Now that ESPN has officially announced that College Gameday will be in South Bend when the Notre Dame Fighting Irish take on the Michigan Wolverines in prime time, we can truly sit back and capture the magnitude of this game.
We already knew that we were going to be getting a Top 15 matchup in prime time, and a “return of the rivalry.” People have been excited about this game for a long, long time. The way the series ended with the Chicken Dance in 2013, and 37-0 (#RememberTheSix) in 2014, left a lot of fans wanting more with little hope of actually receiving a breath of new life. It’s not as though the hatred that has defined this series has lessened any, there just seems to be much more on the line now for both teams.
So how does this impact Notre Dame? Give me a few moments...
HOME FIELD CREDIBILITY
We don’t need reminding of the shameful crowd performance inside Notre Dame Stadium last year when the Georgia Bulldogs came to town. That “sea of red” will forever live in infamy — just as the last “sea of red” has since the Nebraska Cornhuskers did it back in 2000. Georgia’s invasion can directly be tied to that close loss, if you believe in the home crowd having an impact on a big game.
Notre Dame Stadium will never be an intimidating place to play. Perhaps it was once, but times changed, and the University loves the niche it has carved in the sports world as one of the most hospitable places for a visiting team and its fans to attend a game. It can, however, at least not become a den of vipers striking and sucking the life out of the energy a home crowd (even a Notre Dame home crowd) can produce.
If Gameday would have been there for the Georgia game last year, the already well publicized Bulldog bum rush would have received even more coverage. With Notre Dame’s promotion of “Irish Wear Green” to appease the student demands of a Green Out, there is a little more buzz in the air. If Notre Dame fans show up and color coordinate (as silly as that may seem) it could go a long ways of reclaiming the House That Rock Built.
Let’s face it... Notre Dame has not been a “big game” program for a very long time. The Michigan Wolverines have also been underwhelming under Jim Harbaugh when it comes to winning games on the road against ranked teams — and they can’t beat a rival to save their life. The winner of this game gets to change the narrative to start the season.
Gameday’s arrival gives the game an extra kick in the ass, and the winner will also get that extra kick of publicity, hype, and confidence moving forward.
Notre Dame’s issue just isn’t winning a big game — it’s winning in November. The Irish, however, have to GET to November to have a chance to change that narrative. Beating Michigan with all of this hoopla and then possibly rattling off wins against the Ball State Cardinals, Vanderbilt Commodores, and Wake Forest Demon Deacons before the Stanford Cardinal come to town.
4-0 makes this team infinitely more credible and more confident than 3-1 once they face their nemesis, David Shaw.
WHAT ABOUT THE STAKES AGAIN?
Heading into the season, what fans and the media remember most about Notre Dame last season isn’t their win against the LSU Tigers in the Citrus Bowl. No, it’s their November collapse — their big game collapse in Miami and Palo Alto. For the Irish to move forward and get a big push for the 2018 season, they simply must beat Michigan.
Last year the Irish were able to climb back up the ranks quickly after the loss to Georgia, but no two years are ever the same. A loss to the Wolverines could make a playoff run a lot harder than what they went through last year. A loss could derail any sense of confidence and growth they accumulated over the offseason.
Many of you may think that Gameday’s presence isn’t a big deal. Perhaps you don’t like the show. I can understand that quite well, however it isn’t the broadcast itself that elevates the game in the eyes of the nation — it’s merely the show just being there. It makes everything about the game bigger, and provides a grander atmosphere. It amplifies the whole damn thing.
The stakes? Starting the season off on the highest note, or starting off with the shackles of doubt.