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And in that corner…The Michigan State Spartans

Sep 12, 2012, 1:55 AM EDT

Outback Bowl - Michigan State vs. Georgia

After two straight games where the Irish were expected to win, No. 20 Notre Dame faces the first significant test of the 2012 season when they head to East Lansing as underdogs to take on No. 10 Michigan State. The Spartans are the early favorite in the Big Ten, winning an opening week showdown against Boise State before dominating Central Michigan.

A year after a disappointing loss to the Irish in South Bend, the Spartans seek to enact some revenge. With a defense that’s one of the nation’s best, but some question marks on the offensive side of the ball, we tracked down Ben Wilensky of  The Only Colors and got his take on this year’s Spartan squad.

1. On paper, the Spartans look every bit the Rose Bowl contenders they were expected to be. They gutted out a tough victory against Boise State and breezed to a win against Central Michigan. Take a snapshot after two games. Have there been any surprises or disappointments?

In short, MSU is 2-0, the defense has been terrific, and the majority of the other Big Ten contenders’ play so far can be best described as somewhere between disappointing and dismal. So, yeah, things are a-okay in East Lansing.

To add a bit more detail: the game against Boise State was close – although not nearly as close as the final score indicates, as MSU kneeled on the ball twice inside the BSU 5 yard line to end the game – but MSU was clearly the better team, dominating yardage, time of possession, and nearly every important statistic aside from turnovers. (More about those turnovers in a bit.) Yes, Boise is in rebuilding mode, but they’ve built their entire program on winning early-season games against powerhouse teams … and MSU escaped unscathed. The only real negative from the Boise game was the passing game – which turned around in a big way against Central Michigan, when Andrew Maxwell went 20-31 for 275 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Meanwhile, opponents have scored 20 points in two games against the Spartans. 14 have come by way of pick sixes (one thrown by Andrew Maxwell in the Boise game, and one by his backup, Connor Cook, against CMU), and 3 of the points happened when Boise took over at the MSU 22 yard line. That leaves one solitary field goal that can be fully charged against the defense.

The surprise is that everything has gone so well so far; there really isn’t much to complain about. There have been isolated disappointments – Maxwell’s performance against Boise, the relative lack of pass rush at times, some struggles with pass protection against Boise – but even those have been either improved (Maxwell) or totally nitpicky. The bottom line is that the team has looked every bit as good as Spartan fans hoped it would.

2. Quarterback Andrew Maxwell rebounded after a disastrous start to the season. How confident are you in the Spartans’ passing game, with the first-time starting quarterback tasked with building chemistry with an almost entirely new receiving corps? How often do you see Michigan State throwing the football on Saturday?

“Disastrous” is probably a bit strong. Maxwell definitely had struggles against against Boise, but of the three interceptions he threw, the first was not at all his fault, the second was, at most, partially his fault, while the third was his fault. The interceptions all occurred in the first half. In the second half, Maxwell was 10-15, including 5-5 in the critical last two drives of the game, where, in turn, MSU took the lead and then closed the game out. Against CMU, Maxwell was really quite good. He struggled a bit in the first two series of the game, when the wind was blowing very hard, but after that he was very good.

Many of Maxwell’s errors have occurred when he has thrown fastballs where changeups would do; the coaching staff apparently has been working with him on putting a bit more touch on his passes. He has struggled a bit when under heavy rush, so I’d expect ND to blitz often. Overall, however, he’s exactly what he appeared to be at the beginning of the season: immensely talented, but inexperienced. That inexperience has resulted in mistakes, but taken as a whole, the good has outweighed the bad.

The wide receivers are quite inexperienced, as you described. What they lack in experience, however, they make up for in sheer numbers, as 10 different players caught passes against Central Michigan. Bennie Fowler is probably the best of the bunch; he’s fast and physical and had a big day against CMU last week. Tony Lippett had a nightmare game against Boise State, and (probably as a result) received less playing time against CMU. But, he’s big and fast and will probably still play a role on Saturday. Keith Mumphery took much of Lippett’s playing time against CMU and acquitted himself fairly well. The remaining receivers are young but talented. DeAnthony Arnett is the most well-known, as he was impressive for Tennessee last year and then transferred to MSU. He has only one reception on the year, but it was for 48 yards. Aaron Burbridge and Macgarrett Kings are both freshmen who show quite a bit of promise.

The best receiver on the team – and at the very least, Maxwell’s favorite receiver – may be Dion Sims, the tight end, whose 10 catches this season have all resulted in first downs. Sims made some terrific plays in the second half against Boise, and at 6’5”, 285 he presents all kinds of matchup problems.

