Brian Kelly and Mark Dantonio are a contrast in styles on the football field. Kelly, who will bring a spread passing attack to East Lansing, knows Dantonio is known for his tough defenses and power running attack. This should make for a hard fought game between two long time rivals.
The early strength of the Spartans offense has been the running attack of Edwin Baker and Le'Veon Bell. Both backs have recorded 100 + yard games this season while the Spartans as a team have rushed for 522 total yards. All this has been done without Larry Caper who is expected back for Saturday's game. The Irish have given up 390 total rushing yards against Purdue and Michigan with UM quarterback Denard Robinson posting 258 of those yards. The Irish now run a 3-4 defensive scheme that has shown in the past to have problems against power rushing attacks. Ian Williams will look to be the anchor for the Irish up the middle with Irish linebackers Manti Te'O and Carlo Calabrese looking to close down the Spartans attack. EDGE: MSU
Notre Dame Rush Offense vs. Michigan State Rush Defense
The Irish came into the season with everyone talking about their pass offense. While the Irish have done well with the pass, they have also rushed for 307 yards in their first two games. Armando Allen is the Irish leading rusher with 182 yards and an average of 5.5 per carry. Cierre Wood is also a threat having posted 68 yards with an average of 5.2 yards per carry so far this season. The Spartans have only given up 130 yards rushing this season, as Jerel Worthy, Todd Anderson, and Anthony Rashad White have been solid. Blake Treadwell is expected to make his return after missing the first two games of the season to shore up the inside attack. Linebacker Greg Jones along with fellow backers Eric Gordon and Chris Norman should give the Spartans enough firepower to hold down any Irish running attack. EDGE: MSU
Michigan State Pass Offense vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense
The Spartans have seen solid but not spectacular quarterback play so far this season. Kirk Cousins has posted some solid numbers, but at times seemed to be hesitant to release the ball when it needed to be. Receivers Mark Dell and B.J. Cunningham have yet to have a breakout day, and Keshawn Martin gives MSU three solid threats to attack the Irish defense. Notre Dame has given up 464 passing yards but only one passing touchdown this season. They have recorded four sacks so far and have seen solid play from defensive backs Darrin Walls and Gary Gray. EDGE: EVEN
Notre Dame Pass Offense vs. Michigan State Pass Defense
This is where the Irish can hurt the Spartans the most. If Dayne Crist is healthy, Notre Dame will have any number of receiving targets for him to hit. Brian Kelly's spread attack is based on the pass and will give the Spartans problems if they do not place pressure on Crist and solid coverage on tight end Kyle Rudolph and receivers Michael Floyd, and TJ Jones. So far this season MSU has give up 494 passing yards and 3 touchdowns in the air. The Irish will look to attack several points on the field where MSU is the weakest. Look for passes in the flats and for matchups that favor the Irish. EDGE: ND
Spartans kicker Dan Conroy has been solid but Saturday will be his first time kicking under the lights and in a big game. We know Conroy can hit from as far as 50 yards out, and that could come into play in a game like this one. Keshawn Martin has been solid in both punt and kick returns this season and is primed to score a special team's touchdown soon. Punter Aaron Bates has been solid with an average of 46.1 yards per punt, but only one has been fair caught and none have landed inside the two.
Notre Dame has also found a solid kicker in David Ruffer who has been perfect so far this season. Ruffer has hit from 46 yards out and has done so in poorer conditions. Michigan State has been solid in special team's coverage so far, but ND's Armando Allen, Cierre Woods, and Theo Riddick will give them a solid test. The Irish enter their second game without their special teams coach Mike Elston. Elston, known for having solid schemes should be in East Lansing, but not in a coaching position. The Irish have yet to give any punt return yardage as Ben Turk has been solid with five punts being fair caught and each of them have landed inside the twenty. EDGE: EVEN
Both teams have plenty for which to play. The Spartans are trying to push their way into the Top 25 and a victory would help them achieve that goal setting them up for a chance to go into Big Ten play undefeated. The Irish are looking not to lose their second game of the season in Brian Kelly's first year at the helm. With the game being in Spartan Stadium and under the lights, the atmosphere should favor the Spartans. Throw out any past games; the Irish are very different under Brian Kelly from what they were under Charlie Weis. EDGE: MSU