The Top 5 Michigan list this week is obvious as Michigan takes on Notre Dame. Well I guess obvious to everyone but Brian Kelly who said this doesn’t feel like one of the historic rivalries ND has. While everyone is freaking out I just have to commend Kelly on an excellent troll job. If you want to troll Michigan fans then just tell them you have a differing view on history than we do and we will go insane.
Luckily for me I have the facts on my side as I know the Michigan-ND rivalry is historic because it has its own Wikipedia page about it. Everything that has a Wikipedia page is both factual and very significant. Maybe Brian Kelly just hasn’t found the internet yet. That’s gotta be it.
Anyway, trying to pick this top 5 was hard because every victory over ND is like a beautiful flower. Remember all of these games are post-1991 because that is as far back as I can remember. So unfortunately Michigan’s win in 1902 over ND in Toledo is not on the list. On with the list…
5) 2009: Michigan 38 Notre Dame 34
Lowdown: The wins over ND in 97 or 99 are probably more significant but this one was special because it was the best seats I ever had to a Michigan game. I worked with former Michigan kicker Remy Hamilton (more on him later) and he was being honored at this game. He was nice enough to get my Dad and I two tickets which ended up being at the fifty yard line. (Former women’s hoops coach Kevin Borseth sat in front of me. The whole time I had to stop myself from yelling “Totally, totally, totally out rebounded.”)
Highlights: TATE FORCIER! (Or as some ND fans call him, “Chode.”) This was Tate’s shining moment in a Michigan uniform as he led an unranked Michigan team to a win over ND. Michigan had been 3-9 the year before and this win was a boost to Michigan’s ego. The game was a typical crazy Michigan/ND game with back and forth that went down to the wire.
Other Notes: Neither team was any good as Michigan ended the season 5-7 and ND finished 6-6 and thus ended the Charlie Weis era in South Bend. (I think they will still be paying him until 2037 when Charlie Jr takes over for the Irish.)
4) 1994: Michigan 26 Notre Dame 24
Lowdown: Here is part 1 and part 2 if you are interested. Each team was ranked in the top 10 and had won their first game of the season. Notre Dame had upset Michigan the year prior in Ann Arbor on their way to an 11-1 season.
Highlights: Another back and forth classic and Todd Collins and Ron Powlus led their teams up and down the field with plenty of scoring and lots of turnovers. A great kickoff return set up Powlus to lead a drive with 2 minutes left to put the Irish up ahead 24-23. Todd Collins then had :46 seconds to work with and led an improbable drive down to the ND 25 yard line. From there Remy Hamilton booted the game winning field goal and went down as a Michigan legend. (He also had an insanely hot wife which makes him just as legendary.)
Other Notes: This game was also notably because Michigan broke tradition and was the 2nd team out of the tunnel at the beginning of the game. There was some gamesmanship between Moeller and Holtz here. This would be the last time either would coach in this game as Moeller was forced out at the end of the season and Holtz would retire prior to the series renewing in 1997.
3) Tie: 2010 Michigan 28 Notre Dame 24 and 2011 Michigan 35 Notre Dame 31
Lowdown: I couldn’t make up my mind which one I liked better so I chose both. The 2010 game would be Rich Rod’s last major win at Michigan as Denard had an absurd 502 total yards of offense. 2011 was the first night game in Michigan history and while Denard had another absurd game with 446 total yards.
Highlights: Did I mention Denard yet? In the 2010 game he was making his 2nd career start and gave Michigan fans hope that the Rich Rod era would work out. (It wouldn’t) In 2011 Denard was way more sporadic as Michigan was in just its 2nd game under Hoke. The offense looked inept for the first 3 quarters before exploding for 28 points in the 4th quarter.
Other Notes: Michigan won these games despite the fact Michael Floyd was eating their terrible secondary alive. These were Kelly’s first two seasons at ND so I guess I can see why he doesn’t like this rivalry. Each of his teams went on to finish the season 8-5. (Michigan lost to ND last year and went on to go 8-5 meaning loser this Saturday gets to go 8-5. This is a fact.)
2) 1991 Michigan 24 Notre Dame 14
Lowdown: This was my first Michigan football memory. Although I was born in ‘86 I don’t have any vivid Michigan memories prior to this one. I only linked Desmond’s catch but that is all you really need to see from this game. Each team came in ranked in the top 10 but Notre Dame had won four straight in the series and was looking for five in a row.
Highlights: Desmond would kick off his Heisman campaign with his catch and he also had a TD on a reverse earlier in the game. Michigan started off the game with a 17-0 lead before ND cut it to 17-14 in the 3rd. The Howard catch would seal the game and Holtz would later go on to say that they actually had the right defense called, it was just a perfect throw.
Other Notes: Of course my first Michigan memory was followed up by Michigan getting shellacked by FSU the following week. Still MIchigan had a good year as they went undefeated in the Big Ten and went on to the Rose Bowl. Desmond Howard would go on to win the 2nd Heisman trophy in Michigan history.
1) 2006: Michigan 47 Notre Dame 21
Lowdown: Here is part 2. Notre Dame came in with all the hype ranked #2 with their beautiful Senior QB Brady Quinn. Michigan came into the season without any heavy expectations after going 7-5 the year before. Each team was 2-0 and I was fortunate enough to be in attendance for the game.
Highlights: Just about everything from a Michigan perspective. Burgess took an int to the house on the 2nd play of the game and Michigan just rolled from there. Manningham would have 3 first half TD catches as the ND crowd and team was just stunned as they were outplayed in every way. The 2nd half was when the Michigan defense took over forcing turnovers and Woodley returning a Brady Quinn fumble to the endzone as Michigan won 47-21.
Other Notes: If you have never been to South Bend for a game it is actually quite enjoyable as everyone is very friendly. (We showed up to the tailgate with a 30 rack and a softball bat and the people next to us just gave us their football out of fear of us hitting their children with empty beer cans.) This was easily the most memorable road trip experience we had in college just because of the outcome. Michigan would go on to start the season 11-0 before falling to OSU and USC but this game will always stick out to me.
I will be in the Big House this Saturday for the game and hopefully we make another memory as this will be the last time these two play in Ann Arbor for a while. I plan on reporting back to you next week my adventures back to college which I am sure will include some shenanigans.