Thursday, September 20, 2012

Notre Dame-Michigan Preview

Here is the next preview in the weekly (except on bye weeks, of course) Notre Dame Football previews I write, I hope everyone enjoys it.

Notre Dame QB's: Everett Golson has completed 58 percent of his passes for 611 yards, 3 touchdowns and an interception. In addition to that, he has rushed for a pair of touchdowns as well. The redshirt freshman has won all three of his starts this season. Backups Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix have also seen playing time as well this season. Rees led the game-winning drive against Purdue that led to a field goal by Kyle Brindza, while Hendrix played in garbage time against Navy.

Notre Dame Pass Offense vs. Michigan Pass Defense: Michigan is currently 12th in the nation in pass defense, they have allowed opposing teams to complete just 51.4 percent of the passes, while allowing 157.7 yards a game this season and have only allowed 2 passing touchdowns as well. However, in spite of these numbers, Michigan has not had an interception by the defense at all this season. Golson will need to improve on his accuracy after completing under 50 percent of his passes against Michigan St. and build upon his success.

Edge: Even

Michigan QB's: Denard Robinson has thrown for 699 yards this season with 6 touchdowns in the air, but has completed just 54.7 percent of his passes and has thrown 4 interceptions as well. Robinson also leads the team in rushing as well with an impressive 351 yards and 4 rushing touchdowns. Robinson is also averaging an impressive 8.8 yards a carry on the ground as well. His backup, Russell Bellomy, a true freshman, has also seen playing time in two games this season, but has completed zero passes (out of 2) and one of the incompletions was for an interception as well, and has 8 rushing yards on 5 carries as well.

Michigan Pass Offense vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense: Robinson is more of a running quarterback over a passing quarterback, but is capable of throwing long passes (his season long completion was for 71 yards), but his biggest threat is in the ability to run. Notre Dame has held all three opponents they have played this season to below 200 yards each. The Irish are 39th in the country and have allowed 192.3 passing yards a game and opposing quarterbacks have completed 54.9 percent of passes as well. The Irish have allowed 3 passing touchdowns on the season and have 3 interceptions. The secondary had suffered a huge blow with the season-ending injury to safety Jamoris Slaughter against Michigan St. and are the youngest and most inexperienced unit that Notre Dame has overall. Figuring out Denard Robinson isn't always easy, but his passing abilities are less of a worry in comparison to his running ability.

Edge: Even

Notre Dame RB's: Cierre Wood returned from a two-game suspension with 10 carries for 56 yards and was big for the Irish in the clutch. Theo Riddick leads the Irish currently in rushing yards with 190 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns. George Atkinson has had the best yards a carry so far this season with 9.5 yards a carry and has 142 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns as well. With Wood back from the suspension, look for fourth-string running back Cam McDaniel to have some playing time on defense with the loss of Jamoris Slaughter with his season-ending injury.

Notre Dame Rush Offense vs. Michigan Rush Defense: The Wolverines have been horrible in the run defense department. At 107th in the nation, they have surrendered 211.3 rushing yards a game and 5 rushing touchdowns. They face a Notre Dame ground game that is deep and able to rotate players often and a quarterback in Everett Golson who has run for 2 touchdowns as well. This might be one of the best running games that Michigan faces this season as well. Look for the Irish to have one of their best games on the ground this season against the Wolverines as well.
Edge: Notre Dame

Michigan RB's: Denard Robinson may be the quarterback, but he can also be seen as another running back for Michigan as well. He has a commanding lead in the rushing department in carries, yards, yards per carry, and touchdowns. After missing the first game, Fitzgerald Toussaint is the leading running back and has 92 rushing yards on 23 carries and 1 touchdown. Vincent Smith has 53 yards and 2 touchdowns as well. In addition, Thomas Rawls has also seen playing time with 51 yards on 12 carries.

