Full Tilt Football

A familiar foe will pair with Notre Dame for the team's highest-scoring contest of the 2011 season.

They've scored 44, 37, 31, 23, 30, and 34 points in their last six meetings with the Irish. The 2011 squad returns a two-year starter at quarterback; a three-year starter at WR; a pair of top-tier running backs…and their most explosive offensive weapon – a dual-threat return man and receiver – isn't among those listed above

Michigan State has beaten Notre Dame in four of their six recent matchups, but Notre Dame's has responded with 41, 40, 14, 7, 33, and 31 points, respectively, in those contests (the low totals of 14 and 7 predictably occurring in 2007-08).

The Spartans and the Irish: a series previously dominated by rough-and-tumble run defenses, has turned into a track meet, and the pieces are in place for another this September. Which leads us to the next prediction in our summer series…

Prediction #9 – Week Three vs. MSU will be the season's highest-scoring contest

Of State's 199 total points over its last six matchups with Notre Dame, a whopping 105 were scored during the last three contests in South Bend.

Defense optional?

The Irish/Spartans matchup has marked Notre Dame's highest scoring contest in three of the last six seasons, while a fourth contest between the teams witnessed more than 60 combined points.

  • 2010 (Michigan State): The Spartans 34-31 overtime victory offered one more point than Notre Dame's 44-20 blowout of Western Michigan.
  • 2009 (Stanford): The Irish defeated MSU 33-30 in South Bend but played a handful of 60-plus point contests in Charlie Weis' defense-optional final season – a 45-38 shootout at Stanford serving as the highest-scoring affair.
  • 2008 (Hawaii): The Spartans stymied a dysfunctional Irish offense in East Lansing and Notre Dame played quality defense for 57 minutes as well, eventually dropping a 23-7 decision. The Sheraton Hawaii Bowl was easily the season's highest-scoring contest, a 49-21 Irish victory.
  • 2007 (Navy): A triple-overtime loss to Navy was the season's highest-scoring battle, the Irish losing 44-41. Michigan State's 31-14 Week Four win in South Bend ranked third among regulation contests for an offensively challenged Irish squad.
  • 2006 (Michigan State): A rain-soaked shootout provided 77 total points and a thrilling 40-37 comeback win by the visiting Irish. The season's highest-scoring contest was one of 10 that topped 50 combined points for Brady Quinn's final squad.
  • 2005 (Michigan State): Michigan State's 44-41 upset in South Bend was the first loss of the Weis era. The combined 85 points were a season-high, though later challenged by a 49-28 Irish win at Purdue and the 49-23 aerial assault against BYU.

Returning from last year's prolific Spartans offense is starting quarterback Kirk Cousins, the running back tandem of Edwin Baker and Le'Veon Bell; the wide receiver tandem of B.J. Cunningham and Keshawn Martin; and a trio of talented tight ends in Garrett Celek, Brian Linthicum, and massive Dion Sims.

Conversely, the MSU defense is likely a year away from weekly consistency, with five new starters, two major losses at linebacker, and as many as five sophomores on its first 11.

The Irish offense suffered minimal losses, retaining four of five starting offensive linemen while tight end Kyle Rudolph and a pair of running backs (Armando Allen and Robert Hughes), moved on.

Over his three-year career, senior wide receiver Michael Floyd has burned Michigan State for four touchdowns, despite missing the second half of the 2009 contest with a broken collarbone. (15 receptions, 205 yards, 4 TD, 2 fumbles, and a broken collarbone...that's a busy 10 quarters of football vs. the Spartans.) Floyd scored twice last September in East Lansing but it was returning receiver Theo Riddick that starred, finishing with a career-best 10 catches, 128 yards, and a touchdown.

Further, Dayne Crist recorded the highest yardage total of either Notre Dame quarterback (Crist or Tommy Rees) last fall, ripping the Spartans secondary for 32 completions, 369 yards and a career-high four touchdowns (1 INT).

Over their last two matchups, Notre Dame and Michigan State have combined for a whopping 1,789 yards (936 for the Spartans), with 17 touchdowns in eight quarters. Seven of the nine touchdowns in last year's East Lansing thriller were scored by returning Spartans and Irish players.

With a road contest at Wake Forest representing the only "break" or apparent weak foe on Notre Dame's schedule, I doubt we'll see a 45-plus point explosion this season by the Irish. We're thus looking for a pair of teams that can consistently move the ball in a relatively close contest.

There are a handful of such matchups this fall, but a Week Three tussle with the tormentors from the north ranks as my top choice for Notre Dame's highest-scoring game of 2011.


A look at each of the 12 contests and their potential to light up the scoreboard:

  • South Florida: Along with Week Five in Purdue, ranks as one of my top three choices as the season's lowest scoring game…
  • Michigan: Expect at least 45 combined points, but no more than 55 – emotion trumps execution...
  • Michigan State: I'd be shocked if the team's combine for fewer than five offensive touchdowns…
  • Pittsburgh: New head coach Todd Graham brings a high-octane offense to the Steel City, but he likely had more explosive pieces in place at Tulsa last season, and the potent Golden Hurricane managed but one offensive touchdown in South Bend (a 28-27 win)…
  • Purdue: Just a gut feeling we'll see a replay of the 2009 thriller in West Lafayette: a 24-21 Irish victory. Purdue returns nine defensive starters and is limited in its passing game...
  • Air Force: A possibility, though I think the teams will once again play between 45-55 points in South Bend…
  • USC: Defense ruled the day in last year's matchup. Both will score more than their respective 20 and 16-point totals last November, but this one could be played close to the vest in the final period.
  • Navy: Navy suffered massive defensive losses, but the Irish are unlikely to allow 35 points again this season. Notre Dame has suffered offensively, scoring 27, 21, and 17 in its last three vs. the Midshipmen, including just one total touchdown during the first half of the 2009 and 2010 defeats.
  • Wake Forest: Only if Notre Dame scores 45-plus…
  • Maryland: The wild-card of the group, but Notre Dame's November defense should be much better than the unit that faces the Spartans in Week Three…
  • Boston College: Option No. 3 for the lowest-scoring contest of the season…
  • Stanford: Too much at stake for a wild, free-wheeling affair, though the battle vs. the Cardinal should rank as one of the four highest-scoring contests of the Irish season…

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