E-mail Rich Cirminiello
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Last laugh to Notre Dame. And it might go down as the outcome that hastened Brady Hoke’s ouster at Michigan.
Hoke began the year on coaching probation. Getting abused in the final scheduled game between the Irish and the Wolverines, which both teams desperately wanted, will likely be deemed unforgivable by the administration. It’s one thing to lose to a rival. It’s another thing entirely to be uncompetitive from the opening kickoff.
Notre Dame has an abundance of talent and speed on defense, a big chunk of it young and still developing. LB Jaylon Smith is the cover boy of that D, but he’s hardly alone. The Irish got contributions from every area of the two-deep, putting Michigan in an inescapable vice grip. And the orchestrator of it all has been first-year coordinator Brian VanGorder, who’s beginning to look like a shrewd hire by Brian Kelly. Just imagine the potential of VanGorder’s group if CB Keivarae Russell and DE Ishaq Williams, suspended starters, were eligible to play.
The final chapter of Michigan-Notre Dame had many of the ingredients of an edge-of-the-seat thriller. The Irish, instead, transformed the matchup into a four-quarter snoozer, dominating on defense, while benefitting from the continued maturation of QB Everett Golson.
E-mail Pete Fiutak
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Take my rivalry – please.
Despite all the issue off the field, and all the controversy, and all the problems, Brian Kelly is still an absolutely amazing college football coach.
It’ll be easy to make this all about Michigan and it’s shutout loss on a day of utter disaster for the Big Ten, but with five of his key players still out of the mix, Kelly still managed to come up with a tremendous win against a jacked up team coming off a nearly-perfect performance against Appalachian State. This was supposed to be a new Michigan and a new start to the season, but instead, the classic rivalry ended with a thud, thanks to Kelly and his coaching staff, and helped by an Everett Golson who looked for the second week in a row like a guy who’s been ready to do something special for an entire season.
Michigan outgained Notre Dame 289 yards to 280. It didn’t get much going on the ground, and it wasn’t particularly explosive, but the offense didn’t turn the ball over, the defense came up with four takeaways, and while Golson officially announced his Heisman candidacy, Jaylon Smith showed the world that Notre Dame has a new superstar linebacker to work around, just like it did in 2012.
And now comes the new big task for Kelly, because the pressure is on. With Purdue, Syracuse, Stanford and North Carolina up next, it’s his job to keep the team focused before the showdown at Florida State on October 18th.
But for now, beating Michigan 31-0 is enough. And until the athletic directors kick this thing back up again, beating Michigan 31-0 might be forever.
By Phil Harrison
Follow me @PhilHarrisonCFN
What has happened to the Michigan program? Apparently it and the Big Ten are headed in the same direction — south.
All those top recruiting classes, and all the high profile hires of assistant coaches and the ballooning salaries that have gone along with them, yet still not the production you would expect on the field.
The offensive line still has issues, the defense remains undisciplined, and Devin Gardner continues to make too many mistakes both mentally and physically to expect an offense that can go get enough points to beat the more talented teams.
You’ve got to wonder how long the Michigan brass will stay the course with the Brady Hoke regime if product on the field continues to be a wet-noodle affair. He’s shown the ability to turn programs around with a pro-style, hard-nosed approach, but it has yet to take root in the Big House and the clock is ticking ever so louder.
But let’s not forget to give credit to Notre Dame. The return of Everett Golson and what he does for the Irish may be one of the most under-the-radar stories that we’ve all forgotten about. He was a difference maker two years ago, and if he’s the same player now with even more seasoning, this might be an interesting and exciting year in South Bend.
Add the dynamics of Golson on offense with what looks to be a pretty stout defense, and that’s a combination better than brats and beer in the Midwest. The Golden Domers will need every inch of what they can get because the schedule is a somewhat brutal proposition.
That’s the opposite of what the Wolverines are facing in the Big Ten, but that hardly matters to their fan base tonight.
E-mail Rich Cirminiello