A week after our spot-on analysis (kinda) led to a Notre Dame victory, we reunite and come to shockingly DIFFERENT conclusions about this Saturday’s matchup.
JJ and Keith chat, part two. Hope you enjoy.
JJ Stankevitz: Alright, so Michigan State: A top-12 team that we don’t seem to know much about. But we do know this, Mark Dantonio’s teams are 1) always going to play physically and 2) are generally pretty good. So what can you make of Sparty coming into Saturday night?
Keith Arnold: I’ve got nothing. And I’m not sure Michigan State fans do, either. I did my best to watch some of that Furman game — and asked Chris Vannini if it was one of those typical sleepwalk/smoke screens that the Spartans usually have before their September date with Notre Dame. He didn’t think so.
But I think that the DNA of the program is what it is. But the players filling those roles are still up for debate.
JJ: Well, outside of Malik McDowell and LJ Scott. But yeah, MSU is still going to press in coverage and try to force long, extended offensive drives. And their offense is going to be deliberate, trying to slow the pace of the game with four-yard gains and the occasional play-action pop. #B1G
We know opposing teams are going to pick on Nick Coleman — but how confident are you in A) Coleman’s ability and B) Michigan State’s ability to successfully challenge him?
KA: Coleman scares me. Kind of a lot. I have tweeted as much, but I think it’s only a matter of time before they hand this over to Donte Vaughn.
Now on the flip side of that, it wasn’t as if Tyler O’Connor was all that effective against Furman. But when you add suspect cornerback to very limited pass rush it doesn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy. What do you do about the ND pass rush?
JJ: Yeah, the lack of sacks is concerning.
KA: It’s kind of statistically insane.
JJ: And with an inexperienced corner, either Coleman or Vaughn, plus a freshman safety in Studstill, Kelly kind of alluded to it — you can’t run as many nickel packages as you would in normal circumstances. Which means putting the onus on getting sacks mostly on the front four and not on as many exotic blitzes, though it’s not like those have worked super well in the VanGorder era anyway.
I think this front four can be pretty strong against the run – especially if Jay Hayes cracks the rotation — but there isn’t that Day or Okwara on here who has a knack for getting to QB, at least not yet. And that is worrisome given the inexperience in the secondary. We saw it in 2012 – having a good D-line/front seven can do a lot to cover for an inexperienced secondary.
KA: BVG has his hands full. He’s already on the hot seat of every fan/writer/pundit, and now he’s forced to simplify things for a young secondary and generate a pass rush with a group that hasn’t shown that ability. I’ll ask you a rather rough question: Why is Notre Dame still running Andrew Trumbetti out there? Is it because Jay Hayes is still hurt? Or because they think he’s the best option?
JJ: Good question. I’ll say this: If the coaching staff thought Hayes was better and/or 100 percent healthy, he’d be out there. He took so many first-team reps during spring and preseason camp that it’s hard to imagine him not getting those as the season goes on.
KA: High Ankle Sprains.
JJ: They tend to linger.
KA: So impactful, even if BK had us thinking otherwise…
Notre Dame’s an 8-point favorite right now after opening at slightly less than a touchdown.
JJ: And S&P+ and FEI have ND winning, too, which surprised me a bit.
KA: Apparently those guys weren’t impressed by the Furman game, either. Is that hard to understand for you? What with the Spartans the higher ranked team — as high as No. 8 in the polls?
JJ: Yeah, but I think it goes to us not knowing much about Michigan State outside of that blah Furman game, and probably a public trust of the team with the better QB, which Notre Dame certainly has. Add in the home game and bam, you have a wildly high spread.
KA: Put in order your trust of ND position groups:
B) Wide Receivers
C) Pass Rush
D) Run Stop
E) Run Game
F) Pass Protection
JJ: 1. Run Game 2. Run stop 3. Pass Pro 4. WRs 5. Secondary 6. Pass Rush
And as an aside — run stop is so high because out of the 4-3, it’s actually been pretty good this year. Stick with base and it’s fine.
KA: Pass Pro, Run Game, Wide Receivers, Run Game, Run Stop, Secondary…
In case you can’t tell, I’m still a bit wishy-washy on the whole defense, and I can’t shake that shock from watching a beat-up Texas OL stomp the Irish front seven.
JJ: Which is fair! It’s hard to trust this defense after that Texas game. But if we’re searching for positives, holding James Butler to 50 yards on 17 carries was pretty good, and Michigan State might try to run half the plays Texas did.
KA: I think the slo-mo offense will be huge for the Irish. But I also think you can’t look at Notre Dame’s defense (if you’re Michigan State) and not take a shot or ten at Nick Coleman and the young safeties. Add in a veteran (but reshuffled) OL, and a QB that’s got a lot of time in the system, and I think there’s some serious issues that still need to be solved. At least compared to Nevada.
JJ: It would, quite frankly, be irresponsible for them not to. It’s like when a pitcher is injured a bit – you bunt against them to make them prove they can field their position.
KA: I read something last week about Lane Kiffin / Nick Saban finding the weak link and just attacking it. Worked pretty well against USC for Bama. And expect MSU to do the same thing.
JJ: I’m guessing we won’t see Brian Kelly ripping Mike Denbrock/Sanford a new one if they’re up by 28 points with 43 seconds to go, though.
KA: Ha. No, think that one is safe.
JJ: But your point is exactly right – MSU has this offensive profile, but any good coach (which Dantonio is) is going to ID a weakness and try to exploit it.
So with all this being said — what’s your prediction? I went first last week, so you’re on the spot.
KA: Can you remind me how we did last week? I thought pretty good considering a goose-egg in the first quarter.
JJ: Pulling it up now…
KA: A pro’s way to buy time, obviously.
JJ: hahahaha. So last week we settled on Notre Dame 52, Nevada 24. Guess we gave Nevada too much credit and Notre Dame not enough. But we pretty much nailed the margin of victory! So at least there’s that.
KA: I’ve got this one: Notre Dame 27, Michigan state 17
JJ: I’m going to take Michigan State by a hair: MSU 27, ND 26.
KA: Bold! What makes you go that way?
JJ: I think it’s just that general distrust in the Irish defense unless they prove otherwise.
And I think Michigan State is able to dictate the tempo both offensively and defensively that’ll ultimately be beneficial in the end. But if Notre Dame does win this one, you can bet I’m going to be picking them pretty frequently from here on out.
KA: The man in the black hat: JJ Stankevitz.
JJ: I hear there’s a sale on pitchforks at Lowe’s.
KA: Win and it’s 5-1 and a really big evening against Stanford.
JJ: Yes sir.
KA: Lose, and I’ve got no clue what’ll happen — but it’ll be less toxic than USC, that’s for sure.
JJ: Well, pretty much everything is.
KA: Well – there you have it. Another chat down, and KA going duckies and bunnies and sunshine and rainbows while JJ is the merchant of death. Or something close to that – not sure if I’m taking creative license or not.
JJ: Hey, picked ND to lose in Week 3 last year, and things turned out pretty great.
KA: I’ll direct all feedback to your personal email account.
JJ: Just not twitter. My mentions have already been on fire once from Texas Twitter and I’d prefer to avoid anything similar.
KA: Unless you’d rather share your parents’ home phone number.
JJ: Of course! Feel free to reference this and throw it back at me if ND does win.
KA: Until next week my friend! Thanks for the good chat.