SOUTH BEND – It’s a very familiar place for the program, but for the players currently in it, the experience will be new.
For the first time since the 2013 season, Notre Dame will play a game at Michigan Stadium on Saturday as the eighth-ranked Irish visit the 19th-ranked Wolverines. They do so for the first time since the rivalry was renewed last season with a game in South Bend.
“I think it’s a game that our players are keenly aware of its great history and tradition over the years. A lot of these guys are recruited to Notre Dame as well. You know, you’re only a couple hours away. It’s one of our only two bus trips, maybe three, with Purdue that we take in our time here,” said head coach Brian Kelly of Michigan. “So the proximity is certainly one that we’re quite aware of as well. So clearly the guys know Michigan.
“They know the history and tradition of it. They know it’s a really good football team.”
They also know that the Irish have a bit of a tough history recently in Ann Arbor. Going back to 1991, Notre Dame has only won twice at Michigan Stadium (1993, 2005) and have lost the last four played the venue seats in the neighborhood of 107,000.
That includes the last match-up back in 2013 which the Wolverines won 41-30. It will be another hostile atmosphere for quarterback Ian Book to take snaps this week, but at least he’s been in an environment like this already in 2019.
Don’t forget that Notre Dame held their own in a raucous Sanford Stadium against then-No. 3 Georgia in a six-point loss.
“Obviously Georgia was extremely loud and we had a couple cadence issues. We’ve fixed that, we’ve worked on that this bye week and this week as well,” said Book. “Just being able to embrace all those elements; for some of those guys who haven’t played in huge live games like that, just finding a way to calm down and have fun with it.”
ILLINOIS: Bobby Got To Celebrate
CHAMPAIGN – It’s been quite a week around Memorial Stadium, and all of it has been positive.
That’s what the team’s first win over a ranked team in the Big Ten since 2007 can do for a program that’s in the process of a long rebuild. Illinois got that opportunity to celebrate and enjoy a 24-23 upset of No. 6 Wisconsin before turning their attention to Purdue this weekend.
Before doing so, they got the chance to enjoy the victory with one of their teammates dealing with quite a serious injury.
Illinois athletics released this video of the team celebrating the win at Memorial Stadium Saturday with defensive end Bobby Roundtree, who suffered a severe spinal injury this summer. He joined the players through a video chat as he continues to go through rehabilitation for the injury in Chicago.
“Bobby is with us daily throughout, involved,” said Smith of Roundtree when asked about his reaction to the win. “Absolutely he’s pumped up, as you can imagine, and like everybody associated with the University of Illinois, absolutely.”
On Thursday night, Roundtree sent his congratulations to his teammates on Twitter.
I’m doing good, keep it going boys‼️‼️ https://t.co/3K138gemwH
— Bobby Roundtree (@BobbyRoundtr97) October 25, 2019
NORTHWESTERN: One Big Fix for the Second Half
EVANSTON – When Wildcats’ fans looked at their schedule before the start of the season, there might have been a feeling of dread.
At one point, five of their six opponents in the first half of their season were in the national rankings. Even after a Big Ten West championship, if Northwestern could have found a way to split that stretch, it would set themselves up for another strong season.
Instead, the nightmare scenario has happened.
Finding consistent quarterback play has been a struggle from day one and the offense has been ineffective as a big result of that. A defense featuring a few veteran players kept them in games (see Stanford, Wisconsin, and Nebraska), but it hasn’t been enough.
A 52-3 loss to No. 3 Ohio State slammed the door shut on a miserable first half of the season for Northwestern in which they finished 1-5. The second half begins this week with another difficult game as No. 20 Iowa visits Ryan Field on Saturday morning.
While there are a few things to fix, head coach Pat Fitzgerald had one major place the Wildcats can start: Turnover ratio. Right now Northwestern has lost the ball 14 times and has only taken it away on defense on eight occasions, so turning that around is critical to doing the same for the season.
“It’s something that we’ve been really good at here. It’s been typically something that has been one of the hallmarks on why we have success,” said Fitzgerald of the turnover ratio. “Obviously, we’re on the wrong end of that in a major way, and that’s got to get fixed. It’s taking care of the ball and then taking the ball away.
“We’re ‘0’ for the last two weeks as a defense. It’s something we stress daily and work daily, and we’re not gonna stop doing that. It’s critically important that it gets flipped around in the back half of the season.”
NORTHERN ILLINOIS: A Good Shot on Homecoming
DEKALB – The start of the Thomas Hammock era of Huskies’ football has gotten off to a slow start, but the coach has a good shot to get a first in his career at the school.
Northern Illinois is back in DeKalb for homecoming this week to face Akron, who has struggled the entire 2019 season. They’ll come to Huskie Stadium at 0-7 on the season, and gives a chance for the hosts to improve their record after a rough start.
Last week was another close loss for NIU in the Mid-American Conference as they dropped a road contest to Miami (Ohio). That puts them at 2-5 on the season and 1-2 in the conference, though a shot for a second victory is well within their grasp this weekend.