Notre Dame Football: Keys to Irish Taking Down Michigan State

Richard Langford@@noontide34Correspondent ISeptember 13, 2012

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 17:  Cierre Wood #20 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish rushes past William Gholston #2 of the Michigan State Spartans to score a touchdown during the first half September 17, 2011at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by John Gress/Getty Images)
John Gress/Getty Images

No. 20 Notre Dame will roll into East Lansing to take on No. 10 Michigan State as underdogs. They are facing an uphill battle if they want to pull out this victory, but that task is far from impossible.

After all, just last season, Notre Dame easily dispatched of the Spartans 31-13. However, this is a new season, and Notre Dame will be playing this game in a hostile environment against a defense that has yet to allow a touchdown.

Here are three things the Irish must do if they want to escape with a victory.


Stop Le'Veon Bell 

Notre Dame is going to have no shot in this game if they don't slow down Michigan State's monster in the backfield Le'Veon Bell. 

In two games, Bell has amassed 280 rushing yards, churning them out at an average of 4.5 yards per carry. He has also added seven catches for 55 yards and has picked up four touchdowns.

With the departure of QB Kirk Cousins, Bell is the rock that holds this offense together, and if he is popping off four yards a carry in this one, the Irish are in for a long day. 

Notre Dame has a solid shot at limiting Bell. They have allowed just 3.41 yards per carry this season, and that number is lower in their lone close game where they had a real need to stop the run game, as Purdue ran for just 3.0 yards per carry against them.

Avoid the Costly Turnover 

This one goes without saying in any matchup, but it warrants mention with Notre Dame, given their terrible struggles with turnovers last season. 

Notre Dame spent long stretches of last season being unable to get out of their own way. 

While their three turnovers against Michigan State did not hurt them last year, they would be well-served to not put themselves in a position where they had to do that again. 


Cierre Wood Bursts onto 2012 Scene

Notre Dame's offense has their work cut out for them, but they are likely to get a boost as senior running back Cierre Wood appears to be set to make his debut in this season. 

He spent the first two games inactive due to being suspended for violating team rules. CBS Sports' Matt Rybaltowski has reported that Wood is "expected" to play.  

The Irish are going to need him to not just play but to play his heart out.