For obvious reasons, the offense is built around Le’Veon Bell, and I expect that won’t change against ND. However, I think there will be a concerted effort to establish the passing game, particularly given that the secondary seems to be the weakest part on the Irish defense. Bell nearly won the Boise game on his own; I doubt that he can do that against Notre Dame, and I doubt even more strongly that the coaching staff will ask him to do so. I’d expect to see quite a bit of passing on Saturday.

3. That’s two games without giving up an offensive touchdown. Eight starters return on a defense that was already pretty good. How good is this unit? Elite? On paper, it seems rock solid at all three levels — where should the Irish offense attack?

I’d take the MSU defense over any in the country save Alabama and maybe LSU. I suspect that Irish fans are a bit skeptical as ND had quite a bit of success on offense last year. Make no mistake, that was by far the worst game the defense played all season, and they’ve been absolutely terrific since then.

There are very few weaknesses. The linebackers are smart and very, very strong against the run. The secondary is shutdown-quality, and I think Johnny Adams and Darqueze Dennard may be the best pair of cornerbacks in the country. William Gholston is a terrorbeast at one defensive end – and if anything, Marcus Rush’s statistics at the other end are even better. They were incredible against Boise, repeatedly bailing out the offense. Notre Dame will present a bigger test, and I expect that they’ll give up their first touchdown of the year, but it will not come easy for the Irish.

If there’s one weak point on the defense, it’s probably on the interior of the line. The Spartans really miss Jerel Worthy’s pass rushing skills and big-play ability – though it’s probably unreasonable to expect to replace a player like that. MSU’s defensive tackles haven’t been able to generate much pass rush. So, the two-headed Golson/Rees monster may have more time to throw than you might expect. (They’ll still have to deal with the secondary.)

That said, CMU had some success running the ball to the outside. (CMU’s success was limited, however: all CMU running backs combined for a total of 88 rushing yards). As my co-author KJ wrote, “Given the insanely small rush defense numbers MSU posted against Boise, we’ll chalk that up to the “nobody’s perfect” category.” Furthermore, neither Boise nor CMU were able to run the ball on the inside at all. Still, if you’re looking for something to exploit, that may be it – and given Cierre Wood’s speed, I bet ND will try to run him to the outside.

4. Last year, the Spartans offensive line was learning on the fly. This year, some expected it to be the strongest of Dantonio’s offensive fronts. After putting the game on Le’Veon Bell’s back against Boise State, the Spartans didn’t run the ball as effectively as you’d have expected in their easy win over Central Michigan. A fluke? How will this OL match up with an Irish front seven that’s just outside the top ten in sacks?

I don’t think the sample size is big enough yet to call anything a fluke. But, I’m not particularly concerned. No doubt based on what they saw against Boise, CMU really stacked the box against MSU and dared Maxwell to beat them. Which he did. (And bear in mind, Bell still had two touchdowns before he was effectively shut down during the second half.) Bell was fine, and his carries were limited enough for him to be fresh for the ND game, which was the more important result anyway.

Overall, MSU’s offensive line has been good if not great. More than 80 of Bell’s yards against Boise came after contact, and those yards are all his – but the offensive line put him in a position to get those yards by repeatedly opening up holes for him.

The pass protection is a bit more of a concern – though, again, it’s a limited concern, because Maxwell hasn’t been sacked yet this year. Still, Boise had 7 hurries, and Maxwell made some poor decisions as a result of those hurries. I bet that ND will be able to get some pressure, and it’ll lead to at least one interception.

5. The Spartans are a four-to-five point favorite in Las Vegas. Is that how you see it? What does Michigan State have to do to hold off the Irish?

Given the home field advantage, that seems about right. I know that some Spartan fans are very, very confident about this game. I think MSU has a better team than Notre Dame, but ND is better than Boise State, and MSU didn’t exactly blow out the Broncos.

To win the game, MSU’s offensive line needs to fight ND’s defensive line to at least a draw. I think that’s the strongest unit for the Irish, and if ND wins that battle decisively, I think you’ll see a young quarterback (Maxwell) make some mistakes that MSU may not be able to recover from. Even if things go really poorly, I can’t see the Irish scoring more than 21 – 24 points. So, MSU’s offense doesn’t have to put up huge numbers, but I don’t think Bell can do it on his own – and for Maxwell to be successful, he’s going to need pass protection.

