Notre Dame and Michigan State roll into this top 25 battle with 2-0 records. Both teams have an easy blowout win and a victory coming by four or less.
The Spartans close call came in the opener against Boise State, 20-17. Notre Dame's came last week against Purdue, 20-17, as they needed a last-second field goal to pull out the win.
Notre Dame has done a great job of cleaning up the sloppy play that marred last season, and Michigan State has done well to replace a great QB in Kirk Cousins and not missing a beat.
This promises to be a well played and close game.
Where: Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Michigan
When: Saturday, September 15 at 8 p.m. ET
Betting Line: Michigan State -5 (according to Bet Online on Sep. 10)
Key Storyline: Return of running back Cierre Wood
Senior Notre Dame running back Cierre Wood entered the season as a dark horse Heisman candidate, but those hopes were quickly derailed as the running back was suspended for the first two games for violating team rules.
As CBS Sports' Matt Rybaltowski reports, Wood is "expected" to be on the field for this one. Now let's see if he runs with a chip on his shoulder, or he wastes energy pouting over his suspension.
Who Might Not Play for Notre Dame
*Injury information according to the USA Today.
Out: CB Lo Wood (Achilles), LB Danny Spond (concussion), TE Alex Welch (knee), S Austin Collinsworth
Who Might Not Play for Michigan State
*Injury information according to the USA Today.
Out: DL Brandon Clemons (foot)
Questionable: OL Blake Treadwell (shin)
What They're Saying
The Chicago Tribune's Brian Hamilton talks about MSU running back Le'Veon Bell's strong start to the season, the hype that comes with and the game plan for this upcoming contest.
"Those guys are going to come out and be physical, they're going to want to stop the run early, and we want to run the ball early," [Le'Veon] Bell said. "Those 4-yard runs can turn into 8-yard runs near the end of the game. That's what we want to do: Just wear guys out and run the ball hard."
Bell knows of what he speaks. He realized he toted the ball 44 times in the opener only during a postgame interview. He claims he "didn't feel it."
It was riding the "hot back," as Spartans coach Mark Dantonio put it days later. But Bell's versatility can make it seem like different backs sharing the workload while inhabiting one body.
"He's a quick-twitch guy, can make you miss," Spartans linebacker Max Bullough said. "He can stiff-arm you. I say it all the time: He's the hardest back I have to go against. He's a hard guy to bring down and a hard guy to pinpoint what exactly is his game, because he does so many things so well."
Insulation from Heisman chatter is an added duty. Bell no longer watches ESPN, for one. Dantonio cautioned that Michigan State had "to make sure we … don't drink the Kool-Aid around here," then immediately cited Bell's lack of thirst for it.
Notre Dame Player to Watch: Everett Golson, QB
Everett Golson has looked sharp early, but he was forced to leave the last game with a thumb injury.
As Rybaltowski points out in the previously-linked CBS article, Golson is "expected to start" this game.
The sophomore QB is still growing into this offense, but before he was injured he went 21-of-31 and amassed 289 yards and a touchdown.
This is a big test for Golson. Can he keep up his efficient play despite taking a step up in competition and dealing with an injury?
Michigan State Player to Watch: Le'Veon Bell, RB
As highlighted above, Bell is off to a fast start. In his two games, he has 280 rushing yards gained at an average of 4.5 yards per carry, and four touchdowns. As if that wasn't enough, he also has seven catches for 55 yards.
He will face a stout rush defense here, but don't expect that to limit his touches.
Key Matchup: Bell vs. Notre Dame Rush Defense
Given the last blurb about Bell, it should not be surprising that this is the key matchup. The powerful running back is the heart of the Spartans' offense.
If he consistently is churning out four yards per carry, Notre Dame is in trouble. Luckily for them, they have a solid rush defense. They are allowing just 3.41 yards per carry this season, and the reality is that they are playing stronger than that number suggests.
They allowed Purdue just 3.0 yards per carry in a game where rushing yards mattered. Navy bolstered their average a bit, when Notre Dame's giant lead meant they weren't overly concerned about five-yard runs.
This will be a great matchup.
On the Hot Seat: Cierre Wood
When a player with a profile as high as Wood's returns from a suspension, he better perform.
Wood had big expectations placed on him for this season, and it got off to a terrible start. He is on a short leash, and only a strong first game will keep fans from throwing all kinds of blame at his feet.
Prediction: Michigan State 20, Notre Dame 17
This is going to be a well played game. I see Michigan State squeaking out the win as Golson struggles to handle the pressure Michigan State can put on a quarterback and the hostile environment.
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