Michigan Rush Offense vs. Notre Dame Rush Defense: Notre Dame has done a great job on the ground and is 23rd in the nation in run defense. They have allowed 96.3 yards a game and are holding opponents to 3.04 yards a carry as well, and notably have not allowed a rushing touchdown either. The Irish must contain Robinson, who has had impressive games in years past. If Notre Dame contains Robinson on the ground, it will be significantly more easy to stop the running game.

Edge: Even

Notre Dame WR's and TE's: Despite being held in check the entire game against Michigan St., Tyler Eifert still has the most receiving yards with 120 yards off 8 receptions and has a touchdown as well. Davaris Daniels also had the same situation and has 6 receptions for 119 yards on the season. TJ Jones has 9 catches for 103 yards and a touchdown, while Robby Toma also has 9 receptions for 91 yards (with a rush touchdown as well), and John Goodman had his first touchdown since in 2009 when he was a redshirt freshman. Daniels wasn't 100 percent against the Spartans, but should be more ready after being limited.

Notre Dame WR's vs. Michigan DB's: Michigan has a secondary made up starters that are upperclassmen. They have not intercepted any passes, but the defense has had 6 pass deflections on the season and none are by the defensive backs either. While the receiving unit of Notre Dame is a young one, it is still a talented one and faces a highly ranked pass defense of Michigan. This high ranking in the pass defense for Michigan is in part to playing the highest ranked rushing offense in the nation in Air Force, and thus numbers might be skewed due to facing a run based team. Look for the Irish to use Eifert more often, and continue to involve freshman like Davaris Daniels and Chris Brown for instance. It would be ideal to keep using TJ Jones and Robby Toma in the short game as it has worked very well so far this season.

Edge: Even

Michigan WR's and TE's: Devin Gardner leads Michigan with 8 catches for 155 yards and 3 touchdowns, he also is the third-string quarterback as well and is a big target at 6'4” and 205 lbs. Jeremy Gallon has 8 receptions for 146 yards with a long of 71 yards. Devin Funchess has 6 catches for 140 yards and 2 touchdowns, while Drew Dileo has 111 yards off 4 receptions, and Roy Roundtree has 42 yards on 5 receptions.

Michigan WR's vs. Notre Dame DB's: The averages in the receptions by Michigan receivers are high (Gardner with 19.4, Gallon with 18.2, Dileo with 27.8 to name a few) and go up against a young secondary that has managed to hold opponents below 200 passing yards in each game. What the Irish need to do is prevent the big play as that was a major issue late in the 2011 edition of the Notre Dame-Michigan game. With the inexperience of the Irish secondary, despite how well they have exceeded expectations this season, it is still one of the key matchups in this game.

Edge: Michigan

Notre Dame OL: The offensive line for the Irish has opened the way for 155.7 yards a game on the ground for the Irish while they average 4 yards a carry as a team. They also have allowed 8 sacks this season and 20 tackles for loss as well. The unit is an experienced one that is strongest on the left side headlined by Zach Martin and Chris Watt at left tackle and left guard. Opponents have put a little pressure as well with 8 quarterback hurries as well.

Notre Dame OL vs. Michigan DL: One area that has been difficult for Michigan is quarterback pressure with only 2 quarterback hurries and only 3 sacks overall with defensive tackle William Campbell having one sack. However, Michigan has been able to get in the backfield with 19 tackles for loss this season with defensive end Frank Clark leading in that area with 3 tackles for loss. The Irish should be able to keep Golson well protected as Michigan has had difficulty in generating quarterback pressure so far this season.

Edge: Notre Dame

Michigan OL: The Wolverines have allowed just 2 sacks by opposing teams and are paving the way for 192.3 rushing yards a game with there being 5.6 yards a carry. The unit has all upperclassmen starting for it as well with the biggest players being Taylor Lewan (6'8” 302 lbs) and Michael Schofield (6'7” 299 lbs) at offensive tackle. They had one major loss going into the season with the graduation of the Rimington Award winner and first team All-American David Molk at center as well, and now have a senior starter in Ricky Barnum.

