With still two more weeks to preview and talk about Michigan’s Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl matchup with Kansas State, this is a good time to let other Michigan football thoughts wander in our minds. One such thought is the impending end of the Michigan-Notre Dame series. Next September, Michigan and Notre Dame will play their final regular season game for the foreseeable future and while the end of the rivalry makes some sense for both sides, it sure is a shame.
Notre Dame technically ended the rivalry by discontinuing the scheduled games starting in 2015, but Michigan also is benefitting from the end of the rivalry. With the Big Ten soon moving to a 9 game conference schedule, playing Notre Dame doesn’t make much sense. First, that only leaves two empty non-conference slots each year and if Michigan ever wants to play another big program, they would only be left with one slot for a cupcake or tune-up game. Also, economically the rivalry hurts Michigan as it costs them a home game every other season. In years where they only have 4 home conference games and a game at Notre Dame, they are already down to a maximum of six home games, which is sub-optimal for a program that makes about $6 million per home game. Not playing Notre Dame anymore helps Michigan football competitively and financially.
But it still hurts. Watch this. Or this. And this. Few rivalries have brought as much exhilarating fun and heart-stopping drama to college football over the past decade as Michigan-Notre Dame. Maybe The Iron Bowl?
Both teams haven’t even had to be very good for the games to be great. In fact, lately, the Notre Dame games have been the highpoint of Michigan seasons (2008, 2009 and 2013). There just has been a magic spark that the two teams have been able to create. Stars have used the game as a showcase for great performances (Tate Forcier’s inspiring last second TD in 2009, Denard Robinson’s 502 total yard, 3 TD game in 2010 and 446 yard and 5 total TD game in 2011 and Devin Gardner’s 5 TDs in 2013).
But sentimentality is no match for shifting waters of modern college football. The game is rapidly changing, with conference realignment creating new friends and foes while abolishing established ones.
Who knows? Sometimes change is good and years from now not having the Michigan-Notre Dame series probably won’t be a big deal. But right now, its hard not to rue the end of a great rivalry.
You can follow Alex Dale on Twitter @alexdaleCFB