(Notre Dame and Michigan State roll into this top 25 matchup with 2-0 records. Both teams also have an easy blowout win and a victory coming by four points or less, Photo: John Gress)
With two games behind them, the Fighting Irish are 2-0 and ranked 20th in the nation as they prepare for a Saturday road game against 10th-ranked Michigan State. After barely pulling off a win against the Purdue Boilermakers last week there is quite a bit of concern headed into this showdown. Notre Dame leads the series with Michigan State, 46-28-1, including 18-15-1 in East Lansing. Both teams enter the match-up undefeated for the first time since 2005.
While Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly admitted in his press conference Tuesday that his team did not play its best game against Purdue, the good news is that the Irish did come out of that lackluster performance with a win. A year ago that might have been a loss, so some improvement has been shown by Kelly’s squad.
Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson had flashes of brilliance last week mixed with less than stellar moments. While his overall performance against Purdue was still impressive given it was his second collegiate start (21-of-31 completions for 289 yards and one touchdown), there is still room for improvement.
After running the ball up at will against Navy (293 yards total rushing), Notre Dame’s running game evaporated against Purdue with just 52 yards. Notre Dame knew that Purdue’s defensive line would be significantly larger than Navy’s, but that alone should not have limited the Irish rushing attack. The lack of success on the ground forced Golson to try to become more of a factor, putting unnecessary stress on a young quarterback. Kelly also hopes to get running back George Atkinson III more touches this week. The Irish faithful are also anxiously awaiting the return of running back Cierre Wood, who missed the first two games due to “violating team rules.”
Notre Dame’s passing game will have to work a little harder this week against Michigan State, than they did last week against Purdue. Michigan State’s pass defense is ranked 27th in the nation, and they have yet to allow an offensive touchdown this season. Michigan State had better keep their eyes on Tyler Eifert all the same. He sat out the majority of the second half last Saturday against Purdue and still managed to finish with four catches for 98 yards.
The Michigan State Spartans (2-0) edged Boise State 17-13 in their home opener, showcasing a balanced offense with 213 rushing yards and 248 yards passing. They did, however, show a lack of discipline with 10 penalties for 90 yards. In their second game against Central Michigan, they had even greater offensive success with 173 rushing yards and 322 yards through the air.
Keep your eyes on Michigan State running back, Le’Veon Bell. The Spartans are breaking in a freshman quarterback, Andrew Maxwell, and as a result they are heavy to rely on their running game. Bell had 44 carries in a 17-13 win over Boise State to open the season.
Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio loves the Notre Dame-Michigan State rivalry. “The Notre Dame game to me is a game built on tradition,” said Dantonio. “(I’m) very humbled to be a part of that game. It’s a game that I think has sort of stood the test of time at Michigan State, all the way back to ’66 and probably even before. Very excited about being a part of that, having it in Spartan Stadium again this next Saturday night. It should be a very interactive atmosphere for our fans and for our players alike.”
If the Irish come out and implement a balanced running and passing attack, they have a decent chance to win a tight road contest. This rivalry is always a fierce one with Notre Dame winning at home in 2011, and the Spartans winning at home in 2010 on a last-second fake field goal pass nicknamed “Little Giants.
Brian Kelly’s Tuesday, Sept. 11th, press conference:
Brian Kelly – Thursday Media Session – Notre Dame Football