Tim O'Malley -- PublisherThis summer, I mentioned to my brother Steve (coming in for this game, I might add), that if NFL hopeful Stephon Tuitt stays for his senior year, "Michigan State won't score a touchdown on ND until 2015."
Since, the defense I thought had been built in South Bend has failed to present. They've been intermittently sound, then head-shaking sloppy. They're like a mullet: business up front, but team's have hosted parties in the back end.
More 2011 than 2012 to be sure.
It's not that my faith has been shaken in what used to be a championship defense, it's rather I'm certain that it no longer exists. Manti Te'o, Zeke Motta, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Danny Spond, and defensive line depth, take a final bow: thanks for 12-0.
But the 2013 crew can still be quite strong defensively and beat any team on the schedule (if not the bowl schedule). The offense -- as projected -- can and will be better than last year's training wheels version.
Michigan State's offense is poor. Not just a work-in-progress, but big-time college football poor. The defense though might be the best of the Mark Dantonio era.
We tend to overanalyze the team we dissect daily and fail to recognize most other teams have myriad problems, too.
Saturday's outcome rests largely on Bob Diaco's defense and the four-quarter effort of quarterback Tommy Rees. There'll be issues early for the D and throughout for the O, but I'll take my chances.
Notre Dame 20 Michigan State 17
Anna Hickey -- Recruiting ReporterThe theme of the opponent this week has been the strength of the defense. But, I think this will come more down to how Michigan State's unproven offense holds up against Notre Dame's defense -- which has a few things prove as well.
Quarterback Connor Cook is making his debut as starter, and if the Irish shut down Michigan State's decent (at best) run game, Cook will have to be close to perfect in Notre Dame Stadium if the Spartans are to have a shot. Michigan State does like to get to the outside, which has been area of struggle to defend so far for the Irish defense.
If Michigan State wins the perimeter on offense and their defense plays like the No. 1 defense in the land and forces Irish turnovers in opportune moments, the Spartans could pull off the upset. I don't think that happens.
Notre Dame's defense steps up at home, and after a potentially hot start by the Spartans on offense, the Irish defense buckles down and wins the game.
Notre Dame 24 Michigan State 16
Brian Dohn - Recruiting AnalystIs Michigan State's defense that good or is it just a product of not playing very good competition? The Spartans are No. 1 in the nation in yards allowed, adn they have the best passing defense, but it has come against not-so-formidable teams.
Tommy Rees will have to be accurate, but if the Irish can get its running game churning, it will make all the difference. The Irish and Michigan State traditionally play close games, and this is no exception. Notre Dame 24, Michigan State 23
Morrissey79 -- Glass Usually OverflowingND looked like it was "hungover" in the first half against Purdue. Dropped passes, missed tackles, lackluster emotion. But in the 2nd half, the Irish played much better, specifically on offense, with Rees throwing 13 of 17 for 225 yards and 2 TDs.
This week - the competition will be much stiffer. MSU has one of the better defenses in the country, and in my opinion one of the best defensive coordinators in the game. ND must try to establish the running game - if it's not working in the first half, they have to stick with it and wear down the Spartans, similar to last season's bout in East Lansing.
I expect the Irish defense to keep improving and with MSU's quarterback facing his first road test, I expect some mistakes to be made by him.
It won't be pretty at times, and I'm sure there will be a lot to complain about from ND fans, but ND wins a physical battle 27-17.
BNolan -- Glass 97 Percent EmptyI accept my role as the cynic amongst the moderators. I'm not at all impressed with what I've seen from Kelly's squad thus far.
We all know that MSU typically plays ND tough, so count on that. Diaco will have to do a lot to convince me that he can get the consistency and fundamental toughness out of his group that has been replaced by the inconsistent performances and often soft play in the prior three contests.
Saturday is a golden (intentional pun) opportunity to get fired up and get with the proverbial program for this team. Home game, and hopefully motivated to give us naysayers (only speaking for myself) cause to temper criticism.
The obvious: turnovers and mental mistakes are very costly. Not being the better prepared team on the field is very costly.
If not for it being a home game, and the fact that a MSU Superfan (and one of the planet's biggest jerks) lives near me, I'd likely predict a failure to achieve victory. Since this team should play with some needed attitude, in their house, I'll say... ND 27 MSU 20
SeattleNDFan -- Often Wonders How to Make a Better GlassUnfortunately, we did find out the answer to the question, "is Devin Gardner just that good, or is the ND defense just that bad?" last week, and that answer was not good for either Gardner or Notre Dame.
