September 10, 2009 at 11:32 pm

Bob Wojnowski: Pigskin Picks

Winner of Michigan-Notre Dame can actually brag this year

Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen has the edge in experience against U-M's Tate Forcier. (Getty Images)

Michigan and Notre Dame sure have a lot in common. Both ooze arrogance and boast more victories than anyone in college football history, not counting the games stolen by referees. Both have classic fight songs that annoy others, and both cling to cherished traditions, such as losing bowl games and longing for The Way Things Used To Be.

Oh, there's more. Both have coaches on the hot seat, although the seat for Notre Dame's Charlie Weis is considerably wider, with deeper indentations. And now, based on the calm, reasoned reaction of their fans, the biggest similarity of all: Both programs have shaken their woes and risen again to represent all that is good and righteous about this great sport! The hype is back, ba-bee! This is the biggest game in the country, way bigger than USC-Ohio State!

Sorry. Resounding victories over Nevada and Western Michigan can tilt perspectives. For instance, Michigan freshman quarterback Tate Forcier probably isn't quite ready to challenge Notre Dame's Overwhelming Heisman Trophy Favorite, Jimmy Clausen (but he's close!).

There's always bitter competition between these rivals. Just two years ago, Notre Dame decided to go 3-9 for no apparent reason. So who had to get all jealous and produce the exact same record last season? Michigan, of course.

More proof needed

Before I declare either program fully back, I need to see more. An interesting sidebar will be the presence of ABC color analyst Matt Millen, the only person alive who could look at a 3-9 record and say, "Eh, not bad."

Millen is a much better broadcaster than a football executive, which isn't saying much. I could argue Millen is a much better astronaut than a football executive and I wouldn't be far off. His commentary should be fascinating, except for when he goes on and on about Notre Dame receiver Golden Tate being a surefire top-10 NFL pick.

But back to the game, and all the parallel story lines. Weis is an offensive guru who has splintered Notre Dame's fan base; Rich Rodriguez is an offensive guru who has splintered Michigan's base. Flashy Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson doesn't tie his shoelaces; Weis can't see his.

Oops. I'm losing focus.

The Irish are a mediocre 30-21 under Weis, which has their fans restless, and by "restless" I mean, "livid enough to put up a big nasty billboard." The billboard erected not far from Weis' office said, "Best wishes to Charlie Weis in the fifth year of his college coaching internship."

Not even Weis' pandering to Notre Dame's old-school believers -- his backup quarterback is named Dayne Crist, for cripe's sake -- has helped. Two years ago, Michigan took it easy on Notre Dame and sauntered to a 38-0 victory. Last season, the Wolverines took it even easier, fumbling 37 times in a 35-17 loss.

Rodriguez is in no position to be generous this time. He needs to do more, especially now that the days of Michigan players working 40-hour weeks, then pulling the late shift at 7-Eleven, apparently are over.

Yes, Lou Holtz and Beano Cook eyed Notre Dame's alleged talent and wimpy schedule and immediately slotted the Irish for the next seven BCS title games. I'm not buying that.

But I also know Rodriguez's "All quarterbacks in for Michigan!" program needs time. Weis' seat will cool just a bit, although I have no intention of physically confirming this.

Prediction: Notre Dame 27-21

Wojo's picks

  • Central Michigan at Michigan State: Not content to let Rich Rodriguez and the Jim Schwartz hog the quarterback debates, Michigan State's Mark Dantonio created one of his own. And all this talk about Cousins is really confusing, because I thought this was about brothers. If the Chips indeed are little brothers to the Spartans, does that mean Michigan State will treat them dismissively, while privately being very nervous? Yes, it does. Michigan State 34-23

  • USC at Ohio State: One of these years, the Big Ten will rise up and stop playing the role of the chubby, pasty kid who gets a wedgie from the cool, popular group. Chubby, pasty kids fight back sometimes (hey, don't look at me), but not this time. USC 27-17

    Stunner of the Week

  • Western Michigan at Indiana: I'm not sure this even counts as a stunner because the Broncos are better than they looked last week, and the Hoosiers are worse than imagined. I might be a buffoon (shut up), but I still believe in the power of the Mighty MAC! Western Michigan 30-24

    bob.wojnowski@detnews.com">bob.wojnowski@detnews.com

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