The Notre Dame vs. Michigan rivalry is one of my favorite as far as college football rivalries go, and it brings back some pretty fantastic memories, but I’ll get into those in my Throwback Thursday post later this week. Today, I caught up with former Notre Dame tight end Oscar McBride, to hear his thoughts on the Notre Dame vs. Michigan rivalry, past and present. Take it away, Oscar!
“Notre Dame vs. Michigan … wow. Where to begin with this one? There’s just something right about college football when Notre Dame and Michigan square off in the season opener. No ‘warm-up’ games against some small state school that no one’s heard of; but rather a hard-fought battle of two collegiate titans waging physical, mental and warfare against each other. No more waiting, no excuses, no what-ifs and no place to hide. There’s always a rumble when Ann Arbor comes to South Bend. In the immortal words of the late, great Keith Jackson, ‘Whooooa Nelly, we’ve got a good one brewing in South Bend, Indiana!’”
“As we move into the 2018 Fighting Irish football season and battle with our old nemesis from the north, here are a couple of opinions for Irish fans to consider:
1. Please don’t underestimate Michigan. They return arguably one of the best defenses in the country and the top defensive linemen in the country in junior, Rashan Gary, who could be entering his final campaign for the Wolverines before leaving for the NFL as a top draft pick. This dude can flat play; and since Notre Dame’s offense lost two, count ‘em two, top ten NFL draft picks from its O-line last year, that’s no easy plug and play job for the Irish coming into this game. Look for Gary, who anchors one of the top-rated pass defensive units in the nation, to be on everyone’s watch list as one of the nation’s most decorated overall defensive players. He will be disruptive.
2. Fear not Irish faithful. The Irish have some fire power of their own in an experienced Brandon Wimbush who, coming off an average year, not only has something to prove, but the necessary experience and explosive offensive weapons around him to do so. Look for Alize Mack to finally live up to his billing as a potential All-American, and to continue the great lineage of Notre Dame tight-ends … especially in the red zone. With offensive mind, Chip Long at the helm, look for interesting wrinkles to take advantage of Irish-favored match-ups versus the highly-skilled Michigan defense. Long’s offense averaged just under 450 yards/game, over 34 points/game and scored a touchdown over 75% of the time in the red zone last season.
3. Although Michigan will be seasoned and massive up front offensively, I must give the edge in physicality and athleticism to the Irish defense anchored by senior Te’von Coney and two-time captain Drue Tranquill. The Irish defense is fast, physical and should be much better in the secondary than my former teammate, Coach Todd Lyght, has seen in recent years. Senior defensive lineman Jerry Tillery should be dominant as he anchors a big, mean and athletic front seven.
4. In big games, special teams usually play a significant role in the outcome. Beware of Michigan’s youth and speed in the special teams return game, but also look for the Irish to tighten up their 37.9 net yards per punt and reduce their 20.3 average per kick-off return to under 20 per kick-off this season.”
“I fondly look back on my time at Notre Dame, and remember the Michigan game on September 15, 1990 like it was yesterday; especially since it was my first time running out of our tunnel for a nationally televised game. There were no lights at the time, and I remember trucks with stadium lights affixed to them parked along the outside of Notre Dame Stadium to give light for the primetime match-up. I remember praying with Fr. Reilly before heading down the stairs to the tunnel and getting greeted by the Ol’ Pepper at the bottom who was there each home game to shake our hands and wish us well. I remember my teammate Rick Mirer being on the cover of Sports Illustrated as he scored to put us ahead in our 28-24 victory, nicknamed “The Golden Boy,” or as we later simply called him “Goldie” (I still do today). I was only 18 years old then … and now as a middle-aged educator and mentor, I look back on what were some of the fondest memories of my life. Thank you to my teammates, coaches, friends and the Notre Dame family for making that time special.”
Go Irish Forever!
Oscar McBride ‘94