You'll notice that Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly this week hasn't trashed the Irish's rivalry with Michigan State. Hasn't downplayed its status the way he did the Notre Dame-Michigan series a couple of weeks ago.
For good reason. Michigan State is the superior rivalry in Notre Dame lore.
Since 1947, the Irish and the Spartans have played every year except four — 1953, 1958, 1995 and 1996. It's a storied series that includes a Game of the Century contender (1966) and seemingly annual thrilling games.
Just in the 2000s, these programs have played games of 31-24, 44-41, 40-37, 33-30 and 34-31. The series is tied 6-6 since 2000, though Notre Dame leads all-time 47-28-1.
“We've played a lot of great games with them over the years,” said Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees.
Alas, the series is contracted to begin a four-years-on, two-years-off rotation, starting with no games in 2014-15. That's due to Notre Dame's impending, part-time ACC schedule.
Those matters are trivial to Oklahoma fans, who are more consumed with what kind of team awaits the Sooners on Sept. 28 in South Bend.
Michigan State will provide more evidence. The Irish so far have beaten Temple and Purdue, and lost to Michigan. The latter two games were close.
“When you're playing tough competition, you're being tested mentally and physically for four quarters, you're definitely learning more about personnel,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. “They're being challenged. I think you get a better understanding of your strengths and weaknesses.”
In that light, it's a good thing the Big 12 moved the OU-West Virginia game to Sept. 7. Otherwise, the Sooners would go to South Bend with only two games under their belt, against Louisiana-Monroe and Tulsa.
Now, at least, the Sooners have three games to sharpen themselves. Notre Dame will have four, including one against their real rival from the state of Michigan.