Michigan OL vs. Notre Dame DL: The Wolverines face one of the best defensive lines in the country in Notre Dame's, the unit is headlined by a pair of sophomores in Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix III. Tuitt is currently second in the nation with an impressive 5 sacks, while Louis Nix is a force in the middle at nose tackle, the unit is deep with many young players getting time, such as true freshman Sheldon Day. The Wolverines will have quite a task on there hand with a Notre Dame defensive line that is deep and gets to the opposing quarterback with ease as well.

Edge: Notre Dame

Notre Dame DL: The defensive line has had no drop off from the loss of Aaron Lynch to transfer as it is a deep unit that Notre Dame has. Stephon Tuitt headlines the unit with 5 sacks, 5 tackles for loss, 3 quarterback hurries, a 77 yard fumble recovery for a touchdown and a forced fumble too. Louis Nix III mans the middle and has 3 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and 2 pass breakups too. Kapron Lewis-Moore provides a leadership presence too and the unit sees others play often such as Sheldon Day, Tony Springmann, and Kona Schwenke.

Notre Dame DL vs. Michigan OL: Michigan has only allowed 2 sacks, but part of that can be due to playing with a running quarterback, but the unit had lost a major player (center David Molk) to the NFL. The defensive line of the Irish will give Michigan one of the biggest challenges of the season for them, and if the Notre Dame defensive line continues to dominate as it has all season and get continuous pressure on the Michigan offensive line and Denard Robinson.

Edge: Notre Dame

Michigan DL: The unit lost many notable players like Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen to graduation and are a step down from last years edition. William Campbell leads all defensive lineman in sacks with only 1 and also leads in tackles by a defensive lineman at 12. Craig Roh is the most experienced member in this unit as well and also has half a sack this season as well.

Michigan DL vs. Notre Dame OL: The offensive line of the Irish greatly against Michigan St. after allowing 5 sacks to Purdue, and went down to just 1 sack allowed against the Spartans. The defensive line has had trouble pressuring opposing quarterbacks and is still not as experienced as the previous season's unit. If the Notre Dame offensive line protects Golson as well as they did against Michigan St. and is able to get the ground game going against a weak run defense, it will give the Irish major control over this game.

Edge: Notre Dame

Notre Dame LB's: The linebacker unit is also deep like the defensive line and gives Notre Dame one of the best front sevens in all of college football. Manti Te'o is the best player in the unit and is coming off an emotional performance against Michigan St. after losing his grandmother and girlfriend that week. Te'o leads the entire team in tackles with 30. Te'o also has a tackle for loss, interception, two pass breakups and 2 fumble recoveries. Prince Shembo had a strong game against Michigan St. as well and leads the team in quarterback hurries with 4 of them. Despite missing the first game to suspension, Carlo Calabrese has the third most tackles by a linebacker with 11. The unit became a little deeper when Danny Spond returned from injury.

Notre Dame LB's vs. Michigan: The linebackers will need to heavily account for Denard Robinson and make sure to keep him in check as well, as stopping Robinson on the ground is important as he has accounted for 351 of the 577 rushing yards by Michigan (about 60%). If they stop Robinson and if linebackers and the defensive lineman help put pressure on Robinson, it will force him to easier situations to cause turnovers as Robinson has thrown for 4 interceptions this season.

Edge: Even

Michigan LB's: This is one of the most experienced and probably the best unit that Michigan has. It returned all three starters in Jake Ryan, Desmond Morgan, and Kenny Demens. Jake Ryan is 3rd on the team overall in tackles at 20 and has 2 tackles for loss. Desmond Morgan has 15 tackles and is 4th overall on the team, he also has 1.5 tackles for loss on top of that as well. Kenny Demens has 12 tackles on the season as well.

