Does Kelly See ND-Michigan as Just Another Game?

Bob WienekeFeatured ColumnistSeptember 1, 2013

ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 10: University of Michigan head coach Brady Hoke and Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly meet on the field prior to the start of the game at Michigan Stadium on September 10, 2011 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Leon Halip/Getty Images

SOUTH BEND, Ind.—On Saturday, a few minutes' worth of the Notre Dame football news cycle revolved around the cups sold at Notre Dame Stadium, the ones that incorrectly spelled "Fighting" as "Figthing."

By Sunday, talk had turned to Michigan week, steering for a spell toward Wolverines coach Brady Hoke's comments last spring that ND was "chickening out of" its series with Michigan after 2014.

After Notre Dame entered an agreement with the ACC last year, the Irish were forced to take a long look at certain series because, as part of the deal, ND must play a certain number of games against ACC foes.

Brian Kelly, for his part, balked at getting into a war of words with Hoke.

"Everybody knows the challenges we have as an independent when it comes to scheduling," the fourth-year ND coach said Sunday. "We're a team that a lot of people want to play, including Michigan, obviously, or Brady wouldn't comment in that regard."

Kelly did, however, offer his thoughts on the overall series, which Michigan leads 23-16-1. The longtime Grand Valley State coach who later spent three years at Central Michigan seemed to downplay the rivalry.

"I really haven't seen it as one of those historic, traditional Notre Dame rivalries," said Kelly, who on Saturday earned his 200th career victory and also was given a contract extension. "I've seen it as just one of those great football games that Notre Dame has played."

If you want to talk great games, there have been some recent doozies, perhaps the best coming two years ago, the last time ND visited Michigan Stadium.

The back-and-forth affair went Michigan's way after the Wolverines scored with two seconds remaining, Denard Robinson finding Roy Roundtree in the end zone after Jeremy Gallon had somehow gotten wide open to set up the TD. This coming after Tommy Rees had given the Irish a lead late in the fourth.

"We know Michigan is a rocking place and a rivalry game," Irish starting quarterback Tommy Rees said. "Everyone's going to be up for it."

Could ND's last scheduled trip to the Big House in the foreseeable future provide those kind of memories, memories beyond the pregame talk that could dominate headlines?

It's certainly food for thought.