We don't even need to re-visit recent history between Notre Dame and Michigan to underscore the importance to this season's contest. You know how the past three games between the two ended, and you know what that meant for the Irish the rest of the season. For the Wolverines last year, the game was their first big spark on the way to a remarkable comeback year under first-year coach Brady Hoke.
Could a Notre Dame win on Sept. 22 -- under the home lights, at that -- do the same for its program?
It will be tough, considering the road that lies ahead. But the game is the Irish's last of September, and they have a bye week afterward. They don't want two long weeks to think about another tight loss to their rivals. They especially don't want that bad taste in their mouths going into a brutal October, when they will face Miami, Stanford, BYU and Oklahoma.
And, let's not forget, they will be coming off a roadtrip to another rival, Michigan State, a game that will also be played at night. Regardless of what happens in East Lansing, the Michigan game will have a bigger impact on Notre Dame's season, and is one the Irish need to have if they want a strong 2012. Michigan has tortured Notre Dame lately, and the Irish will be out for redemption after last year's home night contest against USC -- their first in 21 years -- went anything but according to plan.
It will be a big recruiting weekend. If history is any indication, it won't lack for drama, either. For the Irish to take the next step in Year 3 under Brian Kelly, they won't find a bigger momentum boost than taking down the Wolverines in prime time.