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Irish Insights

File | Associated Press
Notre Dame kicker Reggie Ho celebrates his game-winning field goal in the Irish's 19-17 victory over Michigan Sept. 10, 1988.

Kelly backs off Michigan rivalry comment

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly opened his Tuesday news conference by trying to defuse any controversy about the importance of the Irish's rivalry with Michigan.

Kelly said Sunday he didn't look at the matchup between Notre Dame and Michigan to be one of the Irish's historic rivalries, causing a stir and debate about the series that will take a hiatus after 2014.

"This is a great and historic rivalry that we'll be playing this Saturday," Kelly said Tuesday. "So let's get that out of the way right away, so we don't have to answer any more questions about this rivalry. We're excited about the game, we're excited about playing it.

"This will be decided by the players on the field, and the preparation that goes along with it. So we can stick to that and dispense with the nonsense."

This weekend's game will be the last time No. 14 Notre Dame (1-0) plays No. 17 Michigan (1-0) at the Big House in the foreseeable future. The Irish will drop the Wolverines from their schedule after next season to create flexibility each season to accommodate playing five Atlantic Coast Conference opponents each season.

Kelly said he has not talked to Michigan coach Brady Hoke about the series being stopped soon, and he also said he was not upset about Hoke saying at a May luncheon that Notre Dame was "chickening out" of the matchup.

"I think people made a lot of his comments," Kelly said. "Look, he's talking to his alums. I didn't take anything from it, really. I know Brady. He's never been one to show disrespect to anybody or anything. It's really for me about two programs that share a border; that it makes sense to play, I get that. There's so many complexities with our schedule and our agreement with ACC that it's difficult and frustrating, I can see the frustration that would be there.

"He's a first-class guy. There's nothing there, other than he's done a great job at Michigan, and I know he wants to continue to play Notre Dame. We'd like to oblige him, but right now, it's difficult with the commitments we have."

As for Saturday's game, which is slated to start at 8 p.m., Kelly said receiver DaVaris Daniels, who suffered a groin injury in last Saturday's win over Temple, is cleared to practice.

But freshman quarterback Malik Zaire, who was sidelined by mononucleosis, has not been cleared to play, Kelly said. Luke Massa, who switched from quarterback to receiver early in his career, was the Irish's third-string quarterback against Temple.