Notre Dame-Michigan: An Evenly Matched Series
Installed as an early four-point favorite over Notre Dame — which quickly dropped to 2.5 — No. 19 Michigan (5-2) hosts the No. 8 Fighting Irish (5-1) Saturday night (7:30 p.m. EDT) on ABC.
Although there has been overtime in college football since 1996, this game will be partly about the Wolverines salvaging a tie in the modern version of the series between the two schools that has been about as evenly matched as one will find anywhere.
Since the renewal of the Notre Dame-Michigan series in 1978, there have been four temporary periods where Notre Dame did not meet the Wolverines annually: 1983-84 (replaced by Colorado), 1995-96 (replaced by Ohio State), 2000-01 (replaced by Nebraska) and 2015-17 (ACC schedule).
To get two more games in with Notre Dame during the 2018-19 seasons, Michigan paid a $2 million cancellation fee to the University of Arkansas, which was originally slated to be on the non-conference docket for the Wolverines.
Currently, there appear to be no Notre Dame-Michigan matchups on the 2020s horizon — which makes this year’s meeting all the more important for the Wolverines to win.
That’s because since 1978, Notre Dame leads the series 16-15-1 — so Michigan doesn’t want to exit on a three-game losing streak (2014, plus 2018-19) without at least coming out even in a series that has been earmarked by how close it has been.
Unlike Notre Dame’s series with USC and then Michigan’s with Ohio State, there have not been long periods of domination by either program against each other.
USC was 12-2-2 versus Notre Dame from 1967-82 and 8-0 from 2002-09 — while the Fighting Irish were 12-0-1 versus the Trojans from 1983-95 and have had other periods of supremacy over them.
Meanwhile, Michigan was 9-2-1 versus the Buckeyes from 1988-2000 — but Ohio State is 16-2 against the Wolverines from 2001-18 and on a current seven-game winning streak.
• Notre Dame has never had a longer winning streak than four in the series (1987-90), and those last three wins all came down to the final series. Meanwhile, Michigan’s longest win streak against Notre Dame was three (2009-11) — which the Irish will endeavor to match this season.
All three of those Wolverine victories likewise came down to the game's final series, with the winning Wolverine scores coming with 11 seconds, 27 seconds and two seconds remaining, respectively.
• In the 32 games from 1978-2018, Michigan tallied an average of 22.9 points per game to Notre Dame’s 21.4.
• The home team has won all eight home games at night, with Notre Dame doing the honors in 1982 (first ever home night game for the Irish), 1988, 1990, 2012, 2014 and 2017, and the Wolverines more recently in 2011 and 2013. In 2011 they rallied from a 24-7 deficit at the start of the fourth quarter to eke out a 35-31 triumph.
• Since the renewal of the series in 1978, all seven Notre Dame coaches won at least once versus the Wolverines, as did all five for Michigan — while Jim Harbaugh attempts to become the sixth in his second try versus the Irish.
More on that in the upcoming week between the two bitter rivals who seemingly will take a longer hiatus from this series.