Live Blog coming — T minus 7 hours until kickoff

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The weather report doesn’t look too promising for East Lansing tonight, where the Irish and Spartans could be playing in sporadic thunderstorms. That said, it won’t stop me from live-blogging the event, from the comfortable confines of the Inside the Irish HQ, deep in the heart of USC country.

A couple quick notes:

* After plenty of banter about his cranium, Dayne Crist is healthy and set to start this evening, his first road start, and the first extended experience he’ll have playing in a hostile environment. Kelly mentioned that the spread offense mitigates crowd noise because much of what they do is done with hand signals, but it’ll certainly be a a tough place to win a football game, and we’ll learn a lot about Crist this evening.

* Watching ESPN College GameDay this morning, the crew didn’t have much faith in the Irish. Desmond, Corso, and Herbie all chose the Spartans to win. Not that I’m surprised that Howard picked against the Irish, but a clean sweep against the Irish shows that national expectations might be a little more conservative than Notre Dame fans’ expectations.

* Kelly met with the press for a few minutes after Friday’s walk-through at Spartan Stadium, and he discussed how important keying on linebackers Greg Jones and Eric Gordon is going to be.

“Well, obviously Jones is a guy that you have to worry about,” Kelly said. “You better know where he is. Setting protections, do we fan and go with a tackle on him in their three-down package? You have to know where he is at all times.”

The Irish offensive line has done a nice job protecting Crist thus far, but carrying that momentum into an away game will be critical.

* Not surprisingly, Michigan is sluggish in the first half, falling behind UMass 10-7 midway through the second quarter. It’s almost as if Michigan is trying to showcase Denard Robinson’s throwing ability, though Rich Rodriguez still seems content to give the lion’s share of touches to his 195-pound quarterback. The UMass offense is moving the ball, running the ball fairly consistently against the Wolverines defense, reminding Irish fans what could’ve been during those first two quarters last week.

* Lastly, check back for the final update on the IBG — where I’ve answered the questions that I posed to everyone this week. Let’s just say, I’m looking at you, Darius Fleming.