A lot will be learned about Notre Dame on Saturday night. Last week saw the first bad loss of the Brian Kelly era. It was a game the Irish should have won, a true heart – ripper that has become far too common in the last couple years. When Kelly took over last December, he talked about changing the culture at Notre Dame. A big win on the road after a painful loss at home would do a lot to start that culture changing engine. It’s a rare chance for something that has been a rare occurrence in the last five years, a road win. This is one of only three true road games for the Irish this season. It’s also the second hardest of the three.
Michigan State is quietly 2 – 0. This would be a biggie. How much heart does this version of the Irish have? It’s one of my favorite story lines.
Here are some keys:
1. Exploit the blandness: Michigan State doesn’t do a lot on offense. This isn’t as much a comment on skill as it is a comment on design. They’ve scored over 30 points in each of their two wins this year. The Spartans run the football. Then they run it again. Then…some more running. Despite the lies the stat sheet told last week, Notre Dame did a decent job stopping the run. What they didn’t do a good job is stopping the big play. If the Irish stay home on assignments and play a little conservative at points, they should be fine.
2. Bring Back Bad Memories: Kirk Cousins still thinks about last season’s debacle in Notre Dame Stadium. He watched the tape of it all summer. Cousins says he kept watching to see himself at his worst and improve from that. This may be true, but it also means the day is still vivid in his mind. If Notre Dame can invoke memories of that performance early on, it could rattle Cousins. The Irish know what happens when they get to Kirk. Apparently, so does Kirk.
3. Use Kyle Rudolph – Michigan State likes to play back on the ball in the secondary and keep receivers in front of them. This plays right into the hands of offenses with really good tight ends, like the Irish. Short 5-6 routes to Rudolph with a little T.J Jones in the flat should do the trick. This will force Michigan State out of their defensive base and open up space for Michael Floyd to make plays late.
4. Keep Dayne Crist Healthy – Did you see Crist last week? Talk about a coming out party. More importantly though, did you see Tommy Rees and Nate (not Joe) Montana try and run the offense? No further doubt exists concerning the “who’s the most important player on the field?” argument. It’s Dayne Crist.
5. Offensive line play: Keeping Crist healthy is so important that it needs to be split into two keys. Dayne got hurt last week on a quarterback sneak. While it’s important to think twice about those calls, it’s equally important to keep green helmets as far away from #10 as possible.
Prediction: Notre Dame: 30 Michigan State 24 – Dayne and company will finish what they started last Saturday and play a little more consistently in the process. Manti Te’o will have another great game and the defense will contain the run game. Cousins will be decent, but will be gun shy about making a mistake.
About the Author
Written by Jordan Lauterbach
Jordan Lauterbach began his career in sports media when he was just 15 years old at WKWZ - Syosset. He hosted a sports talk show for nearly four years before moving on to WCWP - Brookville in 2006. Lauterbach currently hosts a sports talk show every Wednesday night from 9pm - midnight (eastern) and a College Football talk show on Saturday mornings from 11am - 12:30 (eastern) (can be heard online at wcwpsports.com and on Long Island on 88.1fm). Follow me on twiiter: jlauterbach1