6. Any advice for Notre Dame on beating the Wolverines? Mark Dantonio seems to have the maize and blue figured out.

The best way to beat them is to totally overlook the MSU game and focus entirely on beating Michigan. I wholeheartedly endorse that plan.

More seriously, blitz Denard Robinson like there’s no tomorrow. He’ll probably slip out of the pressure once or twice for big gains, but he also makes terrible decisions under pressure. On offense, my usual answer would be to pound them with the running game, because their defensive line really isn’t good and their linebackers aren’t terrific either. But with the loss of Blake Countess, they’re really thin at cornerback. (The safeties, especially Kovacs, are pretty good.) The Michigan defense is much, much sounder than they were under Rodriguez, but it’s still filled with average players who played way above their pay grade last year, and are now coming back down to earth. (Man oh man do they miss Martin and Van Bergen.) I bet you’ll beat them this year.

  1. 1historian - Sep 12, 2012 at 7:39 AM

    This does not strike me as a signature game, but it IS a game which we SHOULD win. We are the underdogs coming into their cave, millions of people will be watching, an old and honored opponent ranked in the top 10 or so – beat ’em!

    • 808raiderinparadise - Sep 12, 2012 at 6:40 PM

      Correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t Boise State lose like 8 starters to the NFL? .. inlcluding one of the winningest college QB’s ever? RB Doug Martin late first round too, coupel D linemen…. Wr …. I mean WTF? I have always given lots of credit to Boise, but they are in a rebuilding year and they kept it close at MSU?

      ND just needs to play hard and patient and they will win.

      • tonynohopeturk - Sep 13, 2012 at 5:42 AM

        this writer is one of the worst !

    • NotreDan - Sep 12, 2012 at 8:51 PM

      Let us not forget, a mediocre Boise team had a week off after MSU. This fact acted as an invisible bouy to a vulnerable MSU in the rankings.

      I find it pretty funny (no actually I find it small) that what’s his name who wrote the MSU responses above, in a giddy and silly sort of ignorance, thought enough to come and troll our board.

      Isn’t there some other sparty hack we could have quizzed?

      • 808raiderinparadise - Sep 13, 2012 at 12:58 AM

        Ahhhh yes this “writer” is almost so biased its rude to post it …. its like “bulletin board material” for bloggers …… “bulletin blog material” …..

        ND has a solid defense … and lets not forget they get back cierre wood who is a true playmaker in the screen game and finding space off the edges.

        big road test …. ND last 10 years would tell you they will blow this game, this is not the last 10 years.

  2. keelio19 - Sep 12, 2012 at 7:56 AM

    wow, I have never heard such a confident sports writer, he is all gitty about his spartans who really haven’t oooo’d and awww’d anyone. They got a high preseason ranking and beat an overrated BSU team, and then played another typical Big Ten game against the MAC schools and feel confident about just dominating ND. I by no means am overlooking this game, but Mr. Ben Wilensky sees this as an easy win for his sparty’s. Really, after dominating you guys last year like we did, you think you got that much better, and now with a backup QB? Close game, but I think Golson has shown a much better performance against Purdue, who in my opinion, Purdue, is by far a lot better than BSU and the Broncos. We will see this Saturday, Irish pull off a bigger win than expected.

    31-14 Irish. Maxwell is going to have a helluva day playing that QB position, as much as people think our secondary struggles and is the weak position of our defense, their going to be sadly mistaken. With the pressure our front 7 are going to be putting on him, our secondary is going to look like the Ravens with Ed Reed out there. Lights out victory, put it to them boys! GO IRISH!

    • cameronemclaughlin - Sep 12, 2012 at 10:10 AM

      Zurlon Tipton had a better day running the ball for CMU than Bell did for MSU. He didn’t have the two TDs, but his team was also far inferior and he lacked opportunities inside the five.

      He averaged 5.6 on 11 carries for 62 yards
      Bell averaged 3.9 on 18 carries for 70 yards

      It’s a small comparison, but perhaps meaningful considering Bell is far and away MSU’s best option on offense, while their defense is highly vaunted (and Zurlon Tipton had a good day against them).

      Ben Wilensky notes above that MSU’s weakness is their interior D-line. At the same time, they gave up yardage to Zurlon Tipton running outside. This sounds like a recipe for Notre Dame running the ball down Sparty’s throat!

      • detroitchris - Sep 12, 2012 at 12:55 PM

        So many errors from such a bunch of smart kids.

