Site Predictions's staff, moderators, and a guest prognosticator combine to offer their opinions on Saturday's game vs. the Spartans.

Tim O'Malley -- Publisher


How is it possible Notre Dame hasn't won a road night game vs. a Top 10 foe since the first Reagan administration? Opportunity played a small part, the Irish have had only 10 such matchups. The definition of "road game" is included therein, as Lou Holtz's Irish won bowl games vs. No. 1 Colorado, and No. 3 Florida in prime time.

The technical nighttime designation is also at play, as this decade both Charlie Weis (Michigan 2005) and Tyrone Willingham (Florida State 2002, Tennessee 2004) earned victories, the latter in a late afternoon contest vs. those deemed to be among the nation's 10 best.

But the fact remains: when Notre Dame plays at night on the road vs. a top 10 team, be it with Lou Holtz (0-2), Bob Davie (0-2), Tyrone Willingham (0-2), Charlie Weis (0-3) or Brian Kelly (0-1), they earn the short end of the stick with the nation watching.

Streaks are broken and trends end, and when Notre Dame is right it tends to surprise its critics. Removing any historical bent from the equation leaves me with this stark reality: I don't think the Irish offensive line, especially the right side, has 60 minutes of football that can match MSU's veteran defensive front.

Couple that with injury concerns regarding Everett Golson (hand), Jamoris Slaughter (shoulder), Kapron Lewis-Moore (calf), and DaVaris Daniels (ankle), and with a full preview to come on the home page Friday afternoon:
Michigan State 20 Notre Dame 17

Brian Dohn -- Recruiting Reporter

I was going back and forth on this one because of both teams' ability  to play defense and concerns I have in the passing game, particularly on Notre Dame's side. This is the type of game that could turn a good season great, or be the first step to 8-4. This is a pivotal game in the sense not many people expect the Irish to go into East Lansing and come out with a win. I don't either, but there is a piece of me that thinks the Irish are due to surprise someone. I think the Irish's defense makes a huge play late and it results in a stunning win. Notre Dame 20, Michigan State 19

Dave Berk - Recruiting Analyst

The Irish head into East Lansing with a few questions as this will be their first test in a hostile environment. Both teams have questions that will be answered in this game as Michigan State is still working in a new starting quarterback after three years of Kirk Cousins. Can Andrew Maxwell carry more of the load for MSU or is Le'Veon Bell all they have to offer? Both teams will look for their defense to carry them and in this one Michigan State looks to have a slight advantage with the game being at home. In a hard fought battle I'll have to go with Michigan State 24 to 21 over the Irish.

KurzND -- Moderator

Irish fan's shouldn't take anything from last year's game as a given this year. Michigan State suffered two losses on the O-Line and Le'Veon Bell is going to get many more carries than last year. This is going to be one hard hitting tough physical game. 

ND is going to have to run the ball. Lets hope last weeks performance was a mixture of the best pair of DTs the Irish will face with a little bit of jet lag. Cierre Wood is back and fresh but Riddick is still going to start. Martin has to be a leader out for ND on the line and they need to work to contain a much better LB core with great DEs in Will Gholston and Marcus Rush. I doubt the ability of DaVaris Daniels to play at a high level this weekend, but someone is going to have to step up and help Eifert who will get his numbers. Look for quick screen passes to T.J. Jones and Robby Toma, and some QB keepers from Golson. As well, Golson needs to protect the ball. But without a run game ND is doomed. 

Similarly on the other side, MSU has a first year starter in Maxwell. He struggled in his first start versus Boise State where he threw 3 picks (one returned for a TD). He will need to help out Bell as ND has a tough front 7 lead by Manti Te'o and rising stud defensive linemen in Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix. All 3 will need to have a big game to stop Bell who already has 280 yards and 4 TDs on the season. To help out Maxwell, is the Spartan's top receiver target in TE Dion Sims. The big 6'5 285 pound target is a chain mover and the most reliable target for Maxwell. The key for both teams is to stop the other's run game force their young QB to throw to win. 

In the end Golson and Maxwell both turn the ball over but ND's O-Line comes out fired up after last week and with a returning Cierre Wood ND edges Bell and the Spartan D. Notre Dame 23 Michigan State 17

SeattleNDFan -- Moderator

I have to admit, after watching replays of their first two games, I don't understand what all the hype for Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell is all about. He's just not that fast, not that elusive and not that powerful on film at least, he's more Toby Gerhart than Reggie Bush, and I like our chances of containing the former much more than the latter. He cannot make yards without decent sized holes from his offensive line  and is much more effective between the tackles than running wide. Most of his yardage against Boise State really came from poor tackling, a malady to which Notre Dame is unfortunately not immune.

Andrew Maxwell steps in for Kirk Cousins as Michigan State's QB, and has height and a live arm, but to me looks prone to make poor decisions under pressure. I really like how our defense stacks up against MSU and think we can get one or two turnovers from QB pressure in this game as I do not think they will be able to run the ball on our front seven effectively, allowing us to play a Cover 2 shell to contain their wideouts and tight ends, none of whom are nearly as fearsome as BJ Cunningham was.

Going the other way, however, Michigan State's defense looks fast and aggressive and every bit as hard to run on as Purdue. However, on replay you can see there were plays to be made against Purdue that with more experience Everett Golson may well be able to take advantage of. I don't think we'll run at will on MSU but I do think it will be more effective than the running game was against Purdue, to the tune of 3.5 yards per carry or so, and that will be enough to allow more of the playbook to be opened up.

Look for Golson to finally pull the ball on one or two read options for big gains and look for the return of the screen and draw game against MSU's edge pressure (as opposed to the pressure Purdue got straight up the middle), including a few designed QB draws. 