Michigan LB's vs. Notre Dame: While two of the starters are sophomores, they were returning starters from 2011 and give Michigan a deep and strong linebacker unit. They have to not only account for Golson, but the running game as well that has been strengthened with Cierre Wood's return to the unit. This is one of the most important matchups in the game with the deep and experienced unit that Michigan has here.

Edge: Michigan

Notre Dame DB's: The defensive backs of Notre Dame have greatly exceeded expectations despite being the youngest, most inexperienced unit, and injury issues happening. They have not allowed any opponent this season to hit the 200 yard passing mark and are ranked 39th in the nation currently. However, the unit suffered a huge blow with a season-ending injury to Jamoris Slaughter in the second half of the game against Michigan St. Many young players have played, including Matthias Farley, KeiVarae Russell, and Elijah Shumate.

Notre Dame DB's vs. Michigan WR's: This will be an interesting matchup to keep an eye on, mainly due to the events of the 4th quarter in the 2011 Notre Dame-Michigan game. The receivers of Michigan have had very high yards per catch this season, and with the loss of Jamoris Slaughter along with the unit being young and lacking in experience make it one of the most important areas to keep an eye on. If the defensive backs can continue to exceed expectations as they have this season, it will be difficult for Michigan to pass on the Notre Dame secondary.

Edge: Michigan

Michigan DB's: The secondary of the Wolverines can be seen as a bit of an enigma in some ways, it is the 12th ranked pass defense in the nation and is allowing 157.7 yards a game, but but they have not had a single interception this season either, and have played the 1st ranked rush offense (Air Force) and the 50th ranked rush offense notably (Alabama), so the pass defense numbers might be skewed due to playing these teams. Even Massachusetts, who is ranked 120th, had 112 rushing yards against Michigan. To also note, Massachusetts has a total of 193 rushing yards in 3 games, had 112 of the 193 rushing yards against Michigan alone.

Michigan DB's vs. Notre Dame WR's: The defensive secondary of Michigan will face an Irish receiving unit that will be stronger with a healthier Davaris Daniels and Tyler Eifert. Neither recorded receptions against Michigan St., and had injury issues against Purdue. The defensive backs will need to account for TJ Jones and Robby Toma in the short passing game, while Eifert and Daniels will be used on the longer passes and in the endzone as well. This will also be a very interesting matchup to keep on an eye on as well.

Edge: Even

Notre Dame Kicking Game: After missing his first field goal attempt against Purdue, Kyle Brindza has made 4 in a row, including the game winner over Purdue and is 4 of 5 on the season. Ben Turk has continued to improve at punting and has punted 15 times for 623 yards with a 41.5 yard average, 5 of his punts have been fair caught, 6 inside the 20 and 4 were over 50 yards. Kyle Brindza has also been great at kickoffs with 9 of his 19 kickoffs being touchbacks as well.

Michigan Kicking Game: Brendan Gibbons is 1 out 1 in field goals and Will Hagerup is averaging 48.5 yards a punt with a long of 62, however, not a single one of his punts has been fair caught and only 1 (out of 11 total punts) has been in the 20. Matt Wile has had 9 of his 18 kickoffs go for touchbacks as well.

Stronger Unit: Notre Dame

Notre Dame Return Game: Kickoff returns have been minimal for the Irish with George Atkinson III having 3 returns for 69 yards, and Cam McDaniel taking one 25 yards. Part of this is due to the Notre Dame defense not allowing many points and 3 of the 8 kickoffs by Notre Dame opponents going for touchbacks. Davonte Neal has returned 7 punts for 28 yards this season, and the punt return unit is still a work in progress, but is improving in comparison to 2011.

Michigan Return Game: Dennis Norfleet is the primary return specialist for Michigan. He has returned 13 kickoffs for 298 yards and 1 punt for 11 yards. Jeremy Gallon has done some returning as well with 1 kickoff for 12 yards and 2 punts for 4 yards.

