2012 Preview: Notre Dame

As the calendar continues to march towards the opening of the 2012 college football season, we continue our early preview of each game of the 2012 season. In game three the Spartans look to win another tough fought battle against longtime foe Notre Dame.

Two years ago Notre Dame left East Lansing, Michigan with a foul taste in their mouth as the Spartans pulled out "Little Giants" to win a memorable game for the ages.

Last season the Irish took advantage of a young offensive line and held the Spartans offense to one score winning 31-13.

What will the Irish bring to Spartan Stadium in week three of the season? Here is an early look at Michigan State's game three opponent.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

GAME #3 – Sat. Sept. 15 – SPARTAN STADIUM – 8:00 PM ET

Head Coach Brian Kelly – 3rd Year (16-10)

2011 Record 8-5 overall, Independent

Previous Meetings

1897,98,99,1902,03,05,06,09,10,16,17,18,19,20,21,48,49,50,51,52,54,55,56,57,59,
60,61,62,63,64,65,66,67,68,69,70,71,72,73,74,75,76,77,78,79,80,81,82,83,84,85,
86,87,88,89,90,91,92,93,94,97,98,99,2000,01,02,03,04,05,06,07,08,09,10,11

Notre Dame leads series 29-45-1. Michigan State has won three of the last five meetings with their last win against the Irish coming in the 2010 overtime thriller 34-31.

Notre Dame's Key Games

Sept. 15 @ Michigan State
Sept. 22 @ Michigan
Oct. 6 Miami (Fla)
Oct. 13 Stanford
Oct. 27 @ Oklahoma
Nov @ 24 USC

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

OFFENSE: The Irish have a giant question mark at quarterback as they wait to hear of any suspensions of Tommy Rees for an off the field incident. If Rees is not a go, look for the Irish to possible play a two-quarterback system with Andrew Hendrix and Everett Golson. Running back Cierre Wood has big play potential and will be looked upon to be the guy the Irish go to for their running game. However, second year player George Atkinson used his speed to make plays on special teams last season and will now look to show why he was a highly recruited running back out of California in the 2011 class.

The Irish will look to Tyler Eifert in the passing game as the senior is set for another big season before taking his talents to the NFL. The loss of Michael Floyd will be felt as the Irish will look for players to step up and make plays in his absence.

The offensive line must make a few replacements but should be solid in the run game and pass protection.

DEFENSE: The heartbeat of the Irish defense is Manti Te'o who returned for his final season to the surprise of many. While Te'o will be solid, the loss of pass rushing specialist Aaron Lynch (transfer) is a major loss to the Irish. However, Kelly has recruited well on the defensive side of the football and Stephon Tuitt showed signs of being one of the top players in the country for his class. Also look for another sophomore to open some eyes as Ishaq Williams is showing signs of being a good one at the outside linebacker spot.

The biggest question for the Irish on defense will be in its secondary as Bob Diaco has seen wholesale changes that will have many wondering if they will be the biggest weakness on the defensive side of the ball.

OVERALL

The Irish have one of the toughest schedules in college football for 2012 and Michigan State is expected to be one of those teams capable of giving the Irish a loss. The Irish will open the season against Navy in Dublin, Ireland and come back to battle Purdue before making the trip up to East Lansing.

It doesn't get any easier for the Irish as they will still have Michigan, Miami (in Chicago), Stanford, BYU, Oklahoma and USC left to go.

Will Irish fans be happy if Kelly can get another 8-5 mark in 2012? While some would be happy because they believe the schedule is against the Irish having major success others will not and the oven will start getting hotter for Kelly to produce a BCS berth.

However, some will not be surprised if Kelly can find the magic he used in Cincinnati and has a better than expected year.


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