Michigan’s Loss Changes Narrative of Notre Dame’s Clash with Wolverines

While it’s never a good idea to root for Michigan as Greg pointed out yesterday, in a perfect world, Saturday’s showdown with Michigan would have ideally given Notre Dame a chance for a road win over a top 10 team.  With the Wolverines dropping a potential game-tying touchdown with two minutes left before ultimately dropping the game, that opportunity no longer exists for the Irish.  The pressure on Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh is also mounting leading up to this weekend’s showdown.

Notre Dame’s schedule, on paper, looked brutal a couple of years ago when it was initially built.  Georgia, Stanford, and Michigan on the road and USC and Virginia Tech at home mixed in with wildcards like Virginia, Boston College, and Duke.  It had the makings of a murder’s row. Instead, the schedule has broken in a way in which 11-1 looks very possible – if not likely.  The problem is there aren’t many opportunities left for statement wins for the Irish.

Michigan’s 21-28 loss last night to Penn State gave the Wolverines their second loss of the season already.  Even if Notre Dame wins this weekend, that win will be over a team that won’t be ranked the following morning – assuming the Wolverines stay in the top 25 after their latest loss.  We won’t know for sure how far they will fall until later today.

Had Michigan won last night, this weekend’s clash would likely feature two top 10 teams for Notre Dame’s first trip to Ann Arbor since 2013.  The Irish will remain in the top and likely move up a spot thanks to Wisconsin’s surprising loss to Illinois, but at best, Michigan will probably be ranked around 22.

Notre Dame now walks into The Big House without a whole lot to gain – resume wise – and a whole lot to lose.  Michigan playing at home, coming off a loss, is dangerous for Notre Dame.  The Irish will almost undoubtedly open as a decent-sized favorite, but the Wolverines are going to be playing with nothing to lose.  Notre Dame, on the other hand, has everything to lose with a chance to make their way into the top 4 over the next six weeks.

From Michigan’s perspective, the narrative could quickly change towards this weekend’s game being a referendum on the Jim Harbaugh Era.  After Michigan’s latest loss, Jim Harbaugh remains the only coach in college football who hasn’t won as an underdog since 2015.  He also still hasn’t beaten Ohio State or Notre Dame.  No one is saying he is coaching for his job on Saturday, but his seat will be awfully hot if he’s sitting at 5-3 with Michigan State and Ohio State still on the schedule this year.  Harbaugh has struggled against both the last four years.

The Harbaugh Era certainly hasn’t gone as Michigan fans imagined when they welcomed home one of their favorite sons almost five years ago.  Last night’s loss to Penn State offered Harbaugh a chance to change the narrative around his tenure, but instead, it ended up being another lost opportunity for Harbaugh and his Wolverine program.

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Add it all up, and you have a wounded team that could be very dangerous for Notre Dame.  Teams in Michigan’s situation usually go one of two ways –  they bounce back with their best game of the year, or they fold.  We won’t know which route Michigan goes until the ball is kicked off on Saturday night, but the way they came back from a 21-0 deficit to make it a game last night is something for them to hang their hat on throughout the week.

This weekend could have been a clash of top 10 teams fighting to stay in the playoff conversation.  Instead, the focus now will be on whether or not Notre Dame can remain in the race or if Michigan can ruin the Irish’s season the same way their’s was destroyed last night.

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11 comments

  1. Damian 4 weeks ago

    CFB is a funny thing. Almost coming back against PSU may have Michigan believing yes. But it could go the other way. They can be frustrated that they came so close and failed to convert that game to a win.

    So I see it as maybe 50-50. A lot of it depends on the coaching too.

    But usually Michigan plays ND hard regardless. Like USC, they love to beat ND. So if I were the team I wouldn’t expect to be facing a broken down Michigan team. I’d expect them to give us everything they got and play accordingly. And if ND does come in wounded a brooding, then all the better. I’d rather be prepared for a hard fighting Michigan team and find the reverse is true then vice versa.

    I find it hilarious though. Michigan has basically been a nobody since the RichRod years. Boy did that experiment blow up in their face. And they haven’t been able to really come back since then. They’ve lost most of their games since then to hated rival OSU, and a number of games to ND as well (including that 31-0 beatdown….boy I never tire of seeing that 🙂 ).

    And I think the media starts every year rooting for them. How many times have we heard this is it. This is the year Michigan wins it all. And they fail yet again. Last year, this year. They got their hyped QB transfer (which I think was a bit overblown) and still can’t get the job done.

