By Ashley Dunkak
Michigan head coach Brady Hoke and Michigan football radio color commentator Jim Brandstatter are not svelte men. Hoke used that fact Thursday as a commentary on the ridiculousness of anyone who did not believe Michigan-Notre Dame is a great national rivalry.
“Everybody has an opinion,” Hoke said. “I told Brandstatter last night, some people think him and I are thin, and that is really far from the truth, but everybody’s got their own opinion.”
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly had to backtrack this week after earlier calling the rivalry a regional one and saying that he did not consider it among the great, historic rivalries that Notre Dame has participated in.
The teams face off in Ann Arbor for the last time in the foreseeable future Saturday, which will be just the second night game at the Big House.
“This is a true rivalry,” Hoke said. “You communicate to your team – and Coach Schembechler used to say it when I was here the first time around – that this really gives you an idea of what kind of team you have. We’re playing with a lot of the same caliber of kids, the special teams will be really important, field position, taking care of the football, those things, so this game is always one that kind of gives you an idea where you’re at as a football team and program.”
The Wolverines won their season opener 59-9 over Central Michigan, but Hoke said after the game that there were plenty of negative aspects. He said the team has been working out those mistakes in practice this week.
“We had a tough time in the early going from an offensive standpoint of getting in a rhythm,” Hoke said. “The first play we throw the pick and it’s just a little bit of a bad read, and he knew it once he threw it that he didn’t read it well enough. The other one he was getting hit as he threw but probably should have gone to the other side, but those are all learning experiences.
“From a defense standpoint, there was a point in there that they were able to drive the ball in the second quarter a little bit where we either didn’t tackle well, didn’t set the front the right way or didn’t do a good job in the back end,” Hoke continued. “Those things that we’ve got to clean up because as everyone knows this is a very good Notre Dame team.”
One of the best on the Irish is nose guard Louis Nix, at 6-foot-3 and 340 pounds. Going against him for the Wolverines will be center Jack Miller, a redshirt sophomore who got his first start last week after seeing time as a reserve during six games in 2012.
“Obviously Jack Miller, our center, has to use some of his attributes that he has, and that’s being a good technician, being smart, playing fast , and then he’s going to have to rely on the two guards next to him,” Hoke said. “I think everybody knows those are the three positions that are the youngest for us from an offensive standpoint.”
While Michigan-Notre Dame should get a fair amount of attention, all eyes in college football have been following the continuing saga of Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, who was investigated for allegedly taking thousands in cash for signing autographs. Hoke weighed in on the situation of college athletes making money off their signatures.
“I think they can profit once they’re done, and I don’t know enough, to be honest with you, about everything that was said or done or what [Manziel] didn’t do or did do,” Hoke began. “That’s not for me to know because I’ve got enough problems just trying to keep things straight here, but I feel bad.
“What it’s done to us to some degree is our kids aren’t going to give as many autographs because you don’t know who’s selling it and all those things,” Hoke continued. “It really hurts a little bit maybe the public or the fans, especially the young kids. It’s amazing how many young kids will come up to one of our players with a gym bag full of those little mini-helmets, and you know those aren’t going up on his dresser.”