Notre Dame and Michigan State’s Saturday matchup will bring together former Cincinnati head coaches Brian Kelly and Mark Dantonio to square off for the fourth time since taking over at their respective schools.
Notre Dame had convincing wins over Dantonio’s Spartans in the last two meetings but Kelly definitely hasn't been able to forget Michigan State’s overtime fake field goal win in the 2010 season.
With questions and concerns surrounding both teams, expect Notre Dame and Michigan State to come out with high energy as they try to establish themselves as legitimate contenders in college football.
After starting out with two shaky wins over Western Michigan and South Florida, the Michigan State offense began to show some promise behind the quarterback play of sophomore Connor Cook against Youngstown State.
Cook, who has been battling for the number one spot at Michigan State with senior Andrew Maxwell and two talented freshman, threw four touchdown passes as the Spartans put a beatdown on Youngstown State winning 55-17. It wouldn't be wise to put a lot of stock in Connor Cook based solely on his performance against the lowly Youngstown State but his confidence seems to have brought balance to the offense which could prove to be dangerous for the Irish.
Notre Dame has to be looking for an overall better defensive performance. The defense had a tough time slowing down both Michigan and Purdue and now will face a rejuvenated offense with a good amount of talent. Notre Dame’s powerful defensive line will hopefully be able pressure the young quarterback and force some errored throws. The secondary has to tighten up coverage and not let an early big play put the Irish in a hole.
Notre Dame’s offense has shown their ability to move the ball down the field but has yet to be truly consistent. At times the offense looks cohesive and strong but other times seems flat and ineffective.
Tommy Rees has been as good or even better than expected but his lack of mobility limits Kelly’s playbook. Notre Dame’s running back rotation of Amir Carlisle, George Atkinson and Cam McDaniel will have to be productive to take some pressure off of Tommy Rees.
The senior led Spartan defensive has some great athletes and could make the running game tough for Notre Dame. If the Irish have to turn to the passing game, Notre Dame’s receiver core seems to be ready to get the job done with TJ Jones and Davaris Daniels leading the way.
Hopefully the home crowd will bring some life back to the Fighting Irish as they try to keep on the winning path. Another loss would drop Notre Dame out of the top 25 with more tough games to come.
It’s still hard to tell how good this Notre Dame team can be this season but they certainly seem to have enough pieces in place to beat Michigan State.