        If you just read the article you’re commenting on, or took a second to look at the box score, you’d know that Bell played half the game after a significant number of carries against BSU and CMU stacked the box to stop the run and force Maxwell (our percieved weakness) to beat them.

      • irish4006 - Sep 12, 2012 at 4:20 PM

        Have to agree with detroitchris (welcome to our board, BTW). If you jam the box with 6-7, you can easily contain the run game. But, that didn’t prevent MSU from scoring through the air. Bell’s performance against CMU is a bad example considering that didn’t help the team much from scoreboard point of view and for the fact that he didn’t play half the game. Once you wear down the defense, there is a possibility that you will run all over them in the 3rd/4th Q.

        Looking forward to the our first big test. We certainly have the weapons to win the battle, how well we will execute on Saturday is what worries me.

        GO Irish!!!

      • 9irish - Sep 12, 2012 at 5:45 PM

        Have to agree with Motown Chris. I wouldn’t underestimate Sparty….at night…at home.

    • lvsattoc - Sep 12, 2012 at 11:08 AM

      For the record, I absolutely do not see this as an easy win for MSU. I think it’ll be decided by a touchdown or less, and I could very, very easily see ND coming out on top.

      Do I think MSU is slightly better, especially at home — and therefore the 4-5 point spread is justified? Yes. Do I think that a victory is assured? Absolutely not.

      • lvsattoc - Sep 12, 2012 at 11:09 AM

        And in case it isn’t clear, I’m Ben Wilensky, the guy who wrote the answers above.

    • vegasmark - Sep 12, 2012 at 11:10 AM

      That’s what I’ve been saying.

    • detroitchris - Sep 12, 2012 at 12:57 PM

      So ND beat an academy who they should always beat (oops), and Purdue who has lived at the bottom of the Big Ten since Drew Breeze graduated.

      Well done.

      • 808raiderinparadise - Sep 12, 2012 at 3:23 PM

        Truth … Huge ND fan but that is true, although since “detroit” is in your SN that might explain your attempt at spelling Drew’s name more like a living room scent dipsenser.

        Either way I think anyone would admit that Purdue is a good team, right now that close win doesn’t look impressive but I think it will later in the season when Purdue mounts a good year.

    • tonynohopeturk - Sep 13, 2012 at 5:44 AM

      this writer (Keith arnold), is a “punk” !

  3. zorichmidriff - Sep 12, 2012 at 8:04 AM

    When’s the last time we beat a Top 10 team?

    • roughingthecenter - Sep 12, 2012 at 8:42 AM

      Michigan 2005 I believe, they were ranked #3 when we played them. However, preseason rankings are BS and in a fair system there wouldn’t be any rankings until atleast week 5 or 6. That Michigan team may have ended the season unranked. Obviously where a team is ranked at the end of the season matters more than the beginning. So when we beat MSU this Saturday it will count as a top ten victory, but if they flop down the road it wouldn’t look nearly as impressive, regardless of ranking at the time we played them.

    • johnjtague - Sep 12, 2012 at 11:27 AM

      Wasn’t Utah in the top 10 2 years ago when we beat them at home?

      • dmac4real - Sep 12, 2012 at 11:48 AM

        No they were #14.

      • roughingthecenter - Sep 12, 2012 at 11:59 AM

        They would have been, but a week prior to the ND game they got their butts beat by TCU.

  4. njgoldenboy3 - Sep 12, 2012 at 8:29 AM

    I agree with Keith that it is the first big test for Notre Dame. Notre Dame are underdogs for the first time this year, going into East Lansing, and facing a pretty decent Sparty team who is in the top 10. Is Michigan State beatable? Oh absolutely. The Irish once again just needs to fix the pass defense because it has been embarrassing from the past two games AND try to contain Le’Veon Bell. If we can do all of that plus getting our running game as it was from Navy, this should be a great game to watch. Believe me when I say this, when we will all wake up the morning after the game watching Sports Center, #20 NOTRE DAME STUNS #10 MICHIGAN STATE!!!!!!!


    • roughingthecenter - Sep 12, 2012 at 8:53 AM

      Really? The pass defense has been embarrassing the last two games, giving up less than 200 yards passing to a pass heavy Purdue team? You need to go watch some Weis games my friend to see what an embarrassing Pass D looks like. The defense as a whole was impressive versus Purdue and they match up even better against MSU. Did you watch USC-Syracuse? Did anyone call USC’s pass D embarassing? How about Nebraska-UCLA, there was absolutely no defense in the entire first half, everytime I looked up Gus Johnson was freaking out over a big play. People need to give some players credit, and not discredit them when they put together a decent performance. I for one have been impressed by Jackson and Russell, and their ceilings are higher than our more recent corners, sure they are young and will make some mistakes but they are extremely talented athletes. There’s some things to complain about in the Purdue game, but leave the secondary alone, they played well and will keep improving.

