Clemson vs Furman
Austin Peay vs Georgia
Missouri State vs Oklahoma State
Some of the top teams in college football choose to have a cupcake game to start the season, a game that feels a lot more like a glorified scrimmage where all the backups play by the end of the game.
And then there’s Michigan at Notre Dame.
One of the oldest rivalries in American sports. Two storied programs both hailing from the Midwest that have fan-bases who don’t like one another too much.
The hype has been surrounding this game for months on end, and now we are less than two weeks before it all goes down in South Bend.
My question is, would it be better for Michigan to play a weak team to start the season, or play a Top 25 team on the road that happens to be a huge rival?
There’s really no wrong answer, but let us weigh both sides.
If Michigan played a porous team week one, there could be a benefit. It could have given certain position groups more time to gel, allowed for backup players to receive snaps in game action they wouldn’t have received otherwise, they could have gotten an easy win.
But Michigan doesn’t play a crappy team to start the year, and it all boils down to if they embrace this challenge or not.
It’s a big challenge. It’s been a long time since Michigan has won a huge game on the road against a team that finished the season in the Top 25.
The big challenge looming will say a lot about the team right out of the gate. It will tell us how they spent their off-season, the month of August. Seasons can end before they begin. Sometimes teams have the luxury of gaining their identity as the year marches on, but that isn’t the case for Michigan.
The identity of the 2018 Michigan Wolverines will be evident at the end of the game against Notre Dame. Their will to win, their strength, their ability to execute, be it the coaching staff and the guys playing on the field.
Am I going overboard here? Perhaps, but there’s truth to what I’m saying. The reality is this is a non-conference game, a loss here doesn’t kill their hopes at a National Championship or a Big Ten Championship. But the team cannot be having those same thoughts right now. This has to be a must-win if they believe that they can reach the College Football Playoff. This has to be a hard fought battle if Shea Patterson is to be who his teammates say he is, a quarterback who isn’t scared of anything.
This is the biggest game of Jim Harbaugh’s career at Michigan to this point. It’ll undoubtedly receive insane television ratings, it’s a big deal. If Michigan wins that could really propel the team onto bigger and greater things. The believing in one another could sky-rocket to heights to infinity and beyond more than playing a cupcake team week one.
If Michigan is to become a National Championship contender, screw it, let’s find out sooner than later if that’s fact or fiction.
Are you excited yet?