The smile on Zack Martin's face said it all. He was beaming as he was asked about the opportunity to play Michigan at the Big House Saturday night under the lights.
"This is a big one," the Irish captain and offensive lineman said Wednesday. "I love Michigan week. We always have some epic games and we are looking forward to this one."
This will be the 5th time Martin's been a part of a Notre Dame-Michigan game. He remembers the Tate Forcier led comeback in 2009, then Denard Robinson's monster game in 2010, followed by the epic last minute win for the Maize and Blue in 2011 and last year's grind it out Irish victory at Notre Dame Stadium.
It doesn't matter which player we asked, everyone said this was one of the games a player always looks forward to.
"Definitely," defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt says with a big grin. "It's our rival and it's Michigan. Everyone wants to go home with that win and with that chip on their back saying they beat somebody."
This will mark the final time the two teams battle in Ann Arbor as the series will come to an end after next year's clash in South Bend.
"It means a lot," senior captain and wide receiver TJ Jones says. "It's the last time I get to start against Michigan, it's the last time I get to play against Michigan and it's one of the last times Notre Dame gets to play Michigan for a while."
Tommy Rees has a storied history with Michigan. His first ever collegiate pass was an interception against Michigan in 2010. He was the QB that led Notre Dame back against the Maize and Blue in the final minute in 2011 only to see the Irish blow it. He was the backup quarterback last year and came in to save the day when Everett Golson was struggling.
"We definitely have a good tradition with Michigan throughout the years," Rees says. "It's a rivalry game and a game a lot of people care a lot about but I think both here and there the players on each side prepare just like any other football game."
There's no question--this is anything but any other football game.