EAST LANSING - The Notre Dame Fighting Irish aren't in Michigan State's class, statisically speaking. In nearly every category you can check, State is superior to the Irish.
So regardless of Charlie Weis taking his team back to "boot camp", despite his promise to blow up the team, despite his declaration that Notre Dame would not lose to MSU on "his watch", the Spartans ought to come out and continue Notre Dame's misery this Saturday.
In rushing offense, Michigan State (194.67) ranks 34th to Notre Dame's (-4.67) 119th, dead last in Division 1-A. In passing offense, MSU is 49th to Notre Dame's 115th. In total offense, MSU is 35th to ND's 119, again dead last; scoring offense, MSU 35th, the Irish, dead last.
On the defensive side of the ball, MSU ranks 28th against the run, Notre Dame 11th. In total defense, MSU's 21st, Notre Dame's 52nd. Only in passing defense, do the Irish (5th) outrank the Spartans (45th) which is due to the fact that opponents have seldom had to pass the ball against Notre Dame with their success running the ball.
The Irish haven't helped themselves with turnover margin either. While MSU's turnover margin is a healthy 1.3, the Irish's ratio is -1 per game.
The Spartans took a hit to their average penalties, now at six per game, but the Irish are still worse, commiting and average of eight per contest.
While State hasn't been sharp on special teams, but in punt return defense (7.8 yards per punt allowed) and kickoff defense (22.59 per kickoff allowed) they are better than the Irish (12.25 yards per punt allowed)in (24.67 per kickoff allowed) both categories.
So what can trip up the Spartans in their quest to move to 4-0 and just two wins from being bowl eligible?
MSU cannot allow the Irish to come out with more intensity. In the past, MSU has let down in games like this, especially if staked to an early lead. Here is where MSU's coaching staff has excelled. They've kept the team on an emotional even keel in the first three contest.
They've helped the team to learn the value of a businesslike approach to each contest. How many times have you heard Mark Dantonio state publicly, "they all count one"?
Imagine how many times he's beaten that into his players.
Injuries might also be a factor, MSU saw starting right guard Roland Martin hobble out of the Pitt contest and he was seen on the sidelines in a boot. Martin's replacement, Mike Bacon was underwhelming. MSU could move Joel Nitchman, who's played well at center to guard and allow senior John Masters to start there, but Nitchman was banged up vs. Pitt too.
Senior Mike Gyetvai, who's missed all of the first three games, isn't expected to go on Saturday.
MSU has many reasons, as were stated by senior running back Jehuu Caulcrick, to be highly motivated to win this game.
First, there's John L. Smith's assertion that Weis said the Irish "will never lose to Michigan State again on my watch." Is it true? Who knows, but it's been repeated enough that the Spartans ought to believe he said it.
If that doesn't fire you up, what will?
Then there's last year's embarassing collapse, which ought to still be fresh in the minds of every Spartan returning from last year's team.
They also ought to remember the brouhaha started by Weis who falsely claimed he was hit by a Spartans player, when in reality, one of his assistant was caught on tape pushing a State player.
There's the Megaphone incident that led to the flag planting incident which created more bad blood between the school. Also no Spartans team since 1995 has lost in Notre Dame stadium.
While Notre Dame won't be as bad as they have been in posting an 0-3 record, we still believe MSU is the better team, with a better coaching staff that will show up on Saturday
PICK: Michigan State 27, Notre Dame 13.
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No Excuses: Spartans Need To Beat Irish
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