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Irish, Michigan get good starts

Associated Press

Desperately in need of a good start to the season, Notre Dame and Michigan played like powerhouses and provided a respite for their beleaguered coaches. Oklahoma, meanwhile, might have bigger problems than Sam Bradford’s shoulder.

The first weekend of the season was a reminder that one hit can change a season and that winning cures most ills.

The Big Story

Good teams are supposed to be bigger, faster and stronger than most of their opponents. They’re supposed to have athletes that run away from the other guys, jump over the other guys, push around the other guys.

Notre Dame and Michigan did that Saturday. Yes, the competition was far from elite, but both Nevada and Western Michigan went to bowl games last season. Both have talented quarterbacks. And both are the types of teams Michigan and Notre Dame struggled to beat last season. In fact, the Wolverines and Fighting Irish lost to worse teams last season – at home.

There was no such angst Saturday. Michigan beat Western Michigan 31-7 at the Big House. Notre Dame beat Nevada 35-0 in South Bend, Ind.

By halftime both games were over and we could all start looking ahead to what should be a very interesting Notre Dame-Michigan game next Saturday in Ann Arbor.

It’s easy to overrate the importance of the first game of the season, but not for the Wolverines and Fighting Irish.

The two most famous programs in college football have been engulfed by panic for most of the past 12 months.

Ten victories over the previous two seasons have led many Notre Dame supporters to go public with their displeasure for coach Charlie Weis. One group wished Weis luck in “the fifth year of his college coaching internship” on a billboard about a half mile from his office last week.

At Michigan, Rich Rodriguez had just about the worst week before a season opener a coach could have, with players anonomously accusing him of breaking NCAA rules and a lawsuit being filed against him over a failed real estate deal. Oh, and he went 3-9 last season, his first as Michigan coach.

Now Notre Dame and Michigan are headed for a Week 2 showdown and the panic around each program has subsided.

Oklahoma’s issues

Sam Bradford’s sprained shoulder will get better. When exactly is up in the air, but there seems to be a fair chance that the Heisman Trophy winner will be in shape to play by the time Oklahoma faces its next tough opponent (Oct. 3 at Miami) and an even better chance he’ll be ready to go for its biggest game (Oct. 17 versus Texas).

After losing 14-13 to BYU, with Bradford watching the second half with his arm in a sling, there might be bigger questions facing the Sooners than “How’s Sam doing?”

Bradford was rarely touched last season as he tossed 50 touchdown passes and helped Oklahoma become the highest-scoring team in major college.

The Sooners’ rebuilt offensive line, with four new starters, did not provide their All-American quarterback the type of tight protection he received last season – and not just on the hard hit that knocked him out of the game in the last minute of the first half.

The offensive line was also responsible for most of Oklahoma’s 12 penalties.

“Are we making changes, I guess everything is up for change, but at the same time we need to make sure there are no knee jerk reactions,” offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said.

The Sooners also played without star tight end Jermaine Gresham (knee), a huge part of that unstoppable offense last year. There is no timetable for his return, either.

Fighting swine flu

Michigan spokesman Rick Fitzgerald says the school installed 40 hand sanitizer stations at the Big House to try to help prevent the spread of swine flu.

The Wolverines beat Western Michigan 31-7 Saturday in front of 109,019 fans who found the sanitizer near concession areas.

The swine flu virus has caused at least 2,837 deaths, mostly in the Western Hemisphere.

Health officials recommend washing hands frequently with soap and warm water or waterless hand sanitizers.

Fitzgerald said the sanitizer stations are part of a campus-wide effort to fight the flu.

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