SOUTH BEND – Life as an independent entails saying hello to new rivals and goodbye to others all the time.
It’s nothing new for Notre Dame – who’s never joined a conference since they started playing football in the 1800s. This weekend, for a while, they’ll say goodbye to a team they’re used to having on the schedule.
Brian Kelly takes the Irish to East Lansing to face Michigan State Saturday night at 7 PM for the last scheduled game between the team until the year 2026. The teams have played 78 times previously and done so the last two seasons. Before the teams took a two-year break in 2014 and 2015, the teams played for seventeen consecutive seasons.
The series has enjoyed a number of memorable moments, from the “Game of the Century” between the top-ranked Spartans and second-ranked Irish in 1966 to memorable finishes the past decade. The series even has a trophy – the Megaphone – which they play for in every match-up.
“You know, it’s the battle for the megaphone. You guys know that, right?,” said Kelly when asked about the rivalry. “We want the megaphone. I mean, it’s all about the megaphone.”
In all seriousness, Kelly did lament the loss of a regional rival and how playing Michigan State provided a platform for both programs.
“I think clearly Michigan and Michigan State in terms of proximity, midwest we recruit a lot of the same players. There’s been such great history and tradition going back to the ’66 game,” said Kelly. “I just think that history, tradition, proximity, all of those things make for rivalry games.
“But more importantly games that attract the attention within the Midwest. I think as games start to kind of lose that local flavor in terms of teams playing each other, this is one that I still think captures a lot of people’s interests. So I’m all for those kind of traditional match-ups. The megaphone, thank you very much. We need it back.”
NIU: A Week To Enjoy The Upset
DEKALB – Since the dawn of a new Millenium, Husky football has enjoyed their share of signature victories on the gridiron.
Last Saturday was another one of those moments in Lincoln.
Led by an opportunistic defense, Northern Illinois stunned Nebraska 21-17 in Lincoln for their first ever win in the red-dominated Memorial Stadium. The victory was significant enough to earn the Huskies the Football Writers Association of America’s honor for Team of the Week for the first time since the award was given in 2002.
Jawuan Johnson, who has one of the two Huskies’ interceptiong returns for touchdowns in the first quarter, was also awarded the MAC West Division Defensive Player of the Week award.
Rod Carey’s team gets the week off to enjoy the victory before traveling to San Diego State for a game against the Aztecs on Saturday, September 30th.
NORTHWESTERN: “Off the Mat”
EVANSTON – All of those hopes that Northwestern might be a contender for a Big Ten West title took a punch to the jaw in the second week of the year.
The Wildcats looked out of sync in a lopsided road loss to Duke that cast a doubt over just how good they might be as the Big Ten season approaches.
Pat Fitzgerald’s team calmed that talk down at home last Saturday by doing what they were expected to do – dominate Bowling Green. Northwestern took it to their struggling opponents with a dominating 49-7 win over the Falcons that brought their record back over .500 as they head to the off week.
While the win wont’ exactly earn the Wildcats a ton of praise considering Bowling Green’s struggles this year, Fitzgerald praised the group for pulling themselves up after a bad loss to the Blue Devils.
“The only thing we could do is get off the mat,” said Fitzgerald of his team after the Duke defeat. “Tonight was about coming out swinging. It’s one thing to get up, it’s another to go out and make plays and we did.”
ILLINOIS: QB Controversy Coming?
CHAMPAIGN – Lovie Smith probably knows a little too much about what might be coming to his Illinois team during their off week.
That’s a quarterback controversy. He had a number of them during his time with the Bears and even had debates during his tenure with the Bucs.
Now he might have it after his starter, Chayce Crouch, struggled as the Illini came back down to earth last Friday against 22nd-ranked South Florida. He was 8-of-18 for 76 yards with an interception and was eventually pulled from the game as he was unable to move the offense.
Jeff George Jr, who saw time in 2016, relieved him and had a bit better luck. While he did throw a pair of picks, he completed 12-of-22 passes for 211 yards and a touchdown in a much better showing that Crouch.
Smith will get two weeks to contemplate a potential change before the Big Ten season opens at home September 29th against Nebraska.