SpartanDigest.com Crystal Ball Week 3

Spring practice is now a memory and fans are counting down until camp opens up in August. In our Spartan Digest Crystal Ball the Spartans are sitting with a record of 2-0 heading into a home and national matchup with Notre Dame. How does Spartan Digest see this contest ending up? We look into our crystal ball.

Notre Dame (Sat., Sept 18, 2010) Spartan Stadium 8:00 PM ET

2009 Record: 6-6

Last Game Against MSU: 2009 Score: 33-30 Spartan Loss

Brian Kelly will bring his Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team to East Lansing for the first time since becoming head coach. The former Cincinnati head coach will battle the coach he replaced in Cincinnati, Mark Dantonio for the first time. While the game is played on the field, don't be surprised if the week leading up will see some comments from both sides about the time their paths have crossed and their days in Cincinnati.

For Kelly, the Irish will be coming off two home games against Purdue and Michigan, not an easy task for any program especially one that is putting in a new offense and defense.

But while some will look for the Irish to be down coming off their game against Michigan, don't be surprised if Kelly and his staff have the Irish ready for this primetime contest on national television. Kelly is a master in getting his teams ready for the week-to-week battles and treats each week as it's a big time contest.

The Spartans should enter the game in great shape having worked out all the kinks on both sides of the ball in the previous two weeks. But the Irish will bring a harder game plan to work against and a lot of questions the Spartan staff will need to look at in the first couple of games the Irish play under Kelly.

Don't expect to see much difference from this Notre Dame team and what Kelly did at Cincinnati. The jerseys may be different but the game plan will be the same. Play hard, play fast and force the tempo of the game from the offensive side of the ball.

Pat Narduzzi and the Spartans defense will need to be ready as Kelly should have his system in place by the time his team takes the Spartan Stadium turf.

On offense there will be several changes over last year's Irish team as Golden Tate and Jimmy Clausen have taken their games to the next level.

Last year's game saw the Irish rush for 133 net yards and pass for 304 yards with three passing touchdowns. While the Spartans earned a loss in last year's contest they were in position to win the game until an interception with 57 seconds left on the clock in the red zone. This year's contest will look a lot different.

Brian Kelly knows what he wants to do on offense and is one of the best offensive play calling head coaches in college football. He gets a feel for the tempo of the game and knows just when to pull the right play off his list.

The Irish will be a pass first run second team under Kelly and the Spartans defensive backs and linebackers will be tested time and time again. Any pressure the Spartans look to place on the quarterback will have to be done by flowing with a moving pocket. But pressure must be applied if the Spartans look to continue their early success with a victory.

Irish quarterback Dayne Crist is the biggest question mark for Kelly as the junior signal caller continues to come back from a torn ACL. If Crist is not 100 percent, Kelly will have to look at players with no experience to run his attack. If healthy, Crist has the big time arm Kelly loves but may not have the mobility he really wants from the position in coming seasons.

One thing Brian Kelly has proven over the years is he can win with just about any capable quarterback. During his years at Cincinnati he won games with five different starting quarterbacks.

While Kelly loves to use his quarterbacks, he knows this season he'll need to look more on his running game and for good reason. The Irish return Armando Allen and Spartan fans should remember him from his 115 yards rushing in last season's game before suffering an ankle injury.

While Allen is the Irish main back backs he also found Jonas Gray and Cierre Wood as players he can use when needed.

All three players are capable of catching swing passes and use their abilities to make things happen if they are the players Kelly goes with when the season starts.

The strength of the Irish offense is at the receiver spot. With All-World tight end Kyle Rudolph and junior super star in the making Michael Floyd both back the Irish have two solid threats to beat teams with. Add in Tai-ler Jones and Brian Kelly will be looking to get the balls in the playmakers hands as much as possible. This is where the Spartans have to be careful. Floyd and Rudolph can change a game with their play and Kelly has shown he knows just how to use these types of players.

One area the Spartans may be able to pressure the Irish is along the Notre Dame offensive line. There are several questions still up in the air and depending upon how things go early this could be where the Spartans get some major victories.

On defense the Irish will have a new look under Brian Kelly. Out is Jon Tenuta, in is Bob Diaco and the 3-4 defense.

The Irish may have taken a hard dive late last season, but Diaco knows he's got a few players that can really play at a high level.

Spartans win 34-28.


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