Tuesday, September 15, 2009

2009 Battle for Megaphone Speaks Volumes

This was supposed to be a game where both Michigan State and Notre Dame proved they were back. One was supposed to be sitting pretty at 3-0 with the other at 2-1 after this weekend. After each falling in week one we know that won't be the case, now each team looks to stay above the .500 mark in seasons that were supposed to mark major turnarounds for both squads.

What's worse, losing at home to a directional school from your own state or falling at one of your biggest rival's stadiums when you are the only ranked team in the match up...and your rival was 3-9 a season ago? Easy to say Notre Dame lost to the tougher team but both losses sting the Spartans and Irish respectively.

Despite being an eleven point favorite in Vegas, the Irish have dropped six straight meetings in South Bend to Michigan State. Bob Davie, Tyrone Willingham, and now Charlie Weis have all gone winless at home versus the Spartans. Here's what the Irish need to look out for in order to stop the streak.

Michigan State has a solid run defense, but another weak secondary. I don't expect anything out of the norm from whats been shown the first two weeks. The trifecta of Floyd, Tate, and Rudolph remains key for the offense. Opening up a passing game and allowing Armando Allen room to run. I am not usually a fan of pass-first offenses, but the heavy threat of passing has been the biggest key to why Allen has had a strong start to the season running the football.

Greg Jones is the major play maker on defense for the Spartans. The reigning Big Ten defensive player of the year has 29 tackles two games into 2009, that's good enough to lead the conference again at this point.

Jones and Michigan State are extremely strong in the run defense, that's why I expect Notre Dame to come out throwing the football. Opponents have averaged only 2.2 ypc vs. MSU this year while they've put up over 6 yards per pass attempt (225 ypg), easy to see why I expect Jimmy Clausen to come out firing again on Saturday.

The Spartans come into South Bend still looking for a full-time replacement to Irish-killer and current Tennessee Titan, Javon Ringer. Caulton Ray has compiled 122 yards on the ground and been the only Spartan to score running the football this year. Larry Caper has also seen 13 carries for less success but its safe to say the running game isn't the same as it has been in recent years for Sparty.

Michigan State enters Saturday still using two quarterbacks, all reports make it sound as if Mark D'Antonio isn't really feeling the need to name an exclusive starter just yet. Kirk Cousins has thrown for 347 yards and 4 TD this year while former Oklahoma recruit Keith Nichol has added 3 TD passes himself. Both are yet to throw an interception but it must be noted that Cousins has nearly a 20% higher completion percentage while attempting nine more passes.

Blair White is the target of choice for both quarterbacks Notre Dame will see on Saturday. White is the only Spartan with double-digit reception numbers so far (12) and has 2 TD receptions to boot. BJ Cunningham has 117 receiving yards on the year for MSU as he has also taken 2 catches for scores. On offense I see the Spartans trying to run the ball the majority of the afternoon as long as the score of the game allows them to.

Neither of the quarterbacks that the Irish will see threaten to do quite what Tate Forcier was able to do last Saturday in Ann Arbor. If d-linemen from Notre Dame kept their feet instead of constantly diving, Forcier doesn't do half the things he did. Credit the kid for making plays but don't let yourself think it was only him, the lack of defensive discipline helped the freshman quarterback out a ton.

Notre Dame will blitz the middle very much on Saturday, trying to make Michigan State throw the football. The Irish play well against the pass as long as they get a pass rush, like any team the secondary breaks down when the quarterback isn't being pressured. That is a key this Saturday for Notre Dame, get pressure up the middle and they will be in business.

The combination of Ethan Johnson and Ian Williams is huge for me on Sunday. Michigan State has talent at quarterback but not a lot to throw to, if Notre Dame can force them to pass it will catch up with the Spartans. If not then the Irish will be headed for 1-2 and a long fall.

This is an absolute must win for the Fighting Irish and Charlie Weis this weekend. I don't agree with an 11 point line that the Vegas oddsmakers have put out but this is a redemption game for Notre Dame. Not that it isn't for Michigan State but playing on their home field and without a conference affiliation, the Irish have more running on Saturday's end result.

I expect struggles early to move the football for the first time this season, perhaps even falling behind again. I do feel the home field comes back and saves the Irish in this one as they squeak by to 2-1. Its a must-win for Charlie and Company and they pick up the win.

Nick (1-1) Says: Notre Dame 31 Michigan State 27
Mark (1-1) Says: Notre Dame 34 Michigan State 24

Post your Saturday prediction on the Domer Sports Report Message Board! Remember, awards will be given out at the end of the year so stay with us all fall long for plenty of Notre Dame football chatter!

Preview Written By: Nick Shepkowski, add me as a friend on facebook or follow me and my random Irish thoughts on Twitter!

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