      • detroitchris - Sep 12, 2012 at 1:00 PM

        Purdue is loving that you guys have transformed them into the number 1 ranked, 10 time defending national champion. Instead of 3rd in their division of the Big Ten.

  5. roughingthecenter - Sep 12, 2012 at 8:31 AM

    For some reason the media will not stop hyping MSU’s defense while having no mention that ND’s front 7 is stout. Priority will be stopping Bell and on passing situations get a good pass rush with a base four man front, which we should be able to do. MSU fans are highly underestimating ND’s defense in this match up. We actually match up better against MSU’s offense than Purdue’s.

    On offense I hope we try to establish a run game. With Wood’s return they have 3 RBs who could all have a major impact. I hope they all get a decent amount of carries. I’d call a lot of designed roll out passes to move the pocket and avoid the rush This is where Golson is far superior to TR. Watch his passes on the run against Purdue, they were absolutely perfect. If the team plays half decent I think they will out gain MSU in total yardage, hopefully it will show in the points as well. GO IRISH!

    • jimbasil - Sep 12, 2012 at 10:02 AM

      How is that? ND matching up better vs MSU D comapred with PU D?

      I don’t see that at all. PU fairly big and physical, MSU Big and definitly physical and experienced.

      ND will have to show up on the OLine and Golic/Cave will certainly have to play smarter and stronger if Golson is to survive.

      • roughingthecenter - Sep 12, 2012 at 12:05 PM

        Did I say ND’s O matched up better against MSU’s D? Here’s my exact quote “We actually match up better against MSU’s offense than Purdue’s.”

  6. keelio19 - Sep 12, 2012 at 8:35 AM

    Yes,, it’s been awhile since we beat a top 10 team, especially away. But I’m very optimistic this year, and I feel confident about this year, mainly based on how we finished the game against Purdue. The past 10 years or so, we would have folded in the 4th quarter and probably would of ended up losing by 14 against Purdue last week. We fought hard and didn’t give up, Purdue is definitely a contender this year in the Big Ten, despite what that Homer said above, I see Mich St struggling, to possibly losing against Purdue this year. If we avoid the mistakes and penalties by our supposed captains (Teo and Martin), which I still don’t understand what Teo was thinking on that penalty on the punt return, we have a very good chance. Everyone seems to forget, we beat up on Mich St hard last year, granted we were at home. But lets also take into account that they HAD Cousins last year, who was a 4 year starter and is now in the NFL. Maxwell is nowhere near the same caliber player at the QB position that cousins was, and I honestly think we’re better this year then we were last year on defense. They also had a more well rounded running back last year who was a BEAST, I don’t recall his name, but he was more of an all around back then Bell/Ball, he’s a bruiser and I think our front 7 are going to have his number and force Maxwell to throw more than he would like. Of course this yahoo above states Maxwell is ready to throw, of course he is, he had a nice came against those Central Michigan Broncos, wow, quite a competitive team there. Boise state, about as overrated as MICH is this year, should have never been in the top 25 when they replaced their entire defense, which lets keep in mind, MICH ST struggled against. Ya ya, it was the first game of the year, but it was BSU first game of the year too, and they stood up to that cowardly offensive line that MICH ST was bringing and gave them fits. Our dline is stacked from the inside out, and MICH ST hasn’t seen the caliber of play yet, from BSU or the Broncos. Our oline at least has been tested against a very very good Purdue dline, we will be overly prepared for this game and will get our plays in faster and quicker and really throw that defense for a loop. GO IRISH!

    • 1historian - Sep 12, 2012 at 8:53 AM

      Penalty on the punt return, my take – ND guy is down, the play is over and the Purdue guy is getting set to fall on the ND guy. ‘Teo sees it and smacks him so he can’t do it. Message sent – the penalty is WORTH IT. The poobahs at NBC say naughty naughty, but I’d be willing to bet that the TEAM didn’t – One for all all for one.

      I’d even bet that Coach Kelly liked it. Youth, talent, toughness – a good combination.

      • Jennifer - Sep 12, 2012 at 10:32 AM

        If it had been anyone other than Manti, I would have groaned. Manti? I celebrated.

  7. jerseyshorendfan1 - Sep 12, 2012 at 8:42 AM

    Irish by 10. Take them as the 4-5 pt dog all day long.

    • roughingthecenter - Sep 12, 2012 at 9:56 AM

      I agree, I don’t like predicting scores but I see this one ending something like 20-10 or 23-13 ND

    • don74 - Sep 12, 2012 at 10:23 AM

      I’m wih you. Manage the ball, win the game.

      • nudeman - Sep 12, 2012 at 10:53 AM

        ND 3
        MSU 2

      • jerseyshorendfan1 - Sep 12, 2012 at 12:28 PM

        So Gholston sacks Golson in the end zone for an MSU safety?

    • detroitchris - Sep 12, 2012 at 1:03 PM

      So you scored 20 on Purdue, and gave up 17 – and you’re going to do better against MSU on the road?

      • alsatiannd - Sep 12, 2012 at 2:49 PM

        Yes. If history teaches us anything MSU will pucker and choke on applesauce while their CBs are floating around on dinghies. They won’t make plays despite screeched pleas to: “Make Plays!!” Notre Dame will make sure to have a fat guy feed them pudding at half time.

      • dmac4real - Sep 12, 2012 at 3:01 PM

        Law of transitivity dont count in football….

  8. ndgoldandblue - Sep 12, 2012 at 9:27 AM

    I think the Irish should go into this game playing like they have nothing to lose, which is, for the most part, true. The game is at Michigan State, and MSU is the higher-ranked team. Plus, everyone out of the MSU camp (players and columnists, alike) is extremely confident that the Spartans are going to win this game easily. If the Irish win, it will be an upset; if the Spartans win, it’s because they were supposed to. Lastly, the Spartans are favored to win the BIG this year, which is something that they have to live up to. All those scenarios point to more pressure on the Spartans and less pressure on the Irish. Go in there, and play fast and aggressive. Then, watch what happens. If the score remains close, I think the Spartans might start playing a little tight.

  9. jimbasil - Sep 12, 2012 at 9:51 AM

    I watched that BSU vs MSU game and the game was much closer than he thinks. Yeah, MSU was the better all around team but make no mistake, BSU forced MSU into mistakes and for that BSU could have won that game.

    BSU the vastly inexperienced team took it to MSU and Petersen is a quality coach.

    Maxwell is going to be a decent QB but as of now, he’s got issues with accuracy.

    That said, MSU will beat the tar out of ND if ND has a game like they did against PU.

    I do worry about the officiating in this game. Always with a Big 10 crew there is the ball placement problems and corner cutting that favors Big 10 teams when playing ND. Not to mention the clock management and extracurricular physical play allowed Big 10 teams (now that I’ve said it, watch ND get caught getting the hockey penalty retaliation PF call)

    • nudeman - Sep 12, 2012 at 10:57 AM

      My take on that game, now that I remember it was that if BSU still had Moore, or some other QB who is at least decent, they’d have won.

      I hate “IFs”. “If we didn’t have those 9 personal fouls …”
      Like a “do over” or a mulligan, IFs are dumb

      But the point is MSU was very beatable that game, and if … never mind

      • jimbasil - Sep 12, 2012 at 11:01 AM

        Yeah, a more seasoned QB or one with more ability would clearly have put BSU in the winners column.

        Just the same, without a seasoned QB, BSU should have/could have won that game.

      • detroitchris - Sep 12, 2012 at 1:04 PM

        If MSU had Cousins, MSU wins by 28.

        And yes, making excuses about the refs in advance of the game is classic ND.

    • detroitchris - Sep 12, 2012 at 1:07 PM

      Without an IF, MSU knelt out the last minute of the game inside BSU’s 5 yard line. Ok, maybe there’s a 5% chance they stop us from scoring a TD with first and goal at the 3, but that game was an 11 point win against a team that over 15 years has never been held without a TD, or to that low a total score and Kellen Moore wasn’t there for 15 years.

  10. simmel65 - Sep 12, 2012 at 9:54 AM

    I think this game is coming down to QB play and who doesn’t turn the ball over. I can see a similar game like Purdue. I like our defense against MSU offense, but MSU defense is really good and we could struggle.

    If EG can not make mistakes, I think we can win this in a close one.

    Go Irish!

  11. yaketyyacc - Sep 12, 2012 at 9:54 AM

    my post that Purdue was underated proved to be correct. MSU is overated. does not deserve its 10th place ranking. ND outshines MSU in every facet of the game.
    Still, we must play them as if our whole season depends on the outcome. IT DOES. they are going to play us for the same reason.
    They can’t beat ND, only we can beat ourselves. And this Notre Dame Football team does not strike me as self destructive. Go get em Irish! Plough into them, run over them, pass them dizzy, and prove that their defense is not the only one to keep an oppinent out of the end zone.
    blitz the hell out of Maxwell. Go Irish!


  12. idratherbeinsouthbend - Sep 12, 2012 at 10:07 AM

    Blahhers On ESPN…

    Notre Dame flipping to the ACC in all sports except FB. However, they will schedule 5 ACC football opponents annually.

    I don’t know how i feel about this rumor, but looking at the ACC teams, it doesn’t seem like a terrible fit. With USC, Navy, Mich, Purdue, and Stanford habitually being on the schedule, that leaves us two more games.

    • dbldmr - Sep 12, 2012 at 10:29 AM

      I’m getting tweets from Notre Dame quoting the various ACC schools welcoming Notre Dame. Looks like it’s happening.

  13. gtizzo - Sep 12, 2012 at 11:06 AM

    Keith this Ben Wilensky is an idiot,

    While the Spartan offensive line may have been learning on the fly last season. While they maybe returning this season, so is a majority of the Irish front seven on defense. That defense that held the Spartans to 29 rushing yards. That Boise game should have been a blow out for MSU. Boise lost 9 of there top 10 tacklers and MSU needs the 4th quarter to win? Who cares what Vegas thinks anyway do they watch the games? Bottom line: The Spartans have no answer for Tuitt, Nix, and T’eo. The Irish can handle the Spartan pass rushers especially if the keep Niklas in to help against William Gholston. This guy thinks Bell can win the game for Sparty, he had better think twice.

    • kjattoc - Sep 12, 2012 at 12:56 PM

      Way to lead with the name calling. Impressive confidence. And you built it on it nicely by then calling out people setting a point spread based on, you know, a massive financial incentive to get it right. Notably, the line has moved in MSU’s direction, but I’m sure that’s just because there aren’t any Notre Dame fans who like to bet on football.

      • gtizzo - Sep 12, 2012 at 9:35 PM

        I hate people who call themselves “football analysts” and then regurgitate everything that was said in the preseason. Then they get paid for it…that ticks me off even more!

      • kjattoc - Sep 13, 2012 at 1:24 PM

        a) Almost the entire interview discusses MSU’s performance in their first two games.

        b) How much do you think LVS is getting paid to write about MSU football? I’ll give you a clue: it’s very close to the amount you get paid to post inane comments here.

    • halfwhitey - Sep 13, 2012 at 1:50 AM

      Vegas most definitely does watch the games, though they also factor in what is the likely public perception. In this case, and well, in every case, if you are that confident that you can play this “overratedness” to your advantage, then by all means you should bet heavily. Especially in this extreme case, where you think Notre Dame should be +100 or better, you can eliminate tons of risk by just throwing your mortgage on the +6.

      I, for one, am hoping the line shifts slightly toward ND (it usually does, as kjattoc alluded it, ND does get a good amount of action generally), and then I’ll bet a large sum on Michigan State just to hedge the unhapiness I will feel if ND loses.

  14. ndgiants11 - Sep 12, 2012 at 11:16 AM


    Haven’t had a chance to watch MSU this year. Is their defense really THAT good? Is putting them next to LSU and Alabma a bit of a stretch?

  15. dmac4real - Sep 12, 2012 at 11:31 AM

    “Blitz Denard Robinson like its no tomorrow”

    Well since Bobby D isn’t quite the blitzer Narduzzi is, that probably explains our struggles agains UofM.

  16. bearcatirishfan - Sep 12, 2012 at 11:57 AM

    Kudos to Ben w. for posting and replying, thanks for the clarification and honesty.

  17. seadomer - Sep 12, 2012 at 1:04 PM

    Can our defense hold them to 17pts … very doable. Offense, you know what to do.

  18. reignmaker5 - Sep 12, 2012 at 1:11 PM

    ND got a sound victory over MSU last year…but went 8-5 in a garbage conference. MSU is better than last year and to consider that defense as overhyped is rediculous. I love how every comment ends with Go Irish. MSU dominates this game. Don’t worry guys, you might win 9 this year.

