For Notre Dame to upset No. 10-ranked Michigan State on Saturday, they must stop Spartans star running back and Heisman Trophy contender Le'Veon Bell.
In their first two games of the season, the Irish have allowed just 119.5 rushing yards per game. However, this was against Navy and Purdue, who aren't exactly top-tier teams, but Notre Dame must continue to have success against the run to have any shot at beating Michigan State.
Bell rushed for an astonishing 210 yards with two touchdowns on 44 carries against a tough Boise State defense in Week 1, then ran for 70 yards and two touchdowns against Central Michigan last week.
Bell is an important part of the Spartans' passing and running games, so stopping him will likely be the No. 1 goal for Brian Kelly's team. The Spartans running back has impressive speed, and he can run over safeties with his toughness and strength.
If they don't contain Bell, Michigan State will score too many points for the Notre Dame offense to match. The Irish only scored 20 points against an average Purdue team this past weekend and don't have a high-powered offense that can win a shootout.
The Irish defense must set the tone early and get a few stops, which will frustrate Bell and the Spartans' offense. An early deficit would be a disaster for the Irish because forcing quarterback Everett Golson to throw early and often is exactly what the Spartans' defense wants.
Bell is one of the best running backs in the country, and he could touch the ball well over 40 times on Saturday. If the Irish are to go on the road and defeat a talented Big Ten team like Michigan State, they must win the battle at the line of scrimmage and stop the run.
If Notre Dame stops Bell from having another great performance, the Irish will be 3-0 heading into their highly anticipated matchup against Michigan at home on September 22.