Michigan coach Brady Hoke has accused Notre Dame of “chickening out'' of the football series between the schools, which is scheduled to end after 2014 despite having a contract through 2031.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said it's not that big a deal because Michigan isn't “one of those historic, traditional Notre Dame rivalries.''
Ah, nothing like a good old-fashioned hissing match as we enter Saturday's 7 p.m. tilt on ESPN between No. 14 Notre Dame and No. 17 Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Hoke wryly didn't back down this week from poking holes in Kelly's theory about the relevance of the game.
“ESPN '(College) GameDay' has been here six times for this game, so it must have some sort of national appeal,'' Hoke said. “Having coached in a lot of places, I know that whenever Michigan and Notre Dame were on TV, I was going to watch it.''
Notre Dame asked out of the contract after next year because of a new scheduling agreement with the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Irish now will play five ACC schools per year starting in 2014, along with keeping annual dates with USC, Stanford and Navy.
The Irish dropped the Michigan series, saying they wanted more scheduling flexibility, though they managed to save two series with other Big Ten foes with lesser records — Michigan State and Purdue.
Notre Dame and Michigan have met 40 times overall. Since the series resumed nearly annually in 1978, the series record is 14-14-1.
UM players are as excited about the game as their coach.
“It's what every quarterback dreams of — being on the big stage and being able to perform like this,'' quarterback Devin Gardner said. “I remember when I was a recruit coming to watch this game.''
All-America offensive tackle Taylor Lewan said he hates to see a “national'' rivalry end.
“We have three big rivalries — Michigan State, Ohio and Notre Dame,'' he said. “It's unfortunate this one is coming to an end. But I'm excited for it.''
The Big Ten office will root hard for a Michigan victory.
As lackluster as the league's nonconference schedule is overall — the only Top 25 teams the Big Ten is set to face out of 48 games are Notre Dame (three times) and UCLA — any high-profile victory will be welcomed.
My pick: Michigan 19, Notre Dame 17
Other Big Ten games
Southern Mississippi (0-1) at No. 22 Nebraska (1-0)
5 p.m., BTN: Husker coach Bo Pelini says he's more encouraged than ever after watching film from the Wyoming win. Are you? Wyoming's 35 first downs were the most Nebraska has allowed in 124 years of the sport. The previous worst was 34 by Kansas in 2007 against a Kevin Cosgrove defense. Nebraska 42, Southern Miss 21
Cincinnati (1-0) at Illinois (1-0)
11 a.m., ESPN2: It's not good, Illinois, when your quarterback has a record passing day, yet your mid-level FCS opponent is throwing into the end zone for a tie on the final play. The Illini have too many holes on defense to fill before this game. Cincinnati 34, Illinois 14
Missouri State (0-1) at Iowa (0-1)
11 a.m., BTN: Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock had a solid start in his first game. He and the Hawkeyes need a W to snap a seven-game losing skid and gain some confidence for down the road. Iowa 35, Missouri State 10
South Florida (0-1) at Michigan State (1-0)
11 a.m., ESPNU: Maybe Spartans coach Mark Dantonio won't use any of his four quarterbacks and employ the Wildcat. We won't know until Saturday because he and his QBs aren't talking. South Florida laid the biggest egg of the first week, losing at home to FCS McNeese State 53-21. Michigan State 28, South Florida 9
Eastern Michigan (1-0) at Penn State (1-0)
11 a.m., BTN: Eastern needed two touchdowns in the fourth quarter last week to subdue FCS Howard. That means Penn State gets an easier week for freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg to gain more live work. Penn State 44, Eastern Michigan 10
Indiana State (0-1) at Purdue (0-1)
11 a.m., BTN: Both teams are coming off embarrassing losses by more than 30 points. Purdue simply cannot afford to lose to an in-state FCS school in Darrell Hazell's first season. Purdue 27, Indiana State 20
Tennessee Tech (1-0) at No. 21 Wisconsin (1-0)
11 a.m., BTN: Wisconsin and Oklahoma were the only FBS teams to shut out an FBS opponent last week. Can the Badgers do it to an FCS foe this week? Wisconsin 45, Tennessee Tech 10
San Diego State (0-1) at No. 3 Ohio State (1-0)
2:30 p.m., ABC: Buckeye quarterback Braxton Miller looked like he was still in spring practice last week, throwing a pick-6, getting sacked four times and suffering cramps. Not the Heisman Trophy campaign kickoff he wanted. Ohio State 42, San Diego State 17
Syracuse (0-1) at No. 19 Northwestern (1-0)
5 p.m., BTN: The big thing to watch is injuries. Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter (concussion) played only two snaps last week, and All-America RB/KR Venric Mark was “dinged up'' and limited to 11 carries. Northwestern 26, Syracuse 14
Navy (0-0) at Indiana (1-0)
5 p.m., BTN: This could be a wild one. The Hoosiers, using three quarterbacks, scored 73 points last week. Navy's triple option is always hard to stop on short preparation. Indiana 49, Navy 41
Minnesota (1-0) at New Mexico State (0-1)
7 p.m., BTN2go: New Mexico State was down only 14-7 at halftime last week to Texas, but lost 56-7. Minnesota's job here is to not let the Aggies hang around. Minnesota 30, New Mexico State 14