Big Ten previews: Stakes high for Michigan vs. Notre Dame

Big Ten previews: Stakes high for Michigan vs. Notre Dame
September 5, 2013, 10:00 am
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Vinnie Duber

Brady Hoke wants to keep the rivalry. Brian Kelly is indifferent. You've been reading this story all week.

But perhaps it shouldn't be so surprising to hear Hoke's stance. The reasoning he gives comes from a very emotional standpoint. He talked about watching the big games on TV growing up as a kid, and Michigan-Notre Dame was one he always looked forward to. He grew up in Big Ten country and spent eight years as a Michigan assistant. He's been the Wolverines' head coach for three years, and he will always remember his first Michigan-Notre Dame game at the helm of the program in 2011.

"Being here eight years before as an assistant and then coming back, it was exciting as any stadium I've been around," Hoke said Tuesday. "The evening and the dusk and that kind of stuff and the fans being in the stands when warm-ups were going on, just the environment itself. And obviously the game was one where it was down to the wire, so it kept everybody into it."

[MORE: Kelly understands Hoke, Michigan's frustrations]

Michigan Stadium will surely have that kind of atmosphere again Saturday night when No. 17 Michigan hosts No. 14 Notre Dame in the latest — and potentially the second-to-last — edition of this classic college football rivalry. And Hoke is hoping the outcome is similar to that game in 2011, when the Wolverines claimed a 35-31 victory and eventually made it all the way to the Sugar Bowl. Last year, it was a 13-6 win for the Irish, who ended up in the BCS title game.

And, if Michigan's individual fate is at risk with this contest, so might be the fate of the entire conference. This meeting is without a doubt the premier game on the Big Ten's non-conference schedule, and a Michigan win would throw a little conference prestige on any Big Ten team that might wind up in the BCS discussion.

It goes without saying that the stakes are high. And Hoke knows it.

"We've got a huge football game this weekend, big game against a great rival that we've played 29 out of the last 35 years," he said. "I can remember being here with coach (Bo) Schembechler when he was still alive and in the building. He would always say that this was how you would gauge your team, in this great game against Notre Dame, and you'd find out a lot about where you were as a football team. So it will be an exciting atmosphere. It will be a lot of fun."

The "fun" begins when the two teams kickoff at 7 p.m. on ESPN.

[MORE: Low-level competition suddenly a lot scarier for Big Ten]

All Big Ten games on Saturday, Sept. 7.

South Florida at Michigan State, 11 a.m., ESPNU. The Spartans didn't look very strong in their season-opening win against Western Michigan, with pick-sixes by Kurtis Drummond and Shilique Calhoun accounting for more than half the team's points. But if ever there was an easy early-season opponent, it's South Florida, who was one of the eight FBS teams to fall to FCS opponents in Week 1. The Bulls were drubbed, 53-21, by McNeese State.

Eastern Michigan at Penn State, 11 a.m., Big Ten Network. Freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg was a revelation in Week 1 for the Nittany Lions, with 278 yards and two touchdowns through the air against Syracuse. Whether or not Penn State could bring in a successful QB was a big question coming into the year, but it looks they might have a quick solution with Hackenberg.

Cincinnati at Illinois, 11 a.m., ESPN2. While the Illini are certainly coming off a week of positives — quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase was Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week — the signs aren't pointing to a 2-0 start for Tim Beckman's team. The Illinois defense has a lot to work on after allowing 34 points to FCS foe Southern Illinois in Week 1's win. And the opponent Saturday is Cincinnati, which blew out another Big Ten team in Purdue, 42-7, and totaled 425 yards of offense in its season-opener. Check out a more in-depth preview of Illinois' Week 2 game.

[RELATED: Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 1]

Missouri State at Iowa, 11 a.m., Big Ten Network. After a heartbreaking season-opening loss to Northern Illinois that hinged on a Jake Rudock interception with a 90 seconds left in the game, a matchup with Missouri State figures to allow the Hawkeyes an opportunity to bounce back. There was good and bad for Rudock in his Iowa debut. He threw for 256 yards but also threw a pair of interceptions, with the last one proving to be the game's defining play.

Indiana State at Purdue, 11 a.m., Big Ten Network. It might be an FCS opponent, but Purdue should certainly be on their toes in new head coach Darrell Hazell's home debut. The Boilermakers were embarrassed in their season-opening loss at Cincinnati, with quarterback Rob Henry turning in a 12.1 QB rating. And, on top of their own woes, this is an Indiana State team that scored 35 points in their loss to Indiana.

Tennessee Tech at No. 21 Wisconsin, 11 a.m., Big Ten Network. The Badgers are looking to continue the incredible success they had on the ground from last week's 45-0 steamrolling of UMass. Three backs — Melvin Gordon, James White and Corey Clement — each rushed for more than 100 yards. And how about this stat line for receiver Jared Abbrederis: two catches, 122 yards, two touchdowns. On, Wisconsin, indeed.

[WATCH: Fitzgerald, Wildcats ready to build on Week 1 success]

San Diego State at No. 3 Ohio State, 2:30 p.m., ABC. The Buckeyes dropped 40 points and a whole lot of big plays on Buffalo a week ago, but it apparently wasn't enough to impress the AP pollsters, as Ohio State dropped from No. 2 to No. 3. And the chances to move back up on style points alone likely won't come given their weak non-conference schedule, which marches on with San Diego State this weekend. See if running back Jordan Hall can build on his 159-yard, two-touchdown performance from last week.

Navy at Indiana, 5 p.m., Big Ten Network. Indiana certainly made an opening-week splash with their offensive outburst against Indiana State. The Hoosiers scored 73 points on 632 offensive yards. Nate Sudfeld threw four touchdown passes, and Tevin Coleman ran for 169 yards. Navy hasn't played a game yet this season, but it's coming off a bowl loss in which the defense gave up 62 points to Arizona State.

Southern Miss at No. 22 Nebraska, 5 p.m., Big Ten Network. Sure, Nebraska had some trouble on defense last week, but visiting Southern Miss is mired in one heck of a slump. The Golden Eagles haven't won a game since Christmas Eve 2011, losing every contest they played last season — including a 49-20 defeat against the Huskers in Lincoln — and this year's season-opener. Southern Miss gave up almost 38 points a game last year, good news for a talented Nebraska offense.

[RELATED: Northwestern's Ellis gets FWAA weekly honor]

Syracuse at No. 19 Northwestern, 5 p.m., Big Ten Network. Reportedly, quarterback Kain Colter will play after being concussed on the Wildcats' second offensive play in Week 1's wild win at Cal. That'd be a huge help for the 'Cats, who, in Pat Fitzgerald's own words, got lucky last season when they beat Syracuse by one point on the road. But what of the health of running back Venric Mark? Northwestern will need both to make it two straight 10-win seasons. Check out a more in-depth preview of Northwestern's Week 2 game.

Minnesota at New Mexico State, 7 p.m. Going just by the names, you might think Minnesota the clear favorite here, but that's not necessarily the case. New Mexico State beat Minnesota in the Twin Cities, 28-21, in 2011, and now the Gophers go on the road, where they've gone 2-8 since Jerry Kill took over as head coach. Add in a Week 1 injury to running back Donnell Kirkwood, and New Mexico State could give Minnesota a go again.