coleryan Posts:13633 Followers:20
On 09/16/2013 11:38 AM in NCAA Football

Michigan State Spartans vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish: Preview and Pick

Michigan State Spartans at Notre Dame Fighting Irish: Preview and Pick

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are ranked 22nd in the latest college football rankings, but they have had moments where they did not look impressive. They cannot afford to play a lackluster game this weekend when they host the Michigan State Spartans.

Michigan State Spartans at Notre Dame Fighting Irish Odds

The college football odds for this game opened up with the Fighting Irish listed as seven point favorites. The public sports betting fans are obviously not impressed with how Notre Dame has been playing because a first look at any consensus sites will show that over 70 percent of the wagers coming in up to this point is on the Spartans. Despite the lopsided action this line has yet to move and can still be found at seven points at most of the top rated online sportsbooks.

The undefeated Spartans come into this game looking for a signature win to add to their impressive start to the season. The one thing for sure is that this game will get physical with two very powerful teams.

Many feel this will be a real challenge for the irish considering Notre Dame’s schedule has included a home game against Temple and a trip to Purdue, it’s not exactly a week-to-week barrage of heavyweights. The trip to Michigan in the second week of the season is as tough as they come, but Temple is 95th in the nation in total offense and Purdue is 116th.

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio is using this game as a measuring stick and challenging his team to see just how good they are.

The college football betting trends are heavily in favor of the Spartans for this game. The Spartans are 4-1 against the spread (ATS) in their last 5 games after allowing less than 170 yards passing in their previous game, 20-8 ATS in their last 28 road games vs. a team with a winning home record and 8-1 ATS in their last 9 road games.

The Fighting Irish are 5-12 ATS in their last 17 games in September, 2-5 ATS in their last 7 games after accumulating more than 280 yards passing in their previous game and 0-4 ATS in their last 4 non-conference games. In previous meetings the road team is 11-2 ATS in their last 13 meetings and the Spartans are 7-1 ATS in their last 8 meetings in Notre Dame.

Michigan State Spartans at Notre Dame Fighting Irish Pick

With plenty of time before kickoff we will wait for more information to come in before we select a side on this contest. Make sure to check back on the day of the game to see who we select as our winner for this big game.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 11-5-0
coleryan Posts:13633 Followers:20
09/17/2013 02:50 PM

On the one hand, the Notre Dame defense allowed just 38 rushing yards Saturday, recorded another interception return for a score and came up with a crucial fourth-quarter stop.

On the other hand, that defense made enough mental and physical errors to let a limited Purdue offense ranked 116th in the nation put up 24 points.

Not shockingly, how good this Irish defense is likely remains in the eye of the beholder. On Sunday, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly again reiterated that it is a work in progress but claimed to see signs that progress is being made.

"We played much more physical, I was very pleased with that," Kelly said on a conference call. "Purdue, this offense is built to run the football, and that's what they wanted to do.

"They weren't able to do that. Those are all great forecasts for us – being more physical, better communication. The two big leaders on our defense in terms of communication are the safety and the 'Mike' linebacker. They're no longer here. Those are new communication positons. That's evolving."

Emblematic of the hard-to-discern dynamic: Preseason All-American defensive end Stephon Tuitt has one tackle in his last two games, an assisted stop against Purdue on Saturday. Though tackle stats are deceiving for linemen, it seems notably low production.

Not so, said Kelly. "This is probably his best game of the year, in terms of just being on every play," Kelly said. "Just physically at the point of attack -- two-gapping, doing the things we want him to do. Really liked his play. Again, an offense predicated on running the football and they can't run the ball, the front four has to be doing something right."

Notre Dame has one more week to get right, it would seem. Michigan State ranks 84th in total offense, but then comes Oklahoma and its 490 yards of offense per game thus far.

"We're still evolving," Kelly said. "It takes time. Even though we've got guys that are veterans, you have key positions with new players in them, and they're coming together."

  • Last 7 Days Record: 11-5-0
coleryan Posts:13633 Followers:20
09/18/2013 03:10 PM

Notre Dame will return to South Bend this weekend for a pivotal early season challenge versus Michigan State. The Spartans always play the Irish tough and are seeing their form improve each week ahead of this Saturday`s game. The Irish have had trouble displaying the form they showed last season, especially on defense. The Spartans bring a physical team to Notre Dame Stadium that will be looking to start to experience consistency on offense. The Irish will need to improve their form on defense and control the line of scrimmage in order to move to 3-1 and start to earn back the respect of the rest of the nation.

The following are the key matchups the Irish must control in order to be successful versus the Spartans:

- Irish running backs versus Max Bullough:
The stable of Irish running backs will be in need of their best game of the season against Michigan State. The Spartans are extremely physical and stout against the run so the Irish will need Cam McDaniel to continue to earn the hard yards between the tackles as he did versus Purdue. Amir Carlisle and George Atkinson III will also need to run downhill and secure the football while also making the most of opportunities to get to the edge. Freshman Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston will also need to justify the hype surrounding them if they receive a chance to carry the ball. The catalyst of the Spartans hardnosed defense is linebacker Max Bullough. Bullough, a preseason second team All-American is in his third season as the Spartans starting middle linebacker and has led his team in tackles each of the last two seasons. Bullough has 15 tackles so far this season and will attempt to continue Notre Dame’s struggles running the ball.

