Michigan and Notre Dame are two of the most historically successful programs in the country, and the rivalry runs deep. It became an almost annual bout from 1985 to 2014 with a few gap years in between, including a stretch of games from 2002 to 2014.
But in 2012, Notre Dame chickened out and exercised its option to end the yearly matchup. When Jim Harbaugh came to town, he helped the push to get the Fighting Irish back on the schedule, the first time being a season kickoff in South Bend in 2018. It was Shea Patterson’s first game with the Wolverines, and Notre Dame scored three first-half touchdowns to win the game, 24-17. The Fighting Irish would go on to an undefeated regular season and a College Football Playoff berth.
Fans didn’t know the next time these two blue bloods would meet heading into the 2019 matchup. That is, until the day of the game when the schools announced the rivalry would be renewed. The next time they will meet is 2033, 13 years after the 2019 game.
What transpired under the lights at Michigan Stadium was an absolute boat race by the Wolverines in a top-25 matchup. Let’s revisit the game that comes in at No. 6 on the list of the top-10 games of the Harbaugh era:
Season Significance: 8, Pre-Game Hype: 8
Any time Michigan and Notre Dame face off, there is going to be some extra juice. However, as mentioned earlier, this would be the last time these two would meet for a 13-year span.
Notre Dame came into Ann Arbor as the No. 8 team in the country with its only loss coming to a top-5 ranked Georgia team on the road. Hopes were still very high the team could repeat and make the College Football Playoff for a second consecutive season.
Michigan tripped up against Jonathan Taylor and Wisconsin early in the season. They had also lost in devastating fashion to Penn State the week prior to this contest. Hope for the season was at an all-time low after sky-high expectations for the year. Especially because Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State were all still to come on the schedule.
Desperation fell on the Wolverines and they needed something big to happen to get back on track and regain some love from the committee. Their only losses were against top-15 opponents though, so they were still a respectable No. 19 in the country.
Highlight Play Score: 6, Individual Performance: 6
The game started rather poorly as Michigan took its first possession of the game inside its own 10-yard line and went three-and-out. Then, madness happened on 4th down:
The punt was blocked, but a Notre Dame special teamer attempted to grab the ball, fumbled it, and Michigan recovered. The Wolverines had second life and would take advantage after a 35-yard run from Zach Charbonnet put them in field goal range. Jake Moody sent it through the uprights to make it 3-0.
Notre Dame punted again and gave the ball right back to the Wolverines. Hassan Haskins ran for 47-yards on the drive before Charbonnet capped off the drive with the first touchdown of the game:
Michigan regained possession after a three-and-out for the Fighting Irish and Haskins got right back to work with a 20-yard carry and a hurdle to boot:
Patterson would break free on a read-option for another 20 yards and the Wolverines were hunting for another score. They got just that with a 1-yard run for Charbonnet’s second touchdown of the night. Michigan was cruising early up 17-0.
That would be the score heading into halftime. The Notre Dame offense was stymied; their first six possessions were punt, punt, punt, punt, turnover on downs, punt for a total of only 62 first-half yards. Contrarily, Michigan had 204 yards in the first half, most of it coming on the ground. The Wolverines were in full control of this one early.
The Fighting Irish came out with a bit of a defensive push in the second half. The teams traded three-and-outs on each of the first five possessions in the second half. Finally, Notre Dame broke the mold and got into the scoring column as Cole Kmet caught a seven-yard touchdown from Ian Book. It was suddenly a game with the score 17-7 with 5:30 remaining in the third quarter.
After coasting for awhile, Michigan put things into a different gear. Haskins continued his big day with a 49-yard run that left the Wolverines right outside the red zone:
A few plays later, Patterson rolled out right, and while he was getting hit, he put enough on it to get it to Donovan Peoples-Jones for six. Michigan would retake a three-possession lead:
After a couple poor drives from both teams, Michigan went to the air to put the nail in the coffin. Patterson connected with a wide-open Mike Sainristil for 34 yards. On the very next play, he found Nico Collins on a 50-50 ball for a score:
Following another Notre Dame three-and-out, Michigan acted quickly picking up 47 yards on two plays. Tru Wilson found the end zone on a 27-yard rush and at this point, the fat lady was singing (peep Patterson getting ahead for a block on the goal line):
Notre Dame was down 7-38 and things only got worse. Luiji Villain strip-sacked Phil Jurkovec, the new quarterback, and Daxton Hill recovered at midfield. Dylan McCaffrey was now in the game, and he hit Sainristil for a 26-yard touchdown to put the icing on the cake:
Notre Dame would score once more, but this one was dominated by the Wolverines, 45-14. They outgained the Fighting Irish 437 to 180, and ran for 303 yards on 57 carries. It was an old-fashioned take them out to the woodshed butt whooping.
Historical Significance: 9
This one is going to burn in the brains of the Notre Dame faithful for quite some time. Thirteen years is a long time to have to stew about a loss like this to a significant rival. These two programs do have opponents they hate more than each other, but this still sits as a peak moment of the schedule each time they meet.
For Michigan to absolutely roll the way it did, in one of the few night games in the history of the Big House was something to behold.
Total Score: 38/50
This one is the only game from 2019 on the list and for good reason. It was a season with expectations of a Big Ten Championship and beyond. Instead, Michigan lost two of its first seven games and was crushed by Ohio State and Alabama to round out the year.
The blowout of Notre Dame in the Big House was the only real highlight of the season. If it weren’t for the historical significance of the matchup, it would have been lower on the list. There weren’t many memorable individual moments or plays in this game, it was just one team being far superior to the other.
Still, as a team, this was as good as it got with Patterson under center, and Jim Harbaugh broke a streak of eight straight losses to top-10 opponents. It was a turning point necessary for Michigan to get back into the top-10. Plus, it added some meaning to the final game of the year against Ohio State (not that it mattered in the long run).
It was still oh so sweet to watch a dejected Notre Dame team walk off the field in Ann Arbor knowing its College Playoff hopes had disappeared thanks to a fantastic performance by the Wolverines.
Check out the rest of the rankings for this series released every Sunday: