Notre Dame Vs. Michigan Preview: The Yearly Bet

Starting last year, SB Nation Chicago writers Z.W. Martin and Bobby Loesch started a tradition. That tradition is a bet. A really childish bet on the outcome of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Z.W.) and Michigan Wolverines (Bobby) yearly -- maybe not anymore! -- contest. After Michigan got extremely lucky and Notre Dame forgot how to play defense, Z.W. lost the best and was forced to sing "You Raise Me Up", Josh Groban style. The following is this year's bet and a preview of the game on Saturday.

Z.W. Martin:

Step one: Historical, fact-checked shit talking.

Wednesday, I was reading up on the Michigan/Notre Dame rivalry and learned some pretty interesting facts. Instead of block quoting or even re-reading it, I will do a "Tosh.0" like spoiler of it by memory. This should go well and be 100% factual*.

So it turns out legendary Michigan coach Fielding Yost was the son of a Confederate officer in the Civil War (or, if you're a Yost-er, The War of Northern Aggression) and carried his father's values with him to Ann Arbor. Yost was a truly inspiring racist that hated all "non-natural Americans," going as far as to beat up an assistant coach for recruiting a black player. Basically, he was Daniel Day Lewis in Gangs of New York. So, you can imagine his disdain for an institution promoting both Irish culture and Catholicism. Notre Dame was his worst nightmare. That's why in 1909, when the Irish beat Yost's Wolverines for the first time, he cancelled the 1910 match and then refused to schedule ND ever again. "Fucking Micks!" Yost probably said.

This is the reason why Notre Dame became a national brand. With their primary rival denying them a chance to play locally, the Irish were forced to seek opponents from across the country, giving them the reach we see today. ND or Irish fans aren't to blame for the Golden Dome's national appeal, many find obnoxious, but Meechigan for its racism, cowardice and egotism, much of which we still see today. (*Ahem* Rich Rodriguez *Ahem*)

Knowing what I know now, I really find Michigan even more deplorable than before. For it's ridiculous and outdated "Michigan Man/Way/Football" mantra to its bewildering belief a coach with an under-.500 record prior to taking over in Ann Arbor is the answer simply because he was an assistant coach at Michigan is insane and I will thoroughly enjoy watching the Michigan program burn to the ground like a cross Fielding Yost set ablaze.

Michigan Football: Where it's 1900 every year!

*It actually is!

Bobby Loesch:

Listen, I hate Michigan probably way more than any Michigan fan I know, and while I'll call them out for the Hoke hire (then, not so much now), the spoiled entitlement, the pure arrogance, and the borderline BDSM loyalty to their own brand, I'm not taking any responsibility for that early 1900s shit. That was forever ago, and anyone we're discussing is either dead or super dead.

Speaking of dead, I see you struck my RichRod chord. That was a good move. I'm already in a bad place right now.

Z.W. Martin:

I know you better than you know yourself, Sir Bobby Halbert Loesch.

Step Two: The Bet

Last year, Michigan did that thing that every team does to Notre Dame and win despite getting utterly brutalized for three quarters. I will admit that it was probably The Best Game Of All Time, but it really did destroy me as a person. 2011 was so incredibly hopeful. Then USF, Michigan, USC and FSU happened and my love for everything died. As did my weekly recaps. I was broken.

It did not help that we established a bet that will run every year until one of us makes out with the other's girlfriend or wife and totally ruins everything. I, of course, lost that bet last season and had to sing Josh Groban's version of "You Raise Me Up" -- because of RichRod's crying -- at a karaoke bar (Shoe's Pub in Lincoln Park) in Michigan garb and a Groban wig. Because Twitter is awesome and weird, Josh Groban recognized the bet and promoted it to his fans. That was fun.

This year, I would like to extend last year's bet -- for the final time -- that if ND beats Michigan, you have to dress in a Leprechaun outfit and wear a sign that bashes Michigan and yourself in some way. You will then have to follow me around on a football Saturday, ending up at a Notre Dame bar for their game that week. Also, there will be drinking. Lots of it. Irish style.

What is your challenge?

Bobby Loesch:

Before we get to my challenge to you, I'd like to call out your challenge to me. Why is you singing a song on crappy video even remotely comparable to spending a full day embarrassing myself? Also, we talked about this privately, but now I'm taking it public: can you really bet the exact same thing you bet last year? I know your counter is "this is the last year I'll do it," which seems somewhat fair. But a full day seems like a lot.

As for your end, if Michigan wins... I'd ask you to gain 10 pounds from your current weight (to tribute Brady Hoke; scale documentation of initial weight and final weight necessary) and we'll go halfsies on this shirt. Then maybe you could take a picture with some of your ND bros and/or ND family on any ND game of your choice within the 2012 season. Bowl included. Also, if you want to hedge some of the weight (say... four pounds), you can make that up with a Hoke perm at your local stylist. So: 10 lbs and the shirt. Or 6 lbs, shirt, Hoke perm. Picture.

Z.W. Martin:

I find it a little ironic you would bitch about ONE day of shit when I have to gain weight for, like, multiple weeks and then completely embarrass myself with fat everywhere and a perm that will last for multiple days/weeks(?), I assume. I have to destroy my body, health and, most importantly to me over anything in this world, my hair. My glorious hair. You have to wear a stupid outfit and get drunk. Boy howdy. I will accept your bet, but at five pounds and the perm. I still need to get laid.

Deal?

Bobby Loesch:

Deal.

