Michigan has Big House advantage over Notre Dame
The Big House traditionally has been a haunted house for Notre Dame.
The Fighting Irish need to exorcise those demons Saturday night to remain in the national championship race.
Notre Dame has come up empty at Michigan Stadium in seven of its last eight visits to Ann Arbor, though it hasn’t played there since 2013. The eighth-ranked Irish (5-1) will be seeking their first road win against Michigan since 2005.
“Our guys are really tuned into understanding that the atmosphere will be loud and that you cannot be distracted if you are interested in executing at a high level,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said. “If you’re distracted, then you’re not in the right place emotionally, and our guys are pretty locked in on that.”
The Irish will be the fresher team after having a bye last weekend. They edged another traditional rival, Southern California, 30-27, in their last game on Oct. 12.
“Clearly, the guys know Michigan. They know the history and tradition of it,” Kelly said. “Look, what gets their attention more than anything else, it’s a really good football team. If it wasn’t, we would be talking about other things.”
The two longtime powerhouses didn’t play from 2015-17. The series was renewed last season when Notre Dame held off a late Michigan charge for a season-opening 24-17 win.
All the previous other meetings since the rivalry was renewed in 1978 have been played in September.
Ian Book has posted solid numbers across the board as the offensive leader. He has completed 63.2 percent of his passes and thrown for 14 scores, with to two interceptions, while averaging 236.5 yards per game.
Leading rusher Tony Jones Jr. is averaging 7.0 yards per carry and has scored four times.
Kelly hopes he won’t have to put all of the burden on Book’s shoulders. The Irish haven’t played on the road since Sept. 21, when they lost 23-17 to then-No. 3 ranked Georgia.
“We’re committed to finding ways to win first, but we also know that we have been most effective in winning games over the last few years finding a running game at some part of the game,” he said. “Maybe it’s not the first quarter. Maybe it’s the second or the fourth, but we’re going to have to carve out a run game at some time during the game.”
The No. 19 Wolverines (5-2) virtually have been eliminated from the Big Ten race after road losses to Wisconsin and Penn State.
The 28-21 loss to the Nittany Lions last Saturday dropped Michigan’s record to 1-10 against Top 10 teams since Jim Harbaugh became Michigan’s head coach.
Penn State jumped to a 21-0 lead and the Wolverines’ rally stalled after receiver Ronnie Bell dropped a potential touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
Harbaugh said all his team can do now is concern itself with the next game every week.
“Tough loss last week but we come back against a very good opponent. Those are some of the memories,” he said. “Respond in that kind of way.”
Shea Patterson passed for 276 yards against Penn State but was picked off once and didn’t throw for a score, though he rushed for one.
Freshman running back Zach Charbonnet had a pair of 12-year rushing touchdowns.
Patterson has been the starter the past two seasons and doesn’t have a signature victory. Harbaugh remains defensive about the Ole Miss transfer.
“I think Shea has been playing great football. Heroic. Really pleased,” Harbaugh said. “He’s into it, his demeanor every game.”