-Ronnie Stanley versus Shilique Calhoun:
First year starter Ronnie Stanley is in for a very stiff challenge against pass-rusher Shilique Calhoun. Stanley has played decent at right tackle for the Irish this season but hasn’t been exceptionally good run blocking and also hasn’t seen a pass-rushing talent like Calhoun. Calhoun is off to a great start for the Spartans with three tackles for loss, two sacks, an interception, eight quarterback hurries and three fumble recoveries. When the Irish are in obvious passing downs Calhoun will pin his ears back and come after Tommy Rees, who lacks the ability to escape the rush, so it is paramount that Stanley provide Rees with enough time to make plays downfield.

- Dan Fox versus Jeremy Langford:
Dan Fox will be once again charged with the responsibility of holding the opposition’s number one running back in check. Fox leads the Irish in tackles with 24 and has been steady against the run and pass this season. The Spartans also have a stable of backs to which they give the ball, chief among them being Jeremy Langford. Langford is experiencing his first season as a starter and leads the team with 200 yards rushing and four rushing touchdowns and is also third on the team with seven receptions. A well rounded back like Langford is pivotal to the success of the Spartans offense as he gets many touches. All of Fox’s skill will be tested by an all-around back but if he can shut down Langford he can help make the Spartans one dimensional and therefore hurt their offenses ability to make plays.

- Prince Shembo versus Connor Cook:
Notre Dame’s edge rusher Prince Shembo is going to need a big game versus the Spartans and will be the key to shutting down Spartans quarterback Connor Cook. Shembo has 10 tackles and six quarterback hurries so far this season and will need to get to Cook when he drops back to pass as well as contain the mobile quarterback when he scrambles and on designed runs. Cook took the starting quarterback job away from week one starter Andrew Maxwell and has established a firm hold on it. Cook has thrown four touchdowns and no interceptions this season and has also run for 70 yards. Cook can escape the rush and make plays on the run so Shembo must throw off his timing through pressure while also limiting the damage the Spartans quarterback does on the ground.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 11-5-0
coleryan Posts:13633 Followers:20
09/19/2013 03:06 PM

For Michigan State, running the ball has always been a priority, no matter the opponent. However, in recent years vs. Notre Dame, it’s been the running game that has played a major role in the outcome.

Over the past three season, Michigan State is 1-2 vs. Notre Dame. In MSU’s victory in 2010, they rushed for 203 yards as a team. In their losses in 2011 and 2012, the Spartans rushed for 29 yards and 50 yards.

Due to the correlation between running the ball and winning for MSU the past couple of years, the Spartans (3-0) realize how important establishing a run game will be in Saturday’s matchup vs. the 22-ranked Fighting Irish (2-1).

“We know we got to rush the ball against them,” junior tailback Jeremy Langford said. “That’s what we’re going to do.”

Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio has expressed the importance of running the ball against Notre Dame all week, even going deep into the statistics book to show his team that they must run the ball successfully to have a chance at a victory.

“He (Dantonio) pulled out some stats that when they allow certain rushers to get over x amount of yards that this is their record,” junior running back Nick Hill said. “I want to say it was over 100 yards. We are looking to get over 100 yards. If not individually then as a unit.”

In Notre Dame’s two victories this season, the defense has allowed an average of 86 yards per game (134 yards vs. Temple), and in the loss to Michigan the defense conceded 166 yards.

The Spartans are entering Saturday’s meeting with a different look in the backfield compared to last year. Le’Veon Bell received 76 percent of the carries in the 20-3 loss at Spartan Stadium in 2012, but heading into Saturday’s game, Tuesday’s depth chart had Langford or redshirt freshman Riley Bullough or Hill listed as the starter.

“I think we all bring something different,” Hill said. “I think that we all have a different game. You can see it out there.”

All three running backs have more than 20 carries on the season — Langford leads the team with 44, and while this three-headed backfield may not have a workhorse like Bell, they have a rotation that can continuously put fresh legs on the field without missing a step.

“It brings a huge dynamic,” Hill said. “Last year it was just Le’Veon Bell, and once someone else came in not having a whole bunch of reps throughout the season the guy was kind of rusty. Now, that we have guys that have played, so if one guy goes in and one guy goes out we can keep that routine within the offense.”

The Spartans are not only facing their biggest test in terms of competition through this point in the season, but they are facing their biggest team in terms of size as well. And anyone that knows football knows that the battle in trenches will dictate how far the running game will actually go.

“Offensive line has to execute,” senior guard Blake Treadwell said. “We must execute our plays and have great technique.”

