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Fighting Irish-Wolverines rivalry in college football remains big deal

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Before the potential to numb our eyes and brains watching college football games nonstop from 11 a.m. to past midnight existed, Notre Dame vs. Michigan was must-see television.

Didn’t matter if it kicked off at noon, 3:30 p.m. or prime time.

The rivalry remains significant by today’s somewhat diluted standards, which is why the 43rd meeting will draw its core audience as the Irish look to avenge last season’s 41-30 loss in Ann Arbor.

And there is this — 15 of the past 22 games have been decided by single-digit margins. The rivalry’s competitive heyday took place from 1988-94 when Notre Dame won four games by a total of 15 points, Michigan won two by 12 points, and there was one tie.

Expect similar closeness this weekend; here are this week’s picks:

Notre Dame 27,

Michigan 21

Pretty even, as always, on paper. Irish playing at home, so the edge goes to them. Notre Dame has won five of the past seven meetings played in South Bend.

Central Michigan 31,

Purdue 27

Central Michigan is college football’s version of Butler University,

a great steppingstone job to the big time for whoever is coach. Brian Kelly and Butch Jones made their marks and cashed in. Former Michigan State QB Dan Enos beefs up his résumé by pulling an upset at Ross-Ade Stadium.

Nebraska 30,

McNeese State 20

The Cowboys were 10-3 last season but don’t have the size up front to pull the monster upset. If nothing else, this serves as a quality tune-up for the start of the 2015 season, when McNeese State opens at LSU.

Iowa 42, Ball State 27

The 2013 Cardinals could have given Iowa a real run, but this BSU squad is too young in too many critical areas to walk out of Iowa City with a victory.

Oregon 34,

Michigan State 24

The Spartans aren’t as strong defensively as last season when they punched Ohio State, Stanford and numerous other opponents in the mouth. Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota will spend four quarters proving this in Quack City.

Maryland 36,

South Florida 28

This is not your older sibling’s South Florida football program. The Bulls were 2-10 a year ago in Willie Taggart’s first season, including a forgettable 1-6 at home. Terps notch the road win.

Ohio State 20,

Virginia Tech 17

My gut tells me the Hokies can win this, but the Buckeyes at home are a tough, tough out.

Illinois 23

Western Kentucky 21

Illinois pulls out a home victory to establish some momentum before traveling west to play at Washington.

Minnesota 31

Middle Tennessee State 23

The Blue Raiders are coming off an 8-5 season in which they ranked 60th nationally in scoring defense. Don’t think that’s going to get it done at Minny’s TFC Bank Stadium.

Wisconsin 45

Western Illinois 10

The Leathernecks lost by 17 points at Minnesota last season. Tangling with the Badgers at home is a far greater challenge.

Penn State 35, Akron 17

Northern Iowa 21

The Zips are improving under head coach Terry Bowden but not enough to win in Happy Valley.

Northwestern 31

Northern Illinois 27

 Jordan Lynch, who seemed to be NIU’s starting quarterback since Nixon was in office, is finally gone. The Wildcats benefit from his absence at home.

Rutgers 45, Howard 13

   Good seats are still available.

Last week’s record: 11-4.

Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. Send comments to mbeas@dailyjournal.net.

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