Brian Kelly was pretty pleased at the end of his Michigan preview press conference Tuesday.
"Good--I got out of here without getting into too much trouble," Kelly said as he walked off the podium.
Kelly successfully avoided making any form of headlines leading into the final scheduled meeting between college football's two winningiest programs--Notre Dame and Michigan. Notre Dame elected to end the series several years back due to scheduling issues moving forward.
Kelly was asked Tuesday if it was good for college football in general with the rivalry ending so that both team now have opportunities to play other major programs.
"I'm not going to go so far as to categorize not playing anymore is a good idea, because that's going to come back to me." Kelly said. "So I'm going to stay away from that. I will say this: Given the complexities of our schedule, in not being able to play Michigan, it opens up so many more exciting opportunities for us. The Texas opportunity, Georgia, so, look, we understand the great tradition and the rivalry of the Michigan game, and if it could have worked, it would have worked, but it does open up some pretty exciting games in the future.
I think that's -- you know, that's the silver lining that's out there."
"How did I do with that? Pretty good?" Kelly jokingly asked.
Tensions are high on both sides with the series coming to an end. Last summer, Michigan coach Brady Hoke said Notre Dame 'chickened out' on the series, when in reality because of Big Ten going to nine conference games, neither team would be able to keep the other on the schedule on a yearly basis.
The Wolverines went as far as to play the chicken dance song after beating the Irish by 11 points last year at the Big House. Michigan has won 3 of the last four meetings. Last year's meeting is the only matchup since 2013 decided by more than seven points since 2008.
"I think two programs that have such great pride that they're going to battle and fight to the very end," Kelly said when asked why the matchups are always so close. " These are the two winningest programs in college football, and that's for a reason. There is an immense amount of pride, both teams want to win this football game and that's why regardless of what the teams' records are and what the personnel looks like, there is just great pride in both programs."
This year's matchup could be close again. The Irish have Everett Golson while Michigan has a great quarterback-wide receiver combination in Devin Gardner and Devin Funchess that could be a nightmare for Notre Dame's depleted secondary. The duo combined for three touchdowns last week.
"A 1-2 combination that is very dynamic," Kelly said. "Funchess being on the perimeter is the a match-up problem and he will be a match-up problem for everybody he plays this year. We will have to find ways obviously to slow him down, and he's going to be difficult, and Gardner has played great against us."
Notre Dame and Michigan will kickoff at 7:30 Saturday night under the lights at Notre Dame Stadium. NewsCenter 16 at 6 gets you started with Countdown to Kickoff coming your way at 6:30.