With the MSU passing attack ranking 105th in the nation in passing yards per game (160), and a new quarterback at the helm, it will be pivotal that the 44th rushing attack in the nation (209.7 yards per game) gets going early to take some pressure off.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 11-5-0
coleryan Posts:13633 Followers:20
09/20/2013 07:54 PM

•These teams play for the Megaphone Trophy and this will be the 77th edition of what has been one of the more entertaining series in the country recently. The teams have split the last 10 meetings and nine of the last 13 have been decided by seven points or fewer with the game-winning score coming late in the fourth quarter or OT in eight of them. This will be the last time they will meet for two years. The series is set to resume in 2016 at Michigan State.

•Notre Dame has won the last two meetings and is seeking to win three straight for the first time since winning eight in a row from 1987-94.

•Through three games, the Irish have already allowed 71 points and two rushing touchdowns. Notre Dame was eight games into last season before it had allowed as many points or its first rushing touchdown (Oct. 27 at Oklahoma).

•Defensive EPA PG (Expected Points Added Per Game) = Contribution of a team’s defense to its net points in game. So Michigan State’s defense contributed about 12.3 net points per game towards its scoring margin over the last two seasons. Based on EPA, if Michigan State had an average offense in each game they played, the Spartans would have added 4 more wins to their total from last season, resulting in an 11-2 record.

•Michigan State has the highest defensive EPA in FBS (68.7). However, it’s the Spartans’ offense that has struggled. Seven of Michigan State’s nine offensive touchdowns came last week against FCS-level Youngstown State. Michigan State’s defense has scored twice as many touchdowns (four) against FBS opponents as its offense (two). Defensive end Shilique Calhoun alone has more touchdowns (three) against FBS opponents than his offense (two).

•Michigan State is seeking its first 4-0 start since 2010 when it won its first eight games, finished 11-2 and shared the Big Ten championship.

•The Spartans are one of nine teams that has not trailed in a game at any point so far this season.

•The Spartans have forced their opponents into 104 three-and-out drives since the start of last season, most in the FBS.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 11-5-0
coleryan Posts:13633 Followers:20
09/20/2013 07:56 PM

Brian Kelly's first eight games at Notre Dame Stadium netted just four wins. He was 8-5 at home through his first two years. Before last season, Jack Swarbrick memorably said that he was tired of hearing opposing athletic directors tell him how hospitable the place was.

What followed was the Irish's first perfect home season in 14 years. And a win Saturday against Michigan State would give the program its first 10-game home winning streak since Oct. 25, 1997-Aug. 28, 1999.

"Well, I think there's a lot of things," Kelly said. "There's a lot of levels. We've learned how to play the game. We play the game, for me, I've always wanted our teams to play hard for four quarters and just fight really hard and we'll figure out a way to win the games. We've managed to do that by and large in terms of the way we play.

"I'd like to play better football at times, mistake-free. I think we've learned how to play the game. We prepare very well. I think that's the second thing. And I think we've been able to manage game week at Notre Dame very well. That's a big, big part of that, as well. There's a lot that goes into game week at Notre Dame.

"So if I could highlight those three things, maybe in reverse order, right, handling all that goes into game week at Notre Dame; the preparation I think our guys really understand how to prepare, and then playing the game the right way, hard and physical for four quarters."

The narrative has changed considerably from last year, when the Irish's first five home games were decided by an average of 4.6 points, with four total overtime periods. (They then beat Wake Forest 38-0 on Senior Day.) They won their six regular-season games away from Notre Dame Stadium by an average of 22.6 points.

Theories for the lopsided play ranged from a busy weekend schedule on campus to the relative quietness of their home venue, as anecdotes of ushers reprimanding fans for being too loud were not all that uncommon. Still, the administration did its part last year to change that, launching its "Take a StaND" campaign to encourage a more active audience.

Two years earlier, in the building's first home night game in 21 years, modern music was piped-in before kickoff and at key moments of the game. That night's loss to USC marks the last time Notre Dame was beaten at home.

And then there were the game day schedule tweaks. In 2011, the team left the Basilica for the Guglielmino Athletics Complex before embarking on its walk from the Hesburgh Library quad to the stadium, rather than going straight from Mass to the stadium. This year, it moved pregame Mass to Friday.

"I just think the way we've spaced out the day, Friday and Saturday, has really helped our kids a lot," Kelly said. "It's given them the opportunity to regroup a little bit, focus in on the game and not all the other things that are going on around the campus."

Kelly has said that working with the administration to manage the 24 hours leading up to a home kickoff has been his most important gain for the program in his four years in charge.

Friday luncheons and pep rallies remain staples, but they have been joined on Saturdays by the once-foreign tunes of the Dropkick Murphys and Ozzy Osbourne.

"Those are all little things that have been worked through the team, and they enjoy it and they like it," Kelly said. "They like that extra energy of the music, and then we added a little bit more when we had the bagpipes and then they played music before. All those little things, the kids see that and they like that. Those are all little pieces where they feel like they are part of that, and part of the tradition is great, and then having a little bit of say in that, they really take some ownership in it."

  • Last 7 Days Record: 11-5-0
coleryan Posts:13633 Followers:20
09/21/2013 08:14 AM

This is a huge game for both teams as they have yet to establish an identity. IN a game where both defenses could play a very physical game, the play for me is to take the points.

Pick: Michigan State +5

  • Last 7 Days Record: 11-5-0