Since the Irish and Wolverines began playing on regular basis after a two-year hiatus in 2002, Notre Dame has defeated Michigan only five of the twelve times the teams met. A commonly held belief is that a victory over Michigan is the key to a successful season. However, that idea does not exactly hold true.
In years that Notre Dame beat Michigan since 2002, they tallied a record of 44-19. In the seasons in which Notre Dame was defeated, the Irish collected a record of 49-39. This breaks down to a winning percentage of .698 and .557 respectively. Applying that to a 12-game schedule, Notre Dame averaged 8.38 and 6.68 wins per season. Taking into account that a victory each season would be the common difference between the two, the difference comes down to 0.7 games in years that Notre Dame wins.
Some years support the theory and others are significant outliers. The 2005 and 2012 seasons support the theory well. In those years, Notre Dame won 9 and 12 games respectively. The victories against Michigan propelled these teams to excellent seasons. In 2004 and 2008, the Irish defeated the Wolverines. However, these teams went 6-6 and 7-6. In 2006, the Irish were soundly beaten by Michigan, 47-21. But, the Irish went on to win 10 games and land in a BCS bowl game.
Regardless of what a victory against Michigan actually means, it never hurts to beat one of one of your biggest rivals. Notre Dame will attempt to do that on Saturday, September 6th at 7:30 p.m.