Here it is, y’all. No. 10 Michigan State vs. No. 20 Notre Dame.
The Fighting Irish come in 2-0, as do the Spartans. The Irish will be seeking their first win in East Lansing since 2006, a game any MSU would rather forget.
The Spartans have won 10 of 15 against the Irish, but Notre Dame comes in after winning last year’s game 31-13 in South Bend.
The year before that, well every Spartan fan knows how that one ended — Little Giants.
This game looks to be a lot less exciting than the 2010 edition, but you never know in a game under the lights at Spartan Stadium between these two rivals.
Here is what you should see:
1. Two teams focusing on the run
Cierre Wood returns after serving a two-game suspension for a violation of team rules, but he is back. Wood led the Irish last season with more than 1,000 yards rushing and nine touchdowns. Without Wood, the Irish averaged 172.5 rushing yards per game.
The Spartans defense has allowed only 109 yards rushing through two games on 46 attempts.
The Irish also will use George Atkinson III and Theo Reddick, both of whom have two touchdowns this season. With three running backs likely to get carries, and starting quarterback Everett Golson with an injured thumb, running the ball early makes sense. But with the Spartans doing a great job not allowing rushing yards, will the Irish find success? MSU will load the box, because the Notre Dame receivers aren’t nearly as good as they have been in previous years.
There also is a chance MSU will see quarterback Tommy Rees, who came in late last week when Golson went out hurt and led the Irish on what proved to be the game-winning drive against Purdue.
For the Spartans, Le’Veon Bell against the Notre Dame front seven is the key matchup of this game. This is a classic strength-on-strength matchup. Bell is the focal point of the MSU offense, and everyone knows it. The Irish front seven, led by Manti Te’o, is the strength of the Irish defense. The defensive line is big — like defensive tackle Louis Nix — and will key on the run.
Fact is, MSU needs to get the run game established against the Irish because …
2. Michigan State attacking Notre Dame through the air
The Irish secondary is depleted to say the least. Their best cornerback Gary Gray is out for the year and that already was a position of weakness. If the run game can open things up early, Andrew Maxwell could have a field day.
There is a reason why the CMU game was the perfect lead-in to this matchup — it gave Maxwell the chance to really air it out and get more comfortable with his wide receivers. This game will give a better indication on how the wide receivers are progressing as a unit.
Bennie Fowler should get plenty of balls thrown his way, and Keith Mumphery should be seeing his fair share, as well. Will the true freshmen Aaron Bubridge and Macgarrett Kings play? This week’s quotes leave doubts that they will play, but if the Spartans need big plays to be made and the offense is stalling, don’t be too surprised if they get on the field.
3. Two really good tight ends making plays
Tyler Eifert, the Irish tight end, is the go-to playmaker in the passing attack for Notre Dame with the loss of star wide receiver Michael Floyd after last season. Dion Sims has been Maxwell’s favorite target and has been all over the field making plays.
Both first-year starting quarterbacks are comfortable with their tight ends, and will use them in checkdowns and target them plenty.
Beyond the targeting, both have to be keyed on by the opposing defense. A lot of motion is to be expected, in attempts to confuse defenses and open running lanes.
4. Michigan State’s defense allowing a touchdown
The Spartans defense has yet to allow a touchdown — just two field goals to Boise State have been scored, and both drives started within the Michigan State 30-yard line.
The longest drive against MSU? 66 yards by CMU last week and it ended in a turnover on downs. This might not seem like a very bold statement, but the reality is this MSU defense is VERY tough. Still, the Irish should find the endzone in this one.
5. No fake field goal from MSU
Seriously. No. Little Giants was wonderful, but trying a fake field goal last season was as predictable as any call ever made. It failed as Notre Dame — and everyone — saw it coming. It crushed some momentum MSU had built heading into halftime, and it never recovered.
A trick play would not be too surprising, but for it to be a fake field goal would be a surprise. Last week, DeAnthony Arnett was used on two wide receiver reverses. That might be the safest option for MSU — but Dantonio doesn’t always care for safe.
This game has a low-scoring feel to it. The strengths match up with strengths, while weaknesses match up with weaknesses. Whichever team’s weakness (MSU’s passing game vs. Notre Dame’s secondary) steps up and makes plays will have the upper hand.
Nine of the past 12 have been decided by one score or less — this game should make if 10 of 13 as the Spartans stay undefeated.
Michigan State 20, Notre Dame 13
Enjoy this video, by Pietrang5 — another stellar job.