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
Stunner of the Week
More Bob Wojnowski
- Tigers' Max Scherzer carves out own niche atop star-studded staff
- Pistons' Joe Dumars knows his job is on the line
- Reggie Bush's star power can push the Lions
- Tigers enjoying embarrassment of starting pitching riches
- Tigers need their bats to be more than just hit and miss
- Lions' Bill Ford Jr. knows now is time for Lions to win
- Encouraging season shows Red Wings aren't far from being a force, again