I would like to think that the Purdue game was a much needed wake up call for a team feeling maybe a little too good about itself after drubbing Navy. I think this team comes back in a big way and pulls out a close victory under the lights in East Lansing
Notre Dame 21 Michigan State 16

GaviND -- Moderator

Saturday night's contest between Notre Dame and Michigan State may be the toughest game we have had to forecast in three years.

While the Irish started out the season white hot against an admittedly underwhelming Navy squad two weeks ago, some questions emerged in their nail biting win against Purdue last Saturday.

Michigan State in the other hand started out a little sluggish (save for Le'Veon Bell) against Boise State two weeks ago before unloading on a pretty good Central Michigan team.

So which teams show up?

The answer to that question lies in each team's defense and how well they are able to confuse, pressure and hit the opposition's quarterback.

The similarities between the two teams are vast: experienced and talented defensive front sevens, strong running games, solid skill position players...and inexperienced quarterbacks!

While Andrew Maxwell played in four games in mop up duty as a redshirt freshman a year ago, there is no question that, like Irish signal caller Everett Golson, he has never played in a game of this magnitude.

So which quarterback flinches first? Answer that question and you likely have your winner.

Despite facing another very strong defensive line, I feel that Notre Dame is better suited to run the ball against this defense as MSU's greatest strength lies on the edge of the defense. Add Cierre Wood -- and an offensive line that likely had their rear ends chewed out all week -- to the mix and I am confident you see better results!

Le'Veon bell is a heck of a running back and he will likely get his yards in spurts, but I am certain the ND front seven makes sure he earns every inch.

This game, in my opinion is in Maxwell's hands and while I am sure he will benefit from a breakdown or two in the Irish secondary, I still see Notre Dame pulling off the upset. Notre Dame  24 Michigan St. 17

Morrissey79 -- Moderator

This is arguably one of the biggest tests in Brian Kelly's three-year tenure here at ND.

Michigan St. lost their starting quarterback, one running back, their top three wide receivers, and one tight end. They also lost one of their best defensive lineman, yet Coach D has the Spartans playing well as usual.

This game will tell us a lot about Coach Kelly, Coach Martin, and Everett Golson.

ND matches up well on defense and needs be smart and physical. I expect them to be strong throughout this game. The key will be playing their scheme right and the linebackers and safeties guarding against play action.

Kelly and Martin must have Golson prepared, must stay committed to the running game, and must game plan better than they did against Purdue.
Notre Dame wins in a tough, hard fought game, 27-20

BNolan -- Moderator

My perspective is... ND is not as good as the team that sank the Navy's battleship, and hopefully not as bad as the team that barely beat Purdue's big drum.  

MSU is always tough.  Often ND's kryptonite.  Maybe a tad overhyped, but then again, so often is ND.  Night game, at their place.  Against an ND team that has not yet, in my opinion, displayed any real consistency in terms of overall team identity.  We are all painfully aware of the obvious weak links - an emerging QB that is likely to commit miscues, a defensive backfield that is subject to significant growing pains.  

Special teams?  Don't get me started.  I'll not nitpick the roster any farther, we all know the usual suspects.  ND will have to enter the game ready to play, to fight.  They will need to play as close to mistake free football as possible, which seems to be rather a challenge for them.  Protect the ball.  Cool it with the stupid self destructive drive killing penalties.  Tackle with authority.  Play with some ferocity, and pride.

I'm not sure the pieces are all in place, but hope to be wrong.  I'd be glad to be wrong, very glad.  The first two games didn't show me enough to think ND can outplay MSU if the Spartans play well prepared, aggressive, inspired football.  In their house, at night.  Prove me wrong, Coach Kelly. MSU 31 ND 27

Amruther24 -- Guest Prognosticator to the Stars

The Michigan State game is a nice coda to a very newsworthy week. The two Michigan teams have provided Irish fans with the most exciting and heartbreaking games of the last several years. Does anyone have good memories of playing a night game in the state of Michigan? Me neither. Even the comeback against MSU in 2006 was a nightmare.

However, my apprehensions about this game go beyond location and atmosphere. It is clear that a youth movement is in full effect at ND in some important areas. The bright spot in the first two games has been the lack of turnovers from the QB position and a secondary that is better than you think it is, outside of some tackling miscues.

But, Michigan State is the first team that ND has faced that can truly take advantage of that youth. It stands to reason that ND is going to turn the ball over given MSU's defensive prowess and the hostile environment. It's also concerning that DaVaris Daniels is dinged up as he's been one of Golson's early season favorites. One positive for an offensive that has yet to establish an identity is that Cierre Wood is back in the lineup this week. This could be the first time that ND fans get to see the offense that Chuck Martin has been designing since he took over at OC in January. 

Despite youth in the secondary, I think ND's defense will contain MSU's offense. Diaco may not be for everyone, but his defenses rarely give up the big play and he's going to put his CBs in position to be successful. ND's strength on defense, stopping the run, matches up well with MSU's offensive strength. Le'Veon Bell is a load, but ND simply does not give up big days on the ground anymore unless they are facing a triple option or an elite QB. Neither of those things applies to 2012 MSU. I also don't think Maxwell is going to have a field day against ND's CBs.

Look at the numbers for the PU game and you'll see that despite the tackling woes, ND's secondary kept PU's yards per completion at 5.4 (just forget that Caleb Terbush was one of the QBs). Not a bad day considering that most of PU's passing yards seemed to come after the catch.

In sum, I'm high on ND's defense right now and I'm not sure what to think of the offense. As such, I think that the game is going to be a slugfest in the trenches and turnovers are going to make all the difference. In a game that looks close statistically, MSU pulls away in the 4th quarter due to costly ND turnovers.
MSU 21 - ND 14 Top Stories