The Fighting Irish (0-2) try their luck again this Saturday by taking on the No. 15 Michigan State Spartans (2-0, 0-0 Big Ten) at home in Notre Dame Stadium. The action kicks off at 3:30 PM ET and will be broadcast nationwide by NBC.
Notre Dame is coming off a stunning defeat to the Michigan Wolverines 35-31. Michigan State blew out Florida Atlantic 44-0 last week. The Spartans and the Irish last squared off in 2010 with Michigan State winning in overtime on a fake field goal 34-31.
The teams a have a proud and long-standing rivalry. The winner of this matchup is the recipient of the heralded Megaphone Trophy. This hardware was introduced in 1949 when the Fighting Irish defeated the Spartans in East Lansing 34-21 and is colored blue (Notre Dame) and green (Michigan State). Notre Dame has captured the trophy 31 times to Michigan’s State’s 26.
The coaches have a similar pedigree as Spartans’ coach Mark Dantonio was replaced by Brian Kelly at Cincinnati in 2007.
Without further ado here is your week three Notre Dame Michigan State Preview…
Notre Dame Offense
Notre Dame’s mistakes are mirrored in their stats. The team is ranked last in the nation in turnovers (10) and averaging 8.5 penalties a game are ranked no. 105 in the country. Brian Kelly recognizes the errors of Notre Dame’s ways and plans to correct them for the Michigan State game. “We’ve really had a hand in beating ourselves,” Kelly said Tuesday. “They’ve got to execute better and they will.” Another loss would put the Irish at 0-3. It would be only the third time in the team’s history it would start a season at such a mark.
Tommy Rees proved on Saturday why he deserves to be the starting quarterback for Notre Dame. He threw for 315 yards and had three touchdowns. He threw for two interceptions, however. Look for another solid game from the sophomore. Rees leads an offense ranked 10th in that has totaled has gained over 1,021 yards in its first two games.
Cierre Wood turned in a very solid effort for the second straight week at running back. He rushed for 134 yards and a score. Defenses are having trouble containing him. This was his second straight week of 100 yards rushing. Jonas Gray added 66 yards on 6 carries and importantly no fumbles.
Michael Floyd continued his superior play against Michigan by notching 13 receptions for 159 yards in a game which cemented his legacy. Floyd now is the all-time receiving yards leader at Notre Dame and tied the school record for his 15th 100-yard game. The receiver also is tied for first in the nation in catches (25) and was recognized as the FBS independent Offensive Player of the Week. WR Theo Riddick had a very solid game for the Irish with six catches for 62 yards and touchdown.
Notre Dame Defense
The highly touted defense is performing average at best. The Fighting Irish gave up four touchdowns in the fourth quarter against the Wolverines. The squad is ranked no. 51 in against the run and no. 74 against the pass in the nation.
The heart and soul of the defense, LB Manti Te’o will need to step up the intensity especially late in the game. So far he leads the team with 13 tackles and a sack.
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Michigan State Offense
In the Spartan’s first two victories this season over Youngstown State and Florida Atlantic they have won by a combined score of 72-6.
The Spartans are helmed by a very able quarterback in Kirk Cousins. His stats in two wins thus far have been impressive: 400 yards, 3 touchdowns, %79.1 completion, and no interceptions. Against the Irish last season the QB turned in a solid performance. (245 YDS, %70 COMP, 2 TD, 1 INT)
Senior B.J. Cunningham is proving to be a receiving threat this year. He leads the team in catches (14) and receiving yards (203). Kewshawn Martin (9 REC, 100 YDS) adds depth to the receiver position for the Spartans.
RB Nick Hill had a standout game last week and may be a threat as kick returner. Edwin Baker (141 YD, 5.9 AVG, 1 TD) and Le’Veon Bell (109 YDS, 4.7 AVG, 3 TD) are the two go-to ball carriers. Bell had a terrific game against the Irish last year with 114 yards gained on 17 carries. The rushing corps has tallied over 347 net rushing yards.
Michigan State Defense
The MSU defense only surrendered one first down in last week’s pummeling of Florida Atlantic and 48 yards in total offense. It has only let up a total of six points this season.
Linebacker Max Bullough leads the team in tackles with 19 in two games.
It is a young and inexperienced squad with 7 new players on defense from their match up against Notre Dame last year. Yet the team finds comfort in strong, returning defenders in LB Chris Norman, CB Johnny Adams, and S Trenton Robinson.
This game has always made for dramatic, last second faire and I see more of the same. Michigan State has shown strength on both sides of the ball. But have done so against weaker opponents than the Irish. Look for Notre Dame to dominate the Spartans D in the air and on the ground. Sure Kirk and Company will be a test for the Irish defense but look for a mistake free unit to keep the Spartans O in check.
Notre Dame 37 Michigan State 30
Once again Irish eyes will be smiling.