Last year’s night game between Michigan and Notre Dame set an NCAA attendance record with 114,804 fans packing the Big House to see the first ever night game played on Michigan’s home turf. Those fans were also treated to one of the most exciting finishes to a game in the entire 2011 season.
They might as well do it again, right? Yesterday Notre Dame announced the kick off times for the 2012 season and their annual showdown with the Wolverines will once again be played under the lights with a 6:30 (CST) kick off set. Of course, this time around the game will be played at Notre Dame Stadium meaning they won’t be able to pack in quite as many with the Irish’s stadium capacity listed at 80,795. That doesn’t mean it won’t be a ratings bonanza for NBC, however, who will televise the contest in prime-time.
Last season the Fighting Irish played their first night game in 21 years when they hosted USC losing to the Trojans by a score of 31-17. Notre Dame athletic director, Jack Swarbrick, said of the night game against USC, ” We are very excited about the opportunity to play host to a home night game. While we will do this only on a selective basis, we think it is important to occasionally use the platform of a prime-time game to promote the University and our football program.”
Michigan and Notre Dame rank number one and two in all-time winning percentages and number one and three in most all-time wins. Obviously this qualifies for the “selective basis” Notre Dame uses when setting its game times. The Wolverines and Irish have met 39 times with Michigan holding a 23-15-1 record in the series.
Last year’s contest in Ann Arbor was a classic with Michigan trailing 24-7 entering the fourth quarter. They then reeled off 21 straight points to take a 28-24 lead with 1:22 left in the game only to see Notre Dame retake the lead, 31-28, with just 30 seconds remaining. That was no problem for Denard Robinson, however. He led Michigan on an 80 yard drive in just 3 plays throwing a 16 yard touchdown pass to Roy Roundtree with just two seconds remaining.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed the 2012 version of the Michigan-Notre Dame game comes anywhere near that of last year’s game. It’s off to a good start, though. There’s something about the atmosphere in a big-time college football game played at night that simply can’t be matched.