Michigan’s all-out rout of Notre Dame reframes how the Irish must be seen
The Irish’s hopes of returning to the College Football Playoff are dead, their second loss of the season clearly revealing that they had no business being in the conversation in the first place. It’s a massive setback for coach Brian Kelly’s program.
Don’t worry, Notre Dame fans. Your Irish will get the chance to pay back mighty Michigan in, um, 2033.
The schools announced Saturday they’ll play again in 2033 in Ann Arbor and in 2034 in South Bend. So, yeah, great. The world still might be spinning on its axis then.
A once-brilliant rivalry is essentially dead, and that means Michigan gets to sit on its 45-14 pounding of the Irish for a very long time.
Also: The Irish’s hopes of returning to the College Football Playoff are dead, their second loss of the season clearly revealing they had no business being in the conversation in the first place. It’s a massive setback for coach Brian Kelly’s program.
On to the rest of the ‘‘Big 10’’ (where 10 actually means 10):
2. Numbers shame: The Notre Dame-Michigan stats were even more lopsided than the score. The rushing-yardage differential — 303 to 47 — tells the tale best. The Wolverines, hardly a standout running team through their first seven games, destroyed the Irish on both lines of scrimmage. That’s painful proof Kelly’s program exists below the ‘‘elite’’ line.
3. The Ohio State University: Look, the Buckeyes get their annoying ‘‘the’’ and all the respect because they’re just plain the best team in the country. Their performances on both sides of the ball in their 38-7 victory against Wisconsin hammered that reality home, not that anyone south of the Mason-Dixon Line will agree.
There are two teams that still could derail the Buckeyes. One is Penn State, which has a defense so good that the 8-0 Nittany Lions are a legit playoff contender. The other is Michigan. A visit to Ann Arbor awaits the Buckeyes in the regular-season finale, and one of these years Jim Harbaugh finally is going to scratch the win column in ‘‘The Game.’’
Still, only Clemson has a more direct path to the playoff than Ohio State.
4. The Five-0: Ohio State, Penn State and Minnesota are the remaining unbeaten teams in the Big Ten, each at 8-0 overall and 5-0 in conference play. Mark those calendars for Penn State at Minnesota on Nov. 9 — coming off an open week for each team — and Penn State at Ohio State on Nov. 23.
The Golden Gophers have a two-game lead in the Big Ten West, but their remaining schedule is brutal: Penn State, at Iowa, at Northwestern, Wisconsin. Feels like a 2-2 finish at best, which could enable the Hawkeyes or Badgers to steal the division title.
5. I-L-L . . . I-N-I: Lovie Smith’s squad is 4-4 after a 24-6 victory at Purdue. Next up for Illinois is Rutgers at home, which should be a cakewalk. A fifth ‘‘W’’ would leave three shots — at Michigan State, at Iowa and at home against shockingly bad Northwestern — at a bowl-clinching sixth victory. Some of us predicted the Illini would go 6-6, so things are right on track.
6. Chris Klieman, your table is ready: No one is cooler than the 52-year-old first-year Kansas State coach, who moved up to the FBS level after winning four FCS national titles in five years at North Dakota State. How do you just walk in and knock off superpower Oklahoma in Year 1? This guy’s the real Coach K.
7. Sooners later? Yes, one-loss Oklahoma still can make the playoff. But the Sooners definitely are rooting hard for any and all results that might keep the Southeastern Conference from landing two teams in the four-team field.
8. Zip locks: Worst team in the country? It’s not complicated at all. It’s Akron, which lost 49-0 at Northern Illinois to fall to 0-8. The Zips have scored three — three! — points since September.
9. That’s what he said: ‘‘What’s your goal? If you were a senior, how would you want your teammates to play for you?’’
That was Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, challenging his players to finish strong after a 20-0 loss to Iowa at Ryan Field left the Wildcats at 1-6.
10. And another thing: How ’bout them Hoosiers? They’re 6-2 after a 38-31 victory at Nebraska and — for the first time since 1993 — have won three consecutive Big Ten games in the same season. Basketball school? Please.