If you were to talk to an average college football fan, or perhaps even a segment of the Notre Dame fan base, some would consider the Irish-Michigan series as a “rivalry.”
One of those people who see a rivalry there, though, wouldn’t be the Golden Domer’s current head coach, at least not in the historical sense.
This Saturday, the Irish and Wolverines will renew their
rivalry series at Michigan Stadium for the second-to-last time before it goes on hiatus following the 2014 season. During a conference call ahead of that game, Brian Kelly attempted to deemphasize the rivalry aspect of the matchup.
“I really haven’t seen it as one of those historic, traditional Notre Dame rivalries,” Kelly said according to the Chicago Tribune. “I’ve seen it as just one of those great football games that Notre Dame has played.
“For me, I’ve been in Michigan a long time, I’ve always felt the Notre Dame-Michigan game was a big regional game. But in the Notre Dame history books, this game has (been) played, but obviously there have been some years where it hasn’t been played for a number of years.”
While some people may not appreciate how he couched it — he later described it as a “great rivalry” — Kelly certainly has a point.
According to the school’s 2013 media guide, Notre Dame and Michigan have faced each other in football 40 times. While the two programs first met in 1887, the series has been sporadic and seen a couple of significant breaks between games (1910-41; 1944-77). Since 1978, a span of 35 years, they have met 18 times.
Conversely, Notre Dame has played Navy every season since that rivalry kicked off in 1927; Michigan State every year since 1959, with 76 games total in the series; Purdue every year since 1946, with 84 total games; and what’s considered the Irish’s biggest rival, USC, which have squared off every year but three (1943-45) since 1926 for a total of 84 games entering the 2013 season.
Toss in other series such as Pittsburgh (68 games), Army (50) and Northwestern (47), and it’s easy to see why, from Kelly’s perspective, any rivalry talk when it comes to Michigan is downplayed.