College Football Preview: Michigan State Spartans Vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Michigan State Rushing Offense vs. Notre Dame Rushing Defense
The Spartans' running game has been outstanding in the first two games, albeit against two inferior opponents. They have already rushed for over 500 total yards, while Le'Veon Bell and Edwin Baker both have three rushing touchdowns.
The Irish defense could not stop University of Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson last week, giving up 258 yards on the ground to the Heisman favorite. But dual-threat quarterbacks and bruising running backs are two different animals. Bell and Baker do not scare defenses as much as players like Robinson, because they do not have the capability to drop back and throw.
Irish linebackers Manti Te'o and Brian Smith will look to plug the holes and stop the Spartan running game. But with Bell and Baker on fire, along with the return of Larry Caper, the Spartans will have plenty of backs and looks to throw at the Irish.
Michigan State Passing Offense vs. Notre Dame Passing Defense
Before the season started, Michigan State had the definite edge. Kirk Cousins was coming off a terrific season as a first-year starter, and the receiving corps was looking to be the best in the Big Ten.
However, Cousins has failed to impress in the first two games, with some of the blame falling on the shoulders of the receivers and tight ends, who have dropped far too many catchable passes. So far, Cousins has only thrown for 328 yards and two touchdowns. Many Spartan fans thought he should have had that total after Week 1 against the Western Michigan Broncos.
The Irish pass defense was actually fairly solid against the Wolverines, limiting Robinson to 6.1 yards per passing attempt. They were even better against their Week 1 opponent, the Purdue Boilermakers. Quarterback Robert Marve was limited to 5.2 yards per attempt, and threw two interceptions.
Darrin Walls and Harrison Smith are playmakers for Notre Dame, and will likely put some pressure on those talented Michigan State receivers.
Notre Dame Rushing Offense vs. Michigan State Rushing Defense
The strength of the Spartan defense so far has been the defensive front seven. The defense already has 13 tackles for a loss, lead by defensive end Colin Neely with four.
The unit has also only given up 130 total rushing yards for two yards per carry.
Armando Allen has performed very well for the Irish, so far. With Dayne Crist and Cierre Wood also very capable at running the ball, Notre Dame will have plenty of ways to attack the Spartan defense.
Expect the Spartans to not let off in the front, and force Crist to beat them through the air.
Notre Dame Passing Offense vs. Michigan State Passing Defense
Last year, the Spartans were dreadful in the secondary. But after the first two games this season, the unit seems to be much improved. Trenton Robinson and Chris L. Rucker are ball-hawking and creating problems for opposing offenses.
However, most of their success has come on making plays blitzing the quarterback or in the running game. In order to beat the Irish, they will have to cover arguably the best wide receiver and tight end in the country, in Michael Floyd and Kyle Rudolph.
Nothing against the Spartan secondary, but only a handful of college teams could cover these two guys. Chances are that Crist burns Michigan State for a couple long touchdown passes.
Both kickers have been perfect so far this season. However, it was only a short while ago that Michigan State's Dan Conroy was battling for a starting nod. He has been very impressive, hitting a career-long 50-yard field goal last week.
Keshawn Martin is the definition of a game changer, and could break for a long touchdown at any given second.
Cierre Wood and Armando Allen are the returners for the Irish, and also have very good top-end speed.
The game could certainly come down to a kickoff return for a touchdown, or even a fumbled catch by one of these returners.
Brian Kelly is a genius and a mastermind. There is no other way to put it. It is highly unlikely that he will lose two games in a row, especially after the way his team lost last week.
Meanwhile, the Spartans may be a little too confident going into Saturday night's tussle. A home game. Undefeated season. Opponent coming off a loss. If the Spartans start off slowly, this one may be mentally over early.
Brian Kelly pulls off an upset and beats the Spartans in East Lansing.
ND over MSU 31-21
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