pretty significant, if they’re coming, whether it’s on this campus or in South Bend.
“So, it must have some sort of national appeal.”
He’s right on that count. His star quarterback, Devin Gardner, chose to simply stay out of the situation.
“Some guys, it gets them fired up,” Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner said. “But I love football and I love to compete. So I’m going to be fired up regardless.
“It doesn’t take anyone saying anything bad about our team to get me fired up. I’m ready to play at all times.”
The Big House is going to be fun under the lights on Saturday.