Sep 20, 2012, 4:40 PM EDT
I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard people talk about what it was like on campus when the Irish took on top-ranked USC in October 2005. Most of the time, their story ends with “you had to be there.”
Unfortunately, I was not in Notre Dame Stadium, nor was I able to watch on a reliable television. My high school cross-country team was returning from a meet in Rhode Island. The bus had a TV and we watched part of the game, but it faded in and out as we traveled back to upstate New York.
While Saturday’s tilt with Michigan doesn’t have the same level of hype, it is arguably the toughest ticket and biggest game on Notre Dame’s campus since that fateful contest against the Trojans.
I’ve been around for football season since 2007, and the only comparable sense of campus energy that I can remember was during the 2009 campaign, when Notre Dame (4-1) met #6 USC (4-1). And that pales in comparison to what’s expected for this weekend.
After dominating Michigan State at Spartan Stadium last Saturday night, Notre Dame is 3-0 for the first time since I was in eighth grade (2002). Rightfully so, there is considerable buzz among Irish students, alumni and fans.
The season is young. There’s no doubt it. Notre Dame plays one of most competitive schedules in the country, and some of its toughest opponents are still ahead (Stanford, Oklahoma and USC, to name a few).
But there’s a growing sentiment that if the Irish can beat Michigan – if they can put the first month of the season in their rearview mirror at 4-0 – BCS dreams suddenly become BCS expectations.
I’m not saying anyone should book New Year’s plans for Glendale, Miami or New Orleans, but an unblemished September would be an impressive accomplishment for a team that many “experts” thought would be 2-2 through a third of the schedule.
If that’s not enough, consider the fact that Notre Dame has not defeated Michigan since 2008. The losses to the Wolverines in the past three seasons? Each has been more devastating than the previous one – culminating in the 2011 heartbreaker at Michigan Stadium.
Fair or not, there is a lot riding on this game for the Fighting Irish. A win, and the Irish find themselves in the top 10, the national spotlight continuing to grow larger. A loss, and suddenly the Michigan State victory was a fluke, with people still wondering if the 2012 Notre Dame football team is a legitimate contender.
So if you’re one of the 80,795 who will be in the House That Rockne Built on Saturday night, cherish the moment. Is Notre Dame football “back”? I don’t know. But I can promise you, there will be a feeling around campus over the next couple days that you just can’t describe.
Soak in the weekend, and when you get to the stadium, cheer like you’ve never cheered before. Who knows? An Irish victory on Saturday could be the beginning of many more of these too-awesome-for-words Notre Dame moments.
Finally, when it comes to videos, there are few better than those that combine sports, music and inspirational speeches (thank you, Explosions In The Sky). With that in mind, I invite you to check out Fighting Irish Digital Media’s special edition primer video below.
So, you ready to jump out of your seat and help the Irish tackle Denard Robinson?
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