With the news about Notre Dame being all about the ACC, it is important to remember that the Irish have a big game this week against tradition Big Ten rival Michigan State.
Earlier I was watching the Big Ten Network and they were suggesting that the Spartan defense will key on stopping the Irish rushing attack of Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick. That would force first-year quarterback Everett Golson to beat them. Of course, they insisted that Golson is not yet ready for that tough of a defense.
That may be true, but can't the same thing be said for Andrew Maxwell? No disrespect to Boise or Central Michigan, but Notre Dame will be the toughest defense that Michigan State has played all year. Notre Dame will also key on stopping the strong rushing attack led by Le'Veon Bell and Larry Caper.
That means the outcome of this game will likely depend on two factors. 1) Which defense will be more successful in stopping the run? and 2) Which young quarterback will prevail in their toughest test to date?
Looking at this closely, it is hard to say which side really has the edge here. Both teams have really good fronts. Michigan State probably has the edge in the secondary. Notre Dame has arguably the best linebacker in the country in Manti Te'o. This is really too close to call on which defense has the edge.
The quarterback is an area where Notre Dame clearly has the edge. Golson is a much better athlete than Maxwell and he demonstrated that against Purdue. Maxwell really struggled in his first game against Boise.
Boise's defense was comparable to that of Purdue's in terms of ability. There is no doubt that Golson was better against Purdue than Maxwell was against Boise. Maxwell was helped by a great performance by Bell where as Golson had no run support against Purdue as the Boilermakers were hell-bent on stopping the run.
Golson produced a running and throwing touchdown and no interceptions, and Maxwell produced no touchdowns and three interceptions. Maxwell did throw better against Central Michigan where he had 275 yards and two touchdowns. Having said that, Notre Dame is a few levels ahead of Central Michigan.
Golson has definitely shown more than Maxwell has at this point. The other part that gives Notre Dame the edge here is that the Irish do have an experienced backup in Tommy Rees if he is needed for situations, and Michigan State has nobody with any real experience.
In summary, Michigan State does have the home-field advantage. The defense and running games are stalemates. Therefore, it may come down to who has the better young quarterback. Based on what we have seen so far, Golson is better than Maxwell.