With the College Football Playoff scrutinizing schedules and contracts for strong non-conference matchups on the rise, a classic-but-sleeping series could be in for an awakening: Notre Dame-Michigan.
Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly appeared on The Rich Eisen Show Wednesday and said the prospect of the series renewing is "trending up." When pressed, Kelly said he wasn't personally part of any discussions, but the Fighting Irish coach was clear enough that he would welcome the Wolverines back onto a future Notre Dame schedule.
"I think it's trending up. It's something that we need to get in line to get that going," Kelly said. "I think that's something that everybody wants to get going and get Michigan back on the schedule. ... I think that sentiment is coming back to the forefront of where college football needs to be and some of those classic rivalries coming back together. I know we're going to be working hard to see if we can get that done."
Notre Dame beat Michigan 31-0 last year to tighten the series record to 24-17-1. This season, however, is the first year the two teams won't play since 2001. In 2012, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick ended the continuation of the series. It was then that the Fighting Irish agreed to begin playing five ACC opponents per season, and had other rivalries it chose to maintain annually over Michigan, including USC and Stanford. At the time Notre Dame opted out of its contract with Michigan, the Wolverines had won three in a row in the series.
"I think we're going to see it happen," Kelly added.
And not a year too soon.
Marquee matchups in college football, at least of the non-conference variety, were difficult to come by in the BCS era. Despite a strength-of-schedule factor, top college programs valued quantity of wins over quality of matchups. With the College Football Playoff Committee now in its second year, and citing strength of schedule as part of its criteria, schools have begun placing a greater emphasis on tough non-conference scheduling.