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Breath of Fresh Air

Sep 27, 2013, 7:38 PM EDT

Craig Chval, the official 2013 football beat writer for the Strong & True blog, is currently a junior at the University of Notre Dame. Over the course of the year Craig will bring you insight from within the student section, interviews with Fighting Irish players and previews of each game. You can follow Craig (and the rest of the Notre Dame student beat writing staff) on twitter at @JrNDBloggers.

Before the Michigan game, I wrote a less-than-complimentary blog about our relationship with our oldest rival. To put it mildly, traveling Irish fans are not well treated in Ann Arbor (I speak from experience). Their fans worship a coach who never won a national championship and was 2-8 in the Rose Bowl. They hang their hat on having the highest win percentage in college football despite playing the vast majority of their games at home against typically weak opponents.

I mentioned at the end of the blog that although I’ll miss the intensity of the rivalry, I applaud discontinuing the series in favor of schools with whom we have a more positive relationship. That brings me to today.

While Michigan will probably replace Notre Dame with a MAC school, we have the opportunity to schedule games like this weekend. As a school with actual championship pedigree, Oklahoma has six consensus national titles since 1950 and such legendary coaches as Bud Wilkinson and Barry Switzer.

While the Sooners and Irish have only met sparingly, the two have played their share of historic games, including the 1957 game that broke Oklahoma’s record 47-game win streak. They met in a top-10 matchup last year that sent Notre Dame on the track to the national championship game. Despite the Sooners’ great history, the Irish are 9-1 against them, and John Heisler has a great recounting of the series here.

These games are tremendous for college football. In an era that has BCS teams play 2 FCS nonconference opponents, such matchups are sadly a rarity. Two powerhouses who are not traditional rivals don’t often meet, so enjoy this weekend. (Remember last week’s national slate? Me neither).

But the other reason I love this game is the two fanbases. I didn’t get a chance to go to Norman last year, but I heard extraordinarily complimentary things about their fans. The kind of things people say about Notre Dame fans.

You can tell that when we play Oklahoma, they respect the tradition and the history of Notre Dame (If you don’t believe me, watch this video). Considering some of our other opponents, it’s a breath of fresh air. Will this game have the same type of rawness that comes with playing Michigan? Of course not. But there’s room for respect in the college football world.

Don’t get me wrong – nothing will make me happier than to kick the crap out of these guys. Just respectfully.

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