There is only one way to get over a heartbreaking defeat at home. Make up for it by winning the next game on the road. Brian Kelly’s Irish begin a make or break four game stretch on Saturday night in East Lansing that will go a long way towards determining their postseason fate. They face a 2-0, yet unimpressive, Michigan State team that will be looking for revenge after last year’s 33-30 defeat in South Bend. It’s no secret that the Irish were hoping to enter week 3 with a 2-0 record and a top 25 ranking, however, those hopes were derailed last week by the latest installment of the Denard Robinson show. In order to make up for last week’s loss, the Irish will need to go a minimum of 3-1 over their next 4 games to have any shot at a BCS bowl. After Saturday night’s showdown against the Spartans, the Irish will face 19th ranked Stanford at home before traveling to Boston College and returning home to face Pitt. After the loss to Michigan, it’s become quite clear that the Irish will face an uphill battle in order to get to 4-2 at the halfway mark this season.
The Spartans are favored by 3.5 pts this weekend mostly due to the fact that they feature a potent rushing attack that has averaged 261 yards per game through the first two games of the season. Even more impressive is the fact that they are averaging 7.8 yard per carry. Edwin Baker leads the way with 302 yards (9.4 ypc), followed by Le’Veon Bell with 204 yards (9.5 ypc), and are anticipating the return of co-starter Larry Caper, who will make make his first appearance of the year after recovering from a hand injury. Combine these gaudy rushing statistics with the fact that junior quarterback Kirk Cousins torched the Irish defense for 302 passing yards last year and it’s easy to see why the Spartans are favored to win this ABC primetime matchup at home.
On the other side of the ball, Notre Dame’s offense moved the ball at will last week vs UM as long as Dayne Crist was under center. Most would agree that this team would be 2-0 if not for the fluke injury to Crist in the first half last week that turned a 7-0 lead into a 21-7 halftime deficit. Crist threw for 277 yards in just over one half of football last week while All American tight end Kyle Rudolph caught 8 passes for 164 yards a touchdown. The Irish also ran for 154 yards led by Armando Allen’s 15 carries for 89 yards.
I don’t think there’s any doubt we are looking at another shootout between the Irish and the Spartans similar to what we saw in their 2009 matchup. The Spartans D is led by middle linebacker Greg Jones, who is quite possibly the best in the country. He’ll have his hands full on Saturday trying to contain all of the weapons Brian Kelly has at his disposal. The other star middle linebacker in this game, Mantei Te’o, will be in a similar position as he tries to slow down a Spartan rushing attack that ranks second in the nation in yards per carry, trailing only the 8th ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers.
So what do I think is going to happen this weekend under the bright lights of Spartan Stadium? To be honest with you, I have no idea. I didn’t think Notre Dame would lose at home to Michigan last week, but as the injury to Dayne Crist can show you, anything can happen in sports, as you are always one play (i.e. a fluke blow to the head causing the loss of vision in your QB’s right eye) away from your season essentially being over. I think the Irish will bounce back from the loss this week and defeat the Spartans simply because, when healthy, they have better talent on both sides of the ball. The turnover battle will be the key as usual, the Irish had 3 last week (thank you very much backup quarterbacks) and still had the lead with 3 minutes to go against a Michigan team who did not turn the ball over once. Finally, look for Michael Floyd to have his breakout game under the bright lights as Brian Kelly has been determined all week to figure out a way to get him more involved in the offense. Final Score, Notre Dame 34, Michigan St 27.
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Written by Tim Lewis