Recently, Michigan vs. Notre Dame has produced a couple of memorable games underneath the lights at The Big House in Ann Arbor. They have a longstanding feud that helps define their powerhouse personas.
Needless to say, Saturdays with golden domes of the Irish and winged helmets of the Wolverines have become a staple of the collegiate landscape; and in the Midwest, it’s about much more than a game—it’s about an incredible tradition. The matchup features two of the NCAA’s most recognized and iconic brands, so it definitely ranks up there in the appeal factor.
You call it. The better rivalry is/was/will be:
Sharing a similar disdain for clovers, shamrocks and leprechauns, Michigan State’s relationship with Notre Dame has boiled over nearly every season since 1948. And like Michigan, it’s settled a few big scores with the Irish along the way.
Antagonizing the ordeal, the two fanbases—as is the case with those in Ann Arbor—really don’t get along that well, either. And when Brady Quinn’s sister becomes the subject of funny frat T-shirts, you know the situation is deep (think back to Grand River, circa 2005-2006).
Michigan and Michigan State fight over everything. So why not put them head-to-head in regards to their series with Notre Dame?
While posing that question, this piece will cite overall records, the best contests and other information of interest. Series records come from Football.Stassen.com, which uses data from teams considered "major," or D-1A equivalent—sorry, no early 1900s scrimmages count for this.
Disclaimer (Bad News)
Sadly, the Irish won’t be a consistent opponent for either school in the foreseeable future. Their series with the Wolverines abruptly ends this fall in South Bend, and they have just three games scheduled within the next decade-plus with the Spartans—a home-and-home in 2016 and 2017, one tentatively set for 2023 at a neutral site, and an agreement for 2026 and 2027.
Of course, the current arrangement sets up the schools for immensely meaningful meetings come playoff time. Good luck getting tickets for those must-sees. Fans want to see this game played during the regular season, but a big-time bowl game is obviously more attractive from television, marketing and advertising standpoints.
According to Mark Hollis, Michigan State's athletic director, the nixing of the Spartans-Irish series is the "roadkill" resulting from conference expansion and other scheduling agreements, per Joe Rexrode of the Detroit Free Press.
There really isn't a good reason why Michigan and Notre Dame aren't playing. Coach Brian Kelly has expressed interest in keeping both series going strong (don't ask the Big Ten Network's Tom Dienhart to like that comment, though).
Either way, let’s hope that the powers that be come up with a solution. Saturdays just won’t be the same without them.
Michigan State AD Mark Hollis says Notre Dame series fading away http://t.co/lIpaNFuAl5— Larry Lage (@LarryLage) May 14, 2014
Block M, Touchdown Jesus
Michigan is 7-4 vs. ND since 2003 and holds a 21-16-1 series advantage, per Stassen.
Streaks in the modern era: Michigan won three from 2009-2011, while Notre Dame won four from 1987-1990.
If you’re not old enough to remember the good old days of The Four Horsemen or Tom Harmon, don’t worry. You’re not alone. If you are, good for you. You're probably one of few.
But here’s the deal: You don’t have to be ancient to remember Heisman-caliber stars such as Notre Dame’s Tim Brown, Rocket Ismail and Brady Quinn, or Michigan’s Charles Woodson, Desmond Howard and Denard Robinson.
Not many schools can boast such a list of "players of their day." Most can only hope for a single Brown or Woodson, let alone multiple legends. We've seen all these guys within the past 25 years.
And then there are famous alum such as Tom Brady and Joe Montana. They didn’t make their names in the series, but they each went on to have OK NFL careers. Notre Dame vs. Michigan seems loaded with NFL talent, either hidden or in your face.
And if you were lucky enough, you got to see a few of these guys against one another.
If you’re a member of the 35-and-under crowd, Michigan vs. Notre Dame easily reigns supreme as the better overall rivalry, regardless of allegiance. The Spartans weren't AP-favorites battling for national relevance during that time. But that was the case between the Wolverines and the Irish.
Michigan State is 5-6 vs. ND since 2003 and is at a 35-27-1 series disadvantage, per Stassen.
Streaks in the modern era: Michigan State won eight from 1950-1963, while Notre Dame won eight from 1987-1994.
The Spartans and Irish have played nearly every season since 1948, so there’s a bit of history there. During the 1950s and 60s, the height of Duffy, Michigan State vs. Notre Dame was the real deal. It was the game that everyone wanted to see.
In 1966, the Irish and Spartans got together for a 10-10 tie, which at the time was considered the “Game of the Century.” We’ve had several since—Notre Dame’s been involved in some of them—but considering the era and style of play, that throwback stands the test of time.
More recently, the 2006 vintage uniform debacle was an exhilarating victory for the Irish, who exited the monsoon conditions at Spartan Stadium as 40-37 victors. Down 31-14 at the half, Brady Quinn threw five touchdowns as his team shocked its hosts.
Games such as those put a stamp on the series—too bad it didn’t mean much for the Spartans, whose “SOS” 3-0 start was thwarted by the Irish, who finished 10-3 after their Sugar Bowl loss to LSU. Lately, the Irish have been on top, winning four of the past five.
If you're not one for Bo vs. Lou and appreciate the pre-facemask days of football and an era of pure Duffy dominance, then go ahead and call Michigan State vs. Notre Dame the better matchup.
One article can't cover these storied collegiate battles. Memories from fans are just as much a part of it as the scores and players, so be sure to voice your opinion about UM/MSU vs. ND.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81