The legend is as much a part of college football lore as Bear Bryant’s hounds tooth hat and Lou Holtz’s grass picking addiction; Michigan taught Notre Dame how to play the game, the Irish taught Michigan how to win.
And win they have, placing first and second on the all time win list with almost identical percentages (Michigan leads with a .00151% advantage over the Irish). Combined the two squads claim 1681 wins, 20 National Championships and 10 Heisman Trophy Winners, but in the 248 years of football the game’s two most prestigious programs have played, never have both started off a season with 0-2 records. Until now.
Saturday’s match up will provide the first win of the year for one of these teams while the losing side will continue on with their “O-fer” season. Either the mighty Michigan Wolverines or the legendary Fighting Irish will pass through the middle of September without a victory.
Their paths to winlessness have been fairly diverse. Michigan hasn’t been able to stop anyone, whether the foe be Division 1-AA (excuse me, Football Bowl Subdivision) giant-killer Appalachian State or fashion novelty Oregon. Notre Dame, on the other hand, hasn’t scored an offensive touchdown in their first two games. The defense has held strong for the most part, but by the end of games they grow tired and worn down from carrying the offense for three quarters.
As Lou Holtz once said (possibly in between blades of grass) “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond”. Michigan defensive coordinator Ron English will try to find players who can stop speed while Lloyd Carr will try to keep Les Miles from stepping on the heels of his Pauly Walnuts styled white slip-ons (with the zipper on the side). The spread offense has killed Michigan, but the only teams in the Big-11 that run the Wolverine kryptonite on offense are Northwestern, Michigan State, and Purdue; none of which have beaten Michigan since 2001 (Michigan State). It still isn’t out of the realm of possibilities to see Michigan vying for a conference championship this season.
The Irish, however, are still fighting through the first portion of their scheduled gauntlet. The offense has shown improvement last week under Jimmy Clausen, but dropped passes in the end zone and an emptied hamper of yellow laundry kept the Irish from breaking into the end zone for the second straight week. The old joke may start to seem like a reality for some Irish fans: There was an unknown white substance found on the practice field in South Bend this week. Upon further review, officials declared it to be the goal line.
The truth is that the Irish, similar to the Wolverines, still hold a reason for optimism despite the frustrating start. A young offense will improve as it continues to learn on the job and simple discipline (what’s with the personal fouls?) will reduce the miles of penalty yardage. Eventually the light at the end of the schedule will appear, not in the form of an oncoming train but rather in Duke, Stanford, and St. Mary’s School for the Blind.
When week three of the college football season is finished, the mighty Michigan Wolverines and the legendary Notre Dame Fighting Irish will combine for a 1-5 record, a far cry from the 1681-551 record they hold combined. However, as we’ve quickly learned in the first two weeks, history doesn’t do much for you on the field.