The bright side is that what is wrong with the ND defense is a heck of lot more likely to get fixed than what is wrong with Gardner. Just taking proper pursuit angles and wrapping up on tackles will do a lot to help the Irish defense, and that's a far better problem than a defense that can't even get close enough to miss those tackles in the first place.
If ND can tighten up their tackling, the offense is clearly far ahead of where they were a year ago. If you recall, last year at this time they were 3-0, but they got there on the backs of the defense with frankly putrid offensive production in 2 of 3 of Golson's first college starts.
So while MSU boasts a strong defense, they had one last year as well, and despite that ND came off two straight disappointing offensive performances to show glimmers of explosiveness. I think that happens again this season, and I also see this game as a breakout opportunity for one of the two freshman running backs, because if MSU can be run on, it will be straight up the gut, and that's where ND has had good success running the ball this season.
Very hard to predict what MSU's offense will do against the suddenly subpar Irish defense, but it's probably fair to expect something less than they did last week against an FCS opponent not known for defensive prowess in Youngstown State. I think they will struggle to run the ball against Nix and company and will convert far fewer third and long opportunities than Michigan or Purdue did against us.
Frankly if this game were in East Lansing and were not Connor Cook's first road start, I would pick the Spartans. But coming off two straight embarrassing defensive showings, at home, I think the Irish once again rise to the occasion here.
Notre Dame 24 Michigan State 17 (with one of the MSU TD's scored by their defense)
GaviND -- Likes to Smash GlassWith one quarter of the season now crossed off the schedule, the Notre Dame football team finds themselves sitting at 2-1 as they return to South Bend to take on Michigan State.
While a most fans saw a 2-1 start as a distinct possibility, few could have possibly predicted the defensive lapses that have led to said record.
MSU represents the best defense that the Irish have faced this season and it should be a real challenge for the Irish to run the ball.
Enter Tommy Rees. The Notre Dame passing attack has been the key to the Irish offensive attack and I expect that to be the case again this weekend. Look for DaVaris Daniels and T.J. Jones to continue their stellar starts to the season.
Defensively, I expect Stephon Tuitt finally re-enter the realm if relevance, and spend a significant portion if the afternoon, however, the secondary may well make this one closer than it should be. ND 27 MSU 21
Amruther24 -- Recently Broke Through Glass CeilingI'm going to quit predicting that Notre Dame is going to right the ship on any given week. We simply don't know if that's going happen or if this team just is what it is, inconsistent. I see a ton of potential on the offensive side of the ball particularly in their ability for explosive plays. I think they are going to need a few of those on Saturday to keep Michigan State's well coached and disciplined defense honest.
I really have no idea what to expect from Notre Dame's defense at this point. On the one hand, they have far too many veteran players to keep playing like this. On the other, perhaps we've overvalued that experience or at least overvalued the positions where that experience exists. Michigan State has been putrid on offense, but they come in with a new QB whose one good quality, mobility, has been Notre Dame's kryptonite.
It's going to be another close one, as I'm starting to feel all of Notre Dame's games will be this season, but the home team pulls it out 21-17
KurzND -- Can Just Now Buy Beverage for said GlassLast week was a frustrating game for Irish fans to watch. Now this week, ND faces off against one of the best defenses in the country but an offense that has struggled mightily as two QBs have each shared time.
The Spartan's defense has carried the team so far and score several TDs this season. They are quick and well coached. As good as their secondary is, ND can beat them through the air thanks too Daniels, Jones, and Niklas' abilities. However it will be up to ND's running game to help keep drives alive because I do not like ND's chances if Rees has to throw 40 plus times a game. ND's O-Line should be able to keep the smaller but quicker MSU D-Line at bay and give the backs and Rees space and time.
MSU's offense doesn't seem to posses many if any play makers. There is no Bell or Sims there for the Spartans. Nix and the front seven should limit any success MSU has running the ball and it will be up to the MSU QB Cook to take on a veteran defense on the road looking to find its groove.
It should be a defensive fight. Whoever can make a few big plays should find themselves on top come Saturday night.
Notre Dame 23, MSU defense 7, MSU offense 6