In one of the dumbest decisions in the history of college football, the Fighting Irish decided that the rivalry with Michigan isn't worth playing beyond 2014. I actually get it from a competition stand-point; I mean, who wouldn't want to beat the piss out of Wake Forest every year? But to stop a "regional rivalry", as Brian Kelly wanted us to believe...and then didn't want us to believe...shows that true competition takes a back seat to perceived competition.
How They Did
|9/7||@ Michigan||L 41-30|
|9/14||@ Purdue||W 31-24|
|9/21||Michigan State||W 17-13|
|10/5||Arizona State (Arlington, TX)||W 37-34|
|10/26||@ Air Force||W 45-10|
|11/9||@ Pitt||L 28-21|
|11/30||@ Stanford||L 27-20|
|12/28||Rutgers (Pinstripe Bowl; Bronx, N.Y.)||W 29-16|
Versus Michigan: Notre Dame's defense was ripped apart by Gardner, Gallon, and Toussaint to the tune of 460 total yards of offense. That's a lot of yards by any standard, but when you consider that the Irish allowed just 299 yards the year before, 2013 was a huge setback. Tommy Rees had a pretty solid game, throwing for 314 yards on 29 attempts...and then remembered, "Hey, I'm Tommy Rees; this wouldn't be the same if I didn't turn it over!", and whaddayaknow, he did his thing at a pretty crucial moment:
TJ Jones led the Irish receiving corps with 94 yards and a four-yard catch in the back of the end zone in the second quarter. TE Troy Niklas rounded out the passing attack with 76 yards on 6 receptions and one TD. The ground game was fronted by Amir Carlisle's 64 yards on 12 carries, but Notre Dame could not score on his legs. If not for Stephon Tuitt's interception of a horrendous decision by Devin Gardner, the score wouldn't have been as close. Oh, wait, I forgot about ND's co-leader in scoring--kicker Kyle Brindza (12 points on three field goals and three PATs) did a good job of keeping the game close, too.
When Michigan had the ball: Jeremy Gallon. 'Nuff said.
Best Win: Michigan State. Clearly. Although the Irish had quality wins against Arizona State and BYU, the victory over the Spartans kept Michigan State out of the final BCS championship game. Of course, State will tell you that the game was taken from them by the officials. You decide. We're not here to talk about State, though; but it's okay to rub it in a little bit anywhere we can, right?
Worst Loss: Pitt and/or Michigan. Pitt finished the season 7-6 and lost to a North Carolina team that lost to East Carolina. But the Panthers did beat Duke early in the season, which was Duke's last loss before running into the Jameis Winston buzz saw. Stephon Tuitt's ejection for targeting was a huge call that no doubt played a part in Pitt's victory.
I include Michigan because [OPPONENT NAME HERE]. Don't look at me while I cry, okay?
Outlook for 2014
When it's all said and done, the Irish did go 9-4; although it may not be acceptable at big-time programs, it's respectable (and enviable /sigh). 2014 could be a struggle with Stephon Tuitt, George Atkinson III, TJ Jones, and Troy Niklas leaving for the NFL. Tommy Rees is also graduating, so perhaps an appearance in the new playoff is in the cards? A key addition for Notre Dame is the hiring of Brian VanGorder's mustache as defensive coordinator. Returning for the Irish will be QB Everett Golson.
All things considered, Notre Dame won't be any worse than 2013. I see two guaranteed losses on the Irish's 2014 schedule: 10/4 Stanford, and 10/18 at Florida State. The toss-ups are against Michigan, at Arizona State, and at USC. Notre Dame faces Louisville, but with no more Teddy Bridgewater on the Cards' side of the field, this game should be more manageable.
Do they play Michigan in 2014?
Yes. The meeting in South Bend will hopefully continue the trend of pretty exciting games between the two teams. The intriguing match-up between the teams will be Michigan's new OC, Doug Nussmeier, going up against first year Notre Dame DC Brian VanGorder.
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