Old rivals Michigan, ND ready to square off



By Rusty Miller

One of the most storied rivalries in college football kicks off Saturday when Notre Dame plays at Michigan. Seldom have the teams been more evenly matched.

They have disappointment, humiliation, frustration and 0-2 records in common.

“Well, if they aren’t mad and embarrassed, then they’re not competitors,” Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis said of his players’ fragile psyches. “I know I certainly am. I think any time y=ou put as much time and effort (into something) and things don’t go well and you don’t feel angry or embarrassed, then you’re not very competitive.”

Neither team has been terribly competitive so far.

Michigan offensive lineman Jake Long was asked his team’s goal.

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    “It’s still the same. We want to win the (Big Ten) championship,” he said. “We just started off on a different path than we expected. It doesn’t change our attitude; it doesn’t change our work ethic. We’re still coming out everyday at practice ready to work. We’re still playing for that championship.”

    Late nights

    Big Ten games have averaged 3:26 so far this season. The national average last year was 3:07 – 14 minutes shorter than 2005 – and led to an NCAA rule change to shorten games. That change was rescinded this season, largely because coaches felt too many plays were being cut out of games.

    Eight Big Ten games have gone longer than 3 1/2 hours, including a 4-hour, 23-minute overtime game between Minnesota and Miami (Ohio).

    The longest game in the conference this season was Indiana’s pass-filled 37-27 win over Western Michigan on Saturday, which took 4 hours and 7 minutes and went past midnight before finally coming to a merciful end.

    “I never thought I’d be involved in a game that lasted four hours and there was no overtime,” Indiana coach Bill Lynch said.

    Cheap trick

    The officials working the Oregon-Michigan game apparently didn’t see Wolverines receiver Greg Matthews kick a Ducks safety below the belt, but TV cameras did.

    The cheap shot was shown on ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” adding another blow to the image of the winless Wolverines.

    “I think it’s not excusable and it’s not acceptable,” Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. “I watched the play and I think the official should have been on the play. I think there was something there that was done by the other player.

    “So in the spur of the moment, sometimes those things happen. Certainly it’s nothing we’re proud of. Greg is not proud of it. We don’t want it and we won’t tolerate it.”

    Carr would only glare at a reporter when asked if the No. 3 receiver would be disciplined.

    Kicked out

    Minnesota coach Tim Brewster has run out of patience with Jason Giannini after he missed three field goals in Minnesota’s last game. Brewster declared an open competition for the job between Joel Monroe and Eric Ellestad.

    Giannini, a junior, fell out of favor with previous coach Glen Mason at times, too. He missed six field goals – including four between 30 and 39 yards – and eight extra points as a freshman. Last year, Giannini also missed five field goals and three extra points, including one in overtime of a 28-27 loss to Penn State.

    Monroe, a walk-on who was awarded a scholarship last week, felt bad for Giannini.

    “At the same time, I just want what’s best for the team,” Monroe said. “When the game’s on the line, the kick needs to go in regardless of who’s taking it.”

    End of Series?

    Will there be another Penn State-Notre Dame game in the near future?

    Don’t bet on it, said 80-year-old Joe Paterno, at least not while he’s still coach of the Nittany Lions.

    “You’re talking to the wrong guy about that,” Paterno said this week after his team beat the Fighting Irish 31-10 on Saturday. “(Athletic director) Tim Curley has enough problems without having a coach who won’t be here 10 years from now when you’re scheduling, telling him who you have to schedule.”

    Penn State used to play the Irish every year in the ’80s and early ’90s before joining the Big Ten in 1993.

    “If they come to me and say, ‘Hey, we want to play Notre Dame in 2014, what do you think?’ Yeah, I might like to watch that game,” joked Paterno, drawing laughter. “Who’s going to be the head coach?”

    Hawk D

    Iowa’s defense, which struggled with injuries and played below expectations in 2006, has returned with a vengeance. The Hawkeyes lead the nation in fewest points allowed (just 3) and rank second nationally in rushing defense (22.5 yards a game).

    “The guys, they’re playing hard and they’re playing well together. They’re looking out for each other,” coach Kirk Ferentz said. “For the most part, we’re not making too many errors right now, and that’s something we’ve got to continue to do, not give up big plays.”

    None of this bodes well for Iowa State, which hosts the Hawkeyes Saturday in the annual Cy-Hawk Trophy game. The Cyclones rank 106th in the nation in scoring offense at 13.5 points a game.

    Quick hitters

    During the third quarter of Ohio State’s home win over Akron, a commercial on the video board for the Big Ten Network was loudly booed. … Other games on Saturday include Illinois at Syracuse, Akron at Indiana, Pittsburgh at Michigan State, Minnesota vs. Florida Atlantic at Dolphin Stadium in Miami, Duke at Northwestern, No. 10 Ohio State at Washington, Buffalo at No. 12 Penn State, Central Michigan at Purdue and The Citadel at No. 7 Wisconsin. … Former Michigan State coach John L. Smith was criticized for relying too heavily on junior college transfers to prop up his recruiting classes, but his replacement, Mark Dantonio, has several of those jucos filling spots all over the field.