Hoke: Notre Dame rivalry 'important as anything'
When Michigan coach Brady Hoke was hired in January, one of his first orders was to install countdown clocks inside Schembechler Hall.
The clocks include digital readouts that serve as a daily reminder of the time remaining before the Wolverines face Big Ten foes Ohio State and Michigan State.
But just because Michigan's annual nonconference game with Notre Dame isn't represented with a permanent timepiece doesn't take away from the significance of a rivalry that dates to 1887.
''This is important as anything,'' Hoke said Monday.
The Wolverines (1-0) and the Fighting Irish (0-1) will play in the first night game at Michigan Stadium.
''I think this has always been a game for both teams when you really get a gauge where you are as a team because it's going to take the national spotlight and it's an environment when you have expectations of how your guys are going to play,'' Hoke said.
The Wolverines will wear throwback jerseys and Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson expects the atmosphere to be ''crazy'' Saturday night.
''We can't get caught up and distracted into all those things,'' Hoke said. ''That field is still going to be 120 yards (including end zones) long and 53 yards wide and that's not going to change.
''That's where our focus has to be when we prepare.''
Hoke admitted Monday he would rather play games at noon, but with kickoff set for 8 p.m. EST he will attempt to keep his players' attention focused on facing the Fighting Irish, who are coming off a 23-20 loss to South Florida.
Players acknowledged the extra attention placed on the game makes it difficult to completely ignore what's happening around them.
But with Michigan trying to win its third straight over Notre Dame, the business at hand becomes a top priority.
The players don't need a countdown clock to know this is big.
''Notre Dame is obviously a big game and it's just as big as Ohio State and Michigan State,'' said linebacker Brandon Herron, who was picked as the Big Ten defensive player of the week after returning an interception and a fumble for touchdowns and making a career-high eight tackles in the 34-10 rain-shortened victory against Western Michigan.
''But any game is big in our eyes because we don't take any opponent lightly.''
Robinson ran for 258 yards and two touchdowns in last year's 28-24 victory against Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind.
''This is the University of Michigan and that's what we came here for - to play in big games like this,'' he said.