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Week 4 - Michigan State at Notre Dame
Michigan State DE Shilique Calhoun
Michigan State DE Shilique Calhoun
Posted Sep 18, 2013

Week 4 Fearless Predictions - Michigan State at Notre Dame

Michigan State (3-0) at Notre Dame (2-1) Sept. 14, 3:30, NBC

Why You Should Give A Hoot: If Notre Dame-Michigan was sort of an indication game – which it might not really have been considering the clunker the Wolverines came up with against Akron – then this really and truly might be a revelation moment.

Remember, Notre Dame sputtered against Purdue last year, too, but coming off the loss to Michigan, last week’s 31-24 battle against a bad team seemed a little more scary. The pass rush still isn’t quite there as expected, and while the passing game has been terrific and the offense is actually working a wee bit better than it did last season, there’s still the uh-oh factor. If the Irish are going to look that bad defensively against the Wolverines and Boilermakers, what’s going to happen in the next three games against Oklahoma, Arizona State and USC? Okay, so maybe not USC, but Navy is looking terrific, Pitt isn’t really that bad, BYU torched Texas and Stanford is still there to deal with at the end of the fun. So if Notre Dame can’t win its third straight game against the Spartans, there’s going to be some real concern.

Meanwhile, Michigan State couldn’t possibly be a more frightening 3-0. The offense needed Youngstown State to make itself feel better, but it couldn’t get things working against Western Michigan and USF teams that each have yet to win a game with FCS losses on the ledger.

The Spartan defense is playing at a Big Ten championship level, but a potential dream season could be wasted unless the O can go. With Iowa up next followed up by Indiana, Purdue and Illinois, everything is set up for a hot start before hosting Michigan. If the offensive light goes on this week, then yes, it really will be time to start considering what this team might be able to do.

Why Michigan State Might Win: The defense is the real deal. Forgetting that the competition hasn’t exactly been stiff, the Spartan defense is putting up great stats against bad teams and it’s really that good. No. 1 in the nation in total defense and pass efficiency defense, the secondary is tight as a drum, while the run defense has allowed just 151 yards so far. Notre Dame isn’t going to even think about running the ball, making it the Tommy Rees show from the start. Purdue’s defense isn’t Alabama’s, but Notre Dame still had a hard time establishing the ground game and struggled a bit to keep Rees from being popped. The Spartan defensive front seven isn’t allowing a thing and it’s generating a terrific pass rush.

Why Notre Dame Might Win: Don’t fall for Youngstown State; Michigan State’s offense is painfully dysfunctional. There were weather issues against Western Michigan, and USF can play a little defense, but the four passing touchdowns against YSU last week were the first passing scores of the season. The ground attack actually hasn’t been too bad, but the offense doesn’t move, converting just nine of 33 third down chances in the first two games. If the Irish can get up early and make the Spartans press, there could be big problems, mainly because there’s a good chance the offense can’t do it without a huge performance from …

Who To Watch Out For: Connor Cook. It’s not really fair that Andrew Maxwell didn’t get his chance to take target practice against Youngstown State, but for one week, Cook looked the part after completing just 12-of-27 passes for 64 yards in the first two games. Last week he hit 15-of-22 throws for 202 yards and four touchdowns, helped by a receiving corps that actually caught the ball. The 6-4, 215-pound sophomore has good size and a wee bit more mobility than Maxwell, but he’s hardly a runner. The starting job could be his now, but he has to produce.

- Tommy Rees really has been terrific. There were two interceptions against Michigan, but the second was a bad break more than a poor decision, and he has managed to keep the mistakes to a minimum while driving the ball down the field to make the offense more explosive. He has hit the 300-yard mark in each of the three games.
- Stephon Tuitt has one more sack this season than you do, and he only has a grand total of four tackles on the season with three coming against Temple. Michigan State’s passing game is bad enough without any pressure in the backfield, but Tuitt is overdue for a big performance.
- Notre Dame’s punting game hasn’t been a plus so far, but this is when it has to show up and shine. Give Michigan State a long field on a regular basis, and forget about it. The Spartans aren’t equipped to go on many long, sustained drives.

What Will Happen: It’s not going to be pretty. The Spartan defense will get to Rees just enough to throw him off, and the Irish running game won’t be able to pick up the slack. MSU will get a defensive score and manufacture just enough to slip by.
Prediction: Michigan State 23 … Notre Dame 17
Line: Notre Dame -7 o/u: 43
Must See Rating: (5 The Presidents’ Gatekeepers – 1 Million Second Quiz) … 3.5