Saturday’s game between No. 17 Michigan and No. 14 Notre Dame is garnering more and more hype as shots continue to fly between the two old rivals.
Sunday, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said he didn’t see the game “as one of those historic, traditional Notre Dame rivalries," which is why the team is opting out of the series as it makes its moves to the ACC.
Monday, Michigan coach Brady Hoke responded, saying that for Michigan it is a traditional rivalry, but he didn’t comment directly on what Kelly said because, “Everybody looks at everything differently.”
Some thought Kelly’s comments might’ve been directed toward comments Hoke made last May, saying Notre Dame was “chickening out” of the rivalry, which will see its final scheduled game in Michigan Stadium this Saturday. On whether he still stands by those comments, Hoke replied flatly, “I said it.”
Hoke said he will miss the game, because it always has stood as a benchmark for Wolverines teams.
“I think it was always a game that really, it kind of gave you a little bit of a true north of what type of football team you’re going to have,” Hoke said. “You’ve got two traditional, national powers playing each other, and it kind of gave you an indication. I remember coach [Bo] Schembechler all the time talking about how that game, you can kind of get an idea of where you were as a team.”
Michigan leads the series 23-16-1, including a 9-6 advantage at Michigan Stadium. The teams have split the two games since Hoke arrived in Ann Arbor before the 2011 season, but Hoke has yet to lose a game to Notre Dame in the Big House during his tenure.
As for the players, it seems as though they aren’t putting much stock into what Kelly has said about the game or history of the rivalry.
“I don’t have anything to say about that,” left tackle Taylor Lewan said. “I’m playing football on Saturday. My coach can say what he wants. Coach Kelly can say what he wants. Devin Gardner can say what he wants. I’m playing ball. So it doesn’t matter to me.”
Gardner said he doesn’t pay much attention, either.
“I love football, and I love to compete, so I’m going to be fired up regardless,” Gardner said. “It doesn’t take anyone saying anything bad about our team or anything like that to get me fired up. I’m ready to play at all times. Sometimes the bulletin board material is a little bit extra for others. It gives them a chance to get a little extra fire.”