Sep 26, 2012, 2:10 PM EDT
Based on some of the tweets and Facebook posts I’ve been reading, you might think the “end” of the Notre Dame-Michigan series is the sign of an impending apocalypse.
Yes, Notre Dame announced yesterday that it has canceled games against Michigan for the 2015-17 seasons, thereby signaling the end of the big series. However, this announcement should not keep you awake at night.
While the matchup with Michigan garners similar media attention and excitement among fans as Notre Dame’s annual meeting with USC, there are a lot of incorrect assumptions about the history between the Fighting Irish and the Wolverines.
When Notre Dame played its first football game in 1887, it took on Michigan at “senior campus field.” Believe it or not, however, Saturday marked just the 40th game between the two schools.
After Notre Dame topped Michigan in 1909, the teams did not play again until 1942. The following year, 1943, the #2 Irish beat the #1 Wolverines in Ann Arbor, and the series took a break until 1978.
On the other hand, the Irish have played Navy in each season dating back to 1927, and have met USC every year since 1926 (except for 1943-45 during World War II).
The Trojans and Midshipmen aside, Michigan is not even the most common Big Ten opponent. Notre Dame has taken on in-state foe Purdue 84 times and the Irish have also had 76 gridiron meetings with the Michigan State Spartans.
Notre Dame has played Pittsburgh 67 times, and though they don’t show up on the schedule much anymore, Army (50) and Northwestern (47) have also been more frequent opponents.
Notre Dame and Michigan have played quite a few classic games over the years, but dropping the Wolverines from future schedules does not signify the end of Irish football as we know it.
With the football scheduling agreement that accompanied the university’s recent decision to move to the Atlantic Coast Conference, it seemed inevitable that one of Notre Dame’s common opponents would have to go by the wayside.
Save for 2013, Irish football fans may not be making trips to Ann Arbor any time soon.
But consider the possibilities.
The Fighting Irish are one of four FBS independent teams. Opening a spot on the schedule will allow Notre Dame to do what is best for Notre Dame (Having that freedom is one of the major advantages of being independent).
With Michigan out of the mix, the Irish may be able to pursue a home-and-home series with a Pac-12, SEC, Big 12 or perhaps a different Big Ten opponent. Who knows? Maybe those fantasy trips to Autzen (Oregon), The Swamp (Florida) or Camp Randall (Wisconsin), could soon become reality.
And don’t forget, Michigan and Notre Dame are ranked first and second, respectively, in all-time NCAA winning percentage. Even with yesterday’s announcement, I have a tough time believing we’ve seen the last of the Wolverines.
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