Last year, an 0-2 Notre Dame side wiped the floor with Michigan State, surprising everyone in a 31-13 win. Two years ago, Michigan State beat them 34-31 in an overtime classic.
Suffice to say, when these two teams meet the unexpected happens, and it's generally very fun to watch.
There is more than a little on the line in this game. The Spartans are the one team in the Big Ten who has any sort of National Championship chances this season, however slim they may be. And Notre Dame is not only trying to stay ranked, but start the season strong with games against Stanford, BYU, Oklahoma and USC still on the schedule.
You aren't going to want to miss this one. Let's take a closer look at this intriguing game.
Where: Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, Michigan
When: Saturday, September 15 at 8 p.m. ET
Spread: Michigan State (-6), according to Bet Online.
I think you have to go with Michigan State to cover at home. They haven't even allowed an offensive touchdown yet this season. Notre Dame is starting a freshman quarterback, Everett Golson, who was benched in favor of Tommy Rees toward the end of a tied game against Purdue.
Michigan State is at home and is the better team on paper. Roll with the Spartans.
Over/Under: 43.5, according to Bet Online.
Michigan State pounds the rock and plays excellent defense. For those two reasons alone, take the under.
Notre Dame Injuries (via USA Today)
T Tate Nichols, Shoulder, Questionable
RB Amir Carlisle, Ankle, Questionable
Michigan State Injuries (via USA Today)
T Skyler Burkland, Hand, Questionable
OL Blake Treadwell, Shin, Questionable
Top 25 Implications
A Notre Dame loss would likely drop them from the rankings, as they are currently No. 20 in the AP Poll. Unless Michigan State gets totally demolished they'll remain ranked, but heading into Big Ten play with a 4-0 record after a tough non-conference slate and ranked in the top 10 would have the Spartans dreaming of big things in 2012.
Keys to Notre Dame Win
They have to be able to run the ball with Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood (returning from suspension), and they need to be able to rattle off a few big plays offensively.
They cannot allow Michigan State to control time of possession and wear down the Notre Dame defense. That's a recipe for disaster against a physical Spartans side that is more than capable of keeping the Notre Dame offense off the scoreboard if they only have to defend for a third of the game.
And they need to take some chances down the field on the early downs as well. Keeping Michigan State's stout defense off balance will be key.
Keys to Michigan State Win
For Michigan State, it's all about controlling the line of scrimmage. On offense, it's no secret the Spartans want to run the ball with Le'Veon Bell, who has 280 rushing yards and four touchdowns after two games. They've won the time of possession battle in two games, 74:30 to 45:30.
They'll look to shorten the game and limit the Irish's possession.
Defensively, the more long third downs they can keep Notre Dame in, the better. They'll want this contest to fall on the right arm of Golson. If they can make the freshman quarterback beat them, they'll feel good about their chances.
Michigan State will impose their will on this game, and playing at home will only fuel their advantage. Look for the Spartans to grind out the win, 21-10.
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