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Irish Insider: Hostile Big House crowd awaits Notre Dame

Michael Bryan | Thursday, September 10, 2009

By the numbers, it’s the biggest stage in college football. Michigan Stadium, “The Big House,” is the fourth-largest stadium in the world, and has an official capacity of 106,201 screaming fans, a number which usually grows to around 111,000 when counting bands, press members and stadium staff.

The Big House hosted the largest crowd in NCAA college football history (112,118) against Ohio State in 2003, and the stadium should be packed with well over 110,000 fans Saturday. So how do the Irish feel about playing in the hostile “maize-out” environment?

“I remember going there on an unofficial visit and just standing on the M, looking at how big it all was,” junior linebacker Brian Smith said. “I love the energy though, and there’s nothing more I’d love than to shut some fans up.”

While the defense may be able to draw on the energy in the crowd, the noise Saturday poses significant challenges for any visiting offense trying to relay signals and time snap counts.

“The better they’re doing the louder it gets and communication becomes more and more a problem,” Irish coach Charlie Weis said. “I think more than anything else when you go on the road, especially to a place like the ‘Big House’ if you can get on top of ’em early and quiet the crowd, it makes it easier to play.”

Quarterback Jimmy Clausen knows the challenges of playing in Ann Arbor – his second career start was a 38-0 loss in the Big House in 2007.

“Going to Michigan [in 2007] was kind of tough, you know Michigan fans are crazy and it’s loud in there,” Clausen said. “I really didn’t know what to expect. But going into that game and getting beat up like I did was not real fun.”

Clausen also echoed Weis’s statements on the importance of a quick start on offense.

“I just know from our perspective on offense it’s going to be really loud when we go there in the first series,” Clausen said. “Especially, we’re just going to try to take the ball down the field and keep moving the ball throughout the rest of the game.”

Renovations will soon up Michigan Stadium’s capacity to 108,000, again making it the largest in college football. And while that number is more than Notre Dame would like, it could be worse – the Big House was originally designed with footings that would allow expansions to accommodate over 150,000.