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Why we’ll beat Michigan

Justin Tardiff | Monday, September 10, 2007

I’ve lived and died with Notre Dame football since I was eight years old, but I’m not that upset with the rough start to this year’s football season.

Part of that is because the Irish are so young this year. With all the experience these guys are gaining, we’ll be much better next year and the year after.

However, another part of my happier-than-would-be-expected mood is the dream season another power college football program is having.

It’s the season I’ve always dreamed of, anyway.

Michigan is 0-2, with two losses arguably worse than either of the embarrassments Notre Dame has suffered. It lost in an historic upset to Division I-AA Appalachian State and then gave up an historic number of yards in a 39-7 loss to Oregon. Both games were at home.

I grew up in Michigan and more than 50 members of my high school class now go to school in Ann Arbor. Every time they win, I hear about it. Every time the Irish lose, I hear about it. God forbid the two happen on the same day.

But hating Michigan is about more than just ribbing from students and fans from that school. I hate The University of Michigan because it is everything that Notre Dame is not.

Notre Dame is private, small, welcoming and religious. Michigan is public, huge, bureaucratic, and atheist. Notre Dame is focused on undergraduate education. Michigan is focused on faculty research.

But the difference between the two schools is more than numbers and missions. There is a very different prevailing attitude on campus – on that has a direct bearing on how the football teams will recover from their terrible starts.

At Notre Dame, students are loyal to each other – especially their classmates on the football team. They stay to the end of every game, win or lose, to sing the Alma Mater, because, no matter what, we all still Love Thee Notre Dame.

Notre Dame is about overcoming adversity – whether its something silly like parietals, something serious like gunshots outside Club 23, or something that’s a bit of both, like losing a football game.

At Michigan, the emphasis is on being the best. If something isn’t up to snuff, it’s quickly disregarded. This obviously leads to some impressive university accomplishments, but it also leads to things like a low four-year graduation rate and a student body that turns on its own football team when times are tough.

The difference can even be seen in the two school’s fight songs. Students singing the Victory March pledge to “cheer her ever,” and be “loyal to Notre Dame” “what though the odds be great or small.”

Those who sing The Victors cheer only the “leaders and best” and the “conquering heroes.”

Which attitude do you think better helps a team down on its luck recover and start winning again?

The Irish are regrouping this week, with the help of a supportive student body. The Wolverines are infighting while boos rain down from their own crowd.

And that is why we’ll beat Michigan on Saturday.