Michigan State is a talented team. They return talented quarterback Jeff Smoker and the best player in the country in my opinion in Charles Rogers. I just don't think these two are going to be enough to beat Notre Dame this year. There are a lot of keys to this game but limiting the way this tandem hurts you will be the biggest key.
Charles Rogers is going to get his yards. Charles Rogers will likely break the all time mark for most consecutive games with a touchdown pass receiving in this game. The key is to limit how many big plays he makes. If I did one thing this week, it would be to keep Charles Rogers in front of the defense. He will be open, they will throw him the ball, he will catch it and then the Notre Dame defensive backs will have to hit him and make sure they take him to the ground.
Michigan State looks to have an offensive line much like Notre Dame. Four starters are back this year but they haven't quite lived up to their potential. I watched the Cal/Michigan State game and they were getting beat rather easily most of the game. They didn't seem to be able to get much of a push against a good Cal defense. They didn't pass protect all that well either, giving up 4 sacks, and Cal hurried Smoker a number of times.
I was not impressed with their running game. I would not be surprised to see freshman David Richard to get a lot of carries in the game. They used him a lot in the Cal game so they must not be as excited about the current runningbacks. Michigan State was able to rush for a total of 64 yards against the Cal defense. Michigan State just didn't appear to be able to run the ball effectively.
Notre Dame must shut down the run and make Michigan State one dimensional. In the past, this hasn't exactly worked in their favor. Notre Dame has been beaten by the Michigan State passing game and not by their running game. This is a new defense for Notre Dame and they are very good against the pass and have been equally as good against the run.
If I am Michigan State, I find a tight end that can catch the ball. Eric Knott looked to have some skills and he is one big man. Jason Randall is their starter but Michigan State hasn't thrown much to the tight end. I would pit Knott or Randall against one of the ND linebackers and use him underneath most of the game. I would have Rogers clear out the field deep and start spreading the Notre Dame defense out and hitting a tight end underneath. Smoker is an accurate quarterback and this is would be a way to attack Notre Dame.
The Michigan State defense did not play well against Cal. The defense has managed just 2 sacks (both against Cal) in three games. The defense did put some pressure on Cal quarterback Kyle Boller but Boller and their running game were still able to make some big plays. Michigan State turned the ball over 5 times in this game. Smoker had two interceptions and they fumbled the ball three times. Notre Dame will be going after the ball on every play. Cal was able to rush for 134 yards net and I expect Notre Dame could reach 200 in this game.
Michigan State also has three new starters at linebacker. Notre Dame should be able to attack this front 7 running the football setting up Holiday and the wide receivers for some big plays in the passing game. I expect Notre Dame to loosen them up early with some passing but I also expect them to try to pound the ball in the middle. If they can control the football with long drives, that will keep Smoker and Rogers off the field.
The Michigan State/Cal game was an ugly one for Michigan State. They made a lot of mental mistakes and lost control of the football too many times. They gave up some big plays in the passing game, they gave up a punt return for touchdown. I expect them to play much better this weekend and Notre Dame is going to have to be ready for this game. Notre Dame was able to win last week but they didn't play all that much better in regards to holding onto the football. The Notre Dame defense kept them in the game and that will be a big reason why they will win this game.
If Notre Dame rushes for 200 yards or more, they will win the game. They need to keep Rogers in front of the defensive backs. Rogers will get his yards, just hit him and take him to the ground as soon as he catches the ball. We should see less breakdowns in the mental aspects of the games. Less fumbles from the ND offense and less penalties. We should see more improvement in pass protection and picking up the blitz. My final prediction is that Carlyle Holiday will throw his first touchdown pass of the year in this game. Notre Dame 31 Michigan State 24