    • dmac4real - Sep 12, 2012 at 3:04 PM

      You lost both Cousins and Worthy. I would say you guys are about the same as last year. Thanks for displaying your college football knowledge as well by classifying us as part of a conference…totally makes sense.
      (And this part is to piss you off)
      Go Irish.

      Go Irish.

      Go Irish

    • halfwhitey - Sep 13, 2012 at 1:56 AM

      Saying that ranking Michigan State’s defense up with LSU/Alabama could be “overhyped” isn’t so absurd, and definitely not diculous again.

  19. reignmaker5 - Sep 12, 2012 at 1:12 PM

    Thanks detroitchris.

  20. frankb51 - Sep 12, 2012 at 1:38 PM

    who the f_ _ _ is ben wilensky??!!??!!

    • ceo1117 - Sep 12, 2012 at 10:29 PM

      I ask myself that question every day, frankb51.

  21. runners00 - Sep 12, 2012 at 1:47 PM

    Maybe the “sample size” is too small to say that the MSU sports blogger is extremely confident but whatever it is, in his comments he is downright cocky. I mean, the best defensive line in the country? Really? Georgia put up 30 points on them last year. We scored 31. We’ll see. It’s a long season but it sure would be fun to go into East Lansing and dominate.

    It’s hard to do — MSU is good — but if we limit the turnovers and we get our guy Golson some time to throw the ball (Golic you better play a lot better this week), I think we’ll do all right because our defense is so strong. That assumes a lot, though – including a prolific offensive line that protects the quarterback. Let’s get it done!

    Go Irish!

    • kjattoc - Sep 12, 2012 at 1:54 PM

      What article are you reading?

      “If there’s one weak point on the defense, it’s probably on the interior of the line.”

  22. irishirish777 - Sep 12, 2012 at 2:22 PM

    I say Irish win by narrow margin. Many are on the Sparty bandwagon. Sick of hearing how ND is an underdog, if ND wins then everyone says it was a fluke or state was overrated. Go to em Irish, bring home the victory! Go Irish!

  23. mimefrog - Sep 12, 2012 at 2:29 PM

    MSU is a talented, hungry, well-coached team. The Irish are as well. This has the makings of an epic primetime showdown … I’m stoked!

    Like others have said, I think this really comes down to 2 related things:
    1) which defense gets to the inexperienced quarterback on the opposing team, creating …
    2) turnovers

    On Golson – In the 2nd half of the Purdue game, I had concern with him holding onto the ball for too long (on the fumble I was screaming “throw it away!” at the top of my lungs … my wife had to come check on me). The kid wants to make a play, which is awesome but we all know what can happen. Second, as many have commented, he needs to get better at what Kelly called his “housekeeping” – getting the plays in, the offense lined up, etc. I hope he watches his game tape over and over and is able to make that mental leap. Both of these issues are fixable (talent is not … but I think we’re fine on that) and the last game could be the learning experience he needed to take the next step against a great Spartan defense.

    How ND plays as a team in this game will really let us know what their identity is this season. I feel like I don’t know exactly what we have yet. Last year we did not do so well in big games; they seemed too big. I was in the stands for USC and felt like the hype was just too much and that both the fans and the players became way too demoralized after a couple of bum plays. This year, I think Purdue showed us that we can bend but not break and win with quiet confidence, that we can overcome adversity. If we execute, the Irish can and will win.

    I’m breaking out the popcorn for this one. I hope its great battle and both teams play their hearts out, culminating in an Irish win.


  24. irishdodger - Sep 12, 2012 at 7:34 PM

    Basing this years game on ND taking Sparty to the woodshed in last year’s game is futile. We totally dominated Purdue last year & barely won this year at home. I think Wood had his best game stats-wise vs Purdue last year. If theOL performs like they did last wk, it will get ugly for ND quick.

    Golson had to burn timeouts to get the correct play called last week despite being at hoe. Can u imagine how rattled he’ll get in Sparty Stadium?

    • runners00 - Sep 13, 2012 at 10:50 AM

      I don’t see Golson as being rattled. I think the timeouts were forced from the bench because the play calling didn’t get in on time. I know what Kelly said, but from what I could tell, it looked like the play calls didn’t get promptly to the quarterback.And then there is the check at the line. So, we have to be more efficient all around this week

  25. NotreDan - Sep 13, 2012 at 12:25 AM

    Detroit Christine…. let’s meet at Claddagh on haggery and see if you have anything more than an inflamed vulva under that skirt. spurty on.

    • kjattoc - Sep 13, 2012 at 1:27 PM

      Spectacular rhetorical skills there.

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