Step Three: Preview and predictions

I had a dream about this very Michigan-Notre Dame game, and though that really should mean nothing to you, I'm telling you that my dreams typically predict real life winners with 90% accuracy. Formula: the team that wins in the dream loses in real life. In the dream, I looked at the scoreboard, and it was something like "MICHIGAN: 6, NOTRE DAME: 7", and I was like "Damn." But then when I looked back, part of the scoreboard had been covered up, so the real final was, like, "MICHIGAN: 46, NOTRE DAME: 7". So, applying the opposite formula, Notre Dame really should win this game.

Also read this.

Z.W. Martin:

I'm just going to say it. I do not think Michigan is all that good. Last year was a fluke. At best, Michigan was a 9-4 team. The Wolverines offense is one thing: Denard Robinson. The man out-gained his own team against Air Force, for fuck sake. Seriously. Outside of the terror that DR represents, nobody on the O-side of the ball scares me at all. (Is that naive, Bobby?) The defense, on the other hand, is simply meh. Notre Dame faced a better front seven in MSU and a better front four and defensive back crew in Purdue. Michigan has none of that, or the clout, and nor should they. Giving up 41 and 25 to Alabama and Air Force, respectively, will do that. I realize, Alabama is almost a pro team, and losing to them is no shame, but it did show just how weak Michigan is defensively. Everywhere. The Irish are going to get their 25 to 30 no problem.

I don't think people realize how good the Notre Dame defensive front seven is. (Including Julius Peppers 2.0, Stephon Tuitt. Seriously, watch this kid play.) The Irish are in the top ten in points allowed and sacks and 15th in takeaways. It's early, but when your defense is only giving up ten points a game to three distinctively different offenses -- Navy (option run), Purdue (spread pass) and MSU (pro style run) -- it shows just how talented the group is. People have been talking about how weak the ND defensive back group is, but they are extremely athletic and haven't been beaten bad yet. Their physical play and quickness makes up for their deficiencies in technique and experience.

I predict the Irish will do what they did last year: make Robinson throw. They will bottle the run and force him to beat them with his arm. It will work because Michigan has no other weapons and the best Denard is the Denard who is losing his shoe on a 40 yard scamper. That will not happen against one of the top -- I'm saying it -- defenses in the country.

Notre Dame 28, Michigan 20

Bobby Loesch:

One of the things that really frustrates me about Notre Dame's perspective -- and yes, I'm letting you and a coworker fully represent the university -- on Michigan is Denard doing 'too much' being a bad thing. What do you want him to do? Like, run out of bounds when he's breaking an 80-yard TD? The dude is crazy fast, and that leads to him piling up yards. Saying "I don't like Michigan because they're a one-man team" feels like a total reach.

Also, before I delve into the Michigan perspective, I'd like to put this out there: I think Notre Dame is a slightly better team, they are playing at home, and though I'm not making a "pick", they are definitely who I'd pick to win if I did.

Now, to call out everything you said.

1) You say Michigan is way worse than people think and ND is sneaky better then people think, yet you pick ND to win by about a touchdown, which is *exactly* what the spread -- i.e. what people think -- is. That doesn't make sense to me. If you're going to take 'bold' stances, why not predict an Irish rout?

2) You say Michigan isn't "good" but then assess them as a 9-4 team. In college football, 9-4 is *thee* definition of good. That's a January bowl and competing for a conference title. Great, no. Elite, no. But good? Of course. If 9-4 isn't good, what is it? Bad? It's *five* games over .500.

3) "Outside of the terror that DR represents, nobody on the O-side of the ball scares me at all. Is that naive, Bobby?"
That is totally naive. Michigan has Taylor Lewan, a mammoth LT who is projected as a first round pick. They also have Fitz Foussaint, who I have issues with but is objectively one of the Big Ten's top returning RBs. On the outside, they have converted 5-star QB Devin Gardner, a 6-4, 200 pound dude who has caught a touchdown in every game he's ever played at the position (including Alabama). Flanking him is Jeremy Gallon, one of the top slot WRs in the Big Ten. You might remember him from this. Roy Roundtree is probably their third best WR. You might remember him from this. Rounding out the group is freshman TE Devin Funchess, a 3-star recruit with a 6-5 frame who has a touchdown streak of his own. MGoBlog's Brian Cook projects him to be the greatest tight end in Michigan history.

So no, I wouldn't agree with you that Michigan is a "one man team", dude.

* * *

While I think Notre Dame's defense has gone through a diverse and impressive slate, Michigan (especially factoring in 2012) is kind of a question mark, entirely. They opened against a borderline NFL team, their last game was against a borderline high school team (no disrespect intended, UMass), and Air Force is a mid-major with a triple option offense Michigan prepared for on a short week. They've won what they shoulda and lost what they shoulda. They play a Top 10 schedule this year, so we'll learn way more as it progresses. But, in general, I found your preview broad brushed, short-sighed, and borderline trolling.

Z.W. Martin:

Nobody is saying Denard is doing "too much". He's great. Wonderful, even. The idea is that ND has enough talent on the front seven too stop him or a team that runs through one player. (See: Michigan State). That's what I was trying to say.

1) Fair enough. I was trying to be reasonable. I do think DR will get his at some point because he will do something ridiculous and ill-advised and wonderful. So, maybe, 28-17. Will that work for you?

2) I guess I mean, like, top 10 good, which Notre Dame has a chance to be rated (and Michigan eventually) if they win this game. Lets say this: Purdue and Michigan State impressed me more than anything Michigan has doen yet and ND controlled both those games well. (Granted, the Purdue score was close.)

3) That's why I asked. It just feels that way, I guess.

"I found your preview broad brushed, short-sighed, and borderline trolling."

This is a rivalry, isn't it?

Bobby Loesch:

Neither Michigan or Notre Dame will finish the season in the Top 10.

Z.W. Martin:

I think you're half right.

Twitter @ZWMartin / @bobbyloesch

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