    Boy, I hope we beat Michigan again this year. And while I have no special love for OSU I’d love to see them put a hurting on the Maize and Blue as well. It’s richly deserved–for all the ‘we taught you CFB’ comments, the blacklisting of ND not only from the Big 10 (which ended up being a big favor in retrospect) but from playing Big 10 teams for years (again, in retrospect a big favor since it turned ND into a national brand), and from all the dubious NC’s they claim.

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    1. Damian 4 weeks ago

      EDIT (I wish there was a way to edit previous comments)

      And if ND does come in wounded a brooding, then all the better should say:

      And if ND does come in facing a wounded, brooding Michigan, then all the better

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    2. southside 4 weeks ago

      Damian , been waiting to hear from ya about Skunk Bears. From past posts the Meat Chickens are your most hated Irish opponent. I go with U$C at top of my list – Michigan # 2. Miami “Convicts” were once on the list — still are to some of us. But yeah — I agree the showdown at the Big House this Saturday is 50-50.

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      1. Damian 4 weeks ago

        Michigan and Miami. I remember a column from years ago where I think it was Frank who had said anything good that happened to Miami made you question the existence of God. It thrills me to no end Miami is mired in mediocrity. They’ll be paying their penance for years to come hopefully.

        Michigan is another one. It’s genetically required I think for ND fans to hate on them (and vice versa I’m sure). How sweet would it be for the two teams they hate most, ND and Ohio State, to beat them. It also cracks me up that MSU has been giving them trouble these last few years. I don’t have any great love for MSU, but I’ll root for them over Michigan any day.

        USC would come in at number 3 for me. As I noted, I can force myself to root for them if it has ramifications for our season (but it’d have to be playoff implications only). That’s something I can’t do for Miami and Michigan. I can’t imagine any situation where I’d root for those two teams–that’d just be wrong.

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  2. Greg Kelly 4 weeks ago

    The Irish have had two weeks to dissect, study the Wolverines. Our Dc’s and Oc’s have had a lot of time to study this weeks foe. Let’s hope this pays off. D

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  3. Joe 4 weeks ago

    If Michigan had been blown out by Penn State I would feel a lot better about Notre Dame’s chances this Saturday against a demoralized team. But after falling behind 21-0 Michigan fought back in the 2ndd half and should have pushed it to OT. Michigan is starting to click now and they’re likely excited to continue their inspired 2nd half play at home against Notre Dame. That’s why I don’t see Notre Dame winning this game. Hope I’m wrong!

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  4. Shawn Donaldson 4 weeks ago

    Don’t know why you thought the Irish would open as a decent sized favorite. Night game, on the road, to a pissed off team that is beginning to click on all cylinders.

    They will force Book to beat them deep which he has proven incapable of and the rest of the defense will gobble everything else up within 8 yards of the LOS. Patterson will then pick apart our CBs and/or scramble for crucial 3rd and long conversations.

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  5. Fitz 4 weeks ago

    Frank:

    There’s one point you did not make in stating the importance of the Michigan game, and that is not only
    Is a win essential for the Irish but a win by a much larger margin than the seven point win by PSU.
    A 27-10 victory in Ann Arbor is the kind of convincing statement the Irish need on its resume.

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    1. Bruce G. Curme 4 weeks ago

      And if our team goes out there worrying about our margin of victory, instead of focusing on the real job at hand, our chances of losing outright will be greatly enhanced. We are about as likely to “run up the score” in this one as USC was against us.

      BGC ’77 ’82

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  6. Michael The Archangel 4 weeks ago

    Frank,
    I see what your post is saying- regarding how much more of a boost a ND win could have been, especially from a 3TD comeback MI win @ Penn State. But beating Michigan, like beating SC, is critical criteria for a great season whether ND can benefit from the victories ranking-wise or not. This for Harbaugh is likely the game that will either delay the inevitable or underscore his inability to win – and not just for Michigan’s 2019 season. Another nail in the coffin for the consistently historic losses of the Harbaugh era. And may ND serve as the hammer Saturday.

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    1. southside 4 weeks ago

      MTA , agree Irish successful season starts with beating the regular foes on schedule –USC , Stanford , Navy(not to be taken lightly), and the Big Ten programs that rotate in like Michigan and Michigan State. Wisconsin/Ohio State are up coming on schedule. Throw in Clemson , Georgia , Oklahoma makes for an even more difficult campaign. If Irish beat USC, Stanford , and top Big Ten Ten on schedule every season — it’s a must to reach elite status and beat the elites on the schedule and in the playoffs . First things first though —need to beat Michigan.

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