Saturday, September 6, 2014

Notre Dame Football: Last Night of the Skunkbear Edition

I confess it: the season snuck up on me. The summer, the cheating scandals, the potential unionization of college football players, the ridiculous four-team playoff system that . I saw it all coming (well--maybe not the entire ND cheating scandal, but since that's indelibly intertwined with all the other major issues in college football it is, alas, is another post for another time). And I let it sneak up on me anyway.

I didn't have time to collect my thoughts before the Rice game, and sure as our special teams unit (NEWS FLASH: special teams unit now live -- good field position now available in all locations -- no limits on exchanges or returns) I didn't have time to write anything after. But it's Michigan week--the Last Night of the Skunkbear for probably twenty-odd years. I can't let that pass in silence.

First things first - I'm going to sum up some of my thoughts with

Shit I Didn't Have to Write

ESPN College GameDay's spot this morning about about walk-ons, featuring this choice quote from ND Running Back Tyler Plantz:
-How much did last semester's tuition cost you?
-Nine grand.
-Worth it?
-I would've paid nine million
The Odds from SB Nation:
The Michigan Wolverines are 6-2 SU and ATS in their last eight games against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, but just 2-6 at South Bend since 1998.
Despite their recent success in this series, the Wolverines are the betting underdog this Saturday going off at +5 on the road against Notre Dame.

Everett Golson has never lost a regular season game under center at Notre Dame, improving to 13-0 SU and 8-5 ATS all-time in last Saturday's win over Rice. He is poised to improve to 14-0 when he leads the Fighting Irish to a win and cover as a 5-point favorite over Michigan on Saturday.
To pull off the road upset, Michigan will likely need to get the running game going against a Notre Dame defense that is replacing five of last year's seven starters in the front seven.

The West Wing clip:

Did you say Michigan sucks? I'm sorry, I thought you said Michigan sucks.'s take on the Last Known Matchup Between ND and Michigan For Some Tim:
"Much like energy, a rivalry can neither be created nor destroyed. So, Michigan’s hatred for Notre Dame will (probably) turn into more hate for Ohio State. Notre Dame’s disdain for Michigan will (presumably) scatter all over this great nation."

I don't really feel the need to defend Notre Dame's scheduling choices to Michigan fans (in the same that way I don't feel the need to waste my breath arguing integrity with USC fans), but since the ND-Michigan game is going on hiatus for an indeterminate number of years (which, let's face it, is another traditional part of the rivalry), it's hard to resist quoting Lou:
I just want all Michigan alums and administration to know--it's not that we're not playing you because we're afraid of you. We're not playing you because we're trying to upgrade the damn schedule.

But really, nothing sums up my thoughts on the Michigan rivalry better than Blue-Gray Sky's letter to Michigan fans:

In the end, perhaps we do owe the Skunkbears a few more tokens of thanks. If Yost hadn't taken his ball and gone home, perhaps we would now be in the Big Ten, and our idea of football excellence would entail two or three losses per year and a trip to the Rose Bowl twice a decade. But instead, you blackballed us, and tried to choke us out of existence. You should have finished the job. We survived, and because too many teams were under Michigan's villainous spell in the Midwest, we were forced to look elsewhere to find quality opponents. And we did. We scheduled and played the nationwide champions of the day: Army, Southern Cal, Georgia Tech, Stanford, and many others. We criss-crossed the country, we were Rockne's Ramblers, taking on all comers, what tho' the odds. In doing so, we won national acclaim, respect, and the hearts of countless Americans. It was Michigan's attempt to stamp out a budding rival that created the nation's most popular and successful football program, the University of Notre Dame's Fighting Irish.

This is why we don't approach the Michigan game with the same tradition-laden respect, the pomp and circumstance, or the "contest of equals" honor reserved for the Southern Cal game. Rather, like Inigo Montoya closing in on the six-fingered man, we come with a singular focus. We are Notre Dame Football. You tried to kill us. Prepare to die.

How Sweet it is (to be Loathed by You)

You guys...I kind of love to hate Michigan. It's oddly satisfying: like popping a pimple or demolishing a sandcastle or squashing a fly. It's a destructive energy--a homage to entropy--a union with the inevitable decomposition of the universe and a visceral representation of the state of Michigan's defense once Everett Golson's finished shredding them to pieces tonight.

Playing Michigan isn't the same as playing USC. Playing the Trojans (loathed as they are) sort of has a pomp to it--like the approach you might have to a yearly, organized fight-to-the-death between two patronizing and highly aggressive city-states. Or playing MSU, which feels more like fighting with a rude neighbor whose pitbull keeps trespassing on your lawn. Or playing f@$*ing Pittsburgh, which isn't even a rivalry game but which is lot like trying to fight the actual pitbull trespassing on your lawn. Every time Pitt plays Notre Dame, they play us like they've contracted f*$&-ing rabies. (Guess who I am NOT SORRY to not be be playing this season.)

But watching Notre Dame play Michigan is like watching two kids brawling in the schoolyard; kids who can't even pass each other in the halls without throwing a punch. Like James Potter versus Severus Snape. Or no, actually,  since there is no scenario in which Michigan is cool enough to be either of those characters. So really it's more like Molly Weasley vs. Bellatrix Lestrange.

And we must destroy the Bellatrix Lestranges of the universe. We must crush them, like cockroaches, under the heels of our vengeance. We must charge into our final meeting roaring with enough fury to last a century:


^This is the last time we beat Michigan. I am just saying.


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