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Notre Dame vs. Michigan State: How Manti Te'o Will Lead Irish to Victory

Dec. 29, 2011; Orlando, FL, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Manti Te'o (5) gestures to the crowd at the end of the second quarter against the Florida State Seminoles in the Champs Sports Bowl at the Citrus Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-US PRESSWIRE
Matt Cashore-US PRESSWIRE
Joe GoldmanCorrespondent ISeptember 14, 2012

Despite suffering indescribable personal tragedy in the past several days, Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o will play this Saturday at Michigan State.

According to John Taylor of College Football Talk, Te'o lost both his girlfriend and grandmother over the course of 24 hours. Being the competitor that he is, Te'o will still make the trip to East Lansing.

Te'o will not only serve as the team's emotional and on-the-field leader on Saturday, but is also Notre Dame's biggest key to victory. A Notre Dame victory will fall on his shoulders.

Most importantly, the Irish need to stop Le'Veon Bell. The Heisman candidate has 335 rushing and receiving yards through two games, including a stellar 265-yard performance against Boise State's solid defense.

Notre Dame will not win the game if Bell rushes for 150-plus yards, and stopping him starts with Manti Te'o.

Te'o and the Irish held Bell to only 27 yards last season. Bell is a whole different beast this year, but Notre Dame has what it takes to limit his impact.

Te'o will serve as an immovable force in the secondary and will provide backfield pressure off the blitz. With him on the field, Bell won't be able to break for many long runs.

While Te'o will make the biggest difference against the run, he's also going to make life miserable for Spartan QB Andrew Maxwell.

Although his name is Maxwell, he's in no way, shape or form a Maxwell Award candidate. He makes mistakes under pressure, throwing three interceptions in a nail-biter against Boise State.

Te'o loves to blitz and has phenomenal closing speed. This is going to force Maxwell to throw the ball prematurely, surely resulting in at least a pick or two throughout the game.   

Finally, with Brett Favre-like motivation, Te'o could play his best game of the year. After losing his father in December of 2003, Brett Favre played against the Raiders and had one of his best games ever. He threw for 399 yards and 4 TDs with 0 INTs, while the Packers routed the Raiders 41-7.

Obviously, we can't compare the two tragedies or historically contextualize what Te'o is going through. Te'o is also a LB and has significantly less control over the outcome of a game than a QB does.

However, both Favre and Te'o are incredible competitors. Te'o will come motivated and ready to play on Saturday.

Expect Te'o to make life miserable for Andrew Maxwell and put a huge damper on Michigan State's potent running attack.

The Fighting Irish have what it takes to pull off an upset in East Lansing, and it revolves around the heavy-hearted Te'o.

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