Stronger Unit: Even

Everything Else: Michigan has won the last 3 games against Notre Dame and all of been close wins for Michigan with late 4th quarter touchdowns as well to win the game. The Notre Dame defense has been its best in a very long time in part to a very strong front seven and a secondary that has performed much better than most would predict as well. The big thing for the defense is to contain Denard Robinson, who has had accumulated great numbers of all purpose yards in the last two games against the Irish. The Irish ought to rely a lot on the run game against a weak run defense that is among the worst in college football and rotate often between Cierre Wood, Theo Riddick, and George Atkinson III as well. Playing to the strengths on offense for Notre Dame (deep running game, short passing game with Jones and Toma, along with using Daniels, Eifert and the tight ends) will be essential to scoring points and taking control of the game. A balanced offense is important, and if the defense takes care of Denard Robinson and prevents him from running and forces him into throwing interceptions will be huge. This is Michigan's first true away game of the season (the season-opening game against Alabama was at a neutral site, and the last two games were home games for Michigan), and will be a night game on top of that. If the Irish stick to a balanced offense and take care of Robinson on defense, they will beat Michigan for the first time since 2008.

Prediction: Notre Dame 31, Michigan 14

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Notre Dame-Michigan St. Preview

Here is my preview of the Notre Dame-Michigan St. game, in my previews I talk about each teams positional group, before looking at how it compares to the opposing team.

Notre Dame QB's: Everett Golson remains the starter at quarterback for the Irish. Golson threw for 289 yards on 21 completions (out of 31 attempts) in the 20-17 win over Purdue. On the season he has completed 33 of 49 passes for 433 yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception. He also has completed 67.3 percent of his passes. However, he hurt his hand late against Purdue and the 2011 starting quarterback Tommy Rees came in to close the game out and helped bring the Irish down into field goal range so Kyle Brindza could come in and kick the game winning field goal. Golson will be fine and will be the starter against Michigan St.

Notre Dame Pass Offense vs. Michigan St. Pass Defense: The Spartans have allowed 342 passing yards and has intercepted 3 passes as well. They have not allowed a passing touchdown either. Golson improved upon his first start on Navy and was able to get the ball to Tyler Eifert and Davaris Daniels. The pass defense of Michigan St. is ranked 28th in the nation overall in yards allowed along with opposing quarterbacks only completing 45.7 passing yards as well and will be a bigger challenge for the Irish in comparison to previous opponents.

Edge: Even

Michigan St. QB's: Andrew Maxwell is the new starter for the Spartans after losing Kirk Cousins to graduation. Maxwell, a junior has completed 42 of 69 passes for 523 yards and 2 touchdowns, but has thrown for 3 interceptions. Maxwell has also completed 60.9 percent of his passes. His backup, Connor Cook, a freshman, completed 5 of 6 passes for 47 yards and an interception on the season.

Michigan State Pass Offense vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense: The Irish have allowed 390 passing yards on the season and all 3 touchdowns allowed on the season were passing touchdowns. However, Notre Dame has intercepted 3 passes as well. The Irish are 45th in the nation in yards allowed, but opposing quarterbacks have completed 57.9 percent of passes as well. The secondary has been one of the issues going into the season for Notre Dame, but managed to keep a passing team in Purdue under 200 passing yards despite top defensive back Jamoris Slaughter being hurt for most of the game, but Slaughter will be fine for the game against the Spartans. Also to note is that the only touchdowns allowed by Michigan St. to opposing teams all season are interceptions returned for touchdowns in each game.

Edge: Even

Notre Dame RB's: The Irish will welcome back Cierre Wood from a two-game suspension, Wood is a junior and two year starter who rushed for 1,102 yards and 9 touchdowns in the 2011 season (and also the first 1,000 yard running back since Darius Walker in 2006). Wood's return gives Notre Dame a solid rotation at running back with Theo Riddick, George Atkinson III, and Cam McDaniel. Riddick is the leading rusher on the season with 160 yards on 34 carries along with 2 touchdowns. George Atkinson III has 99 yards on 10 carries and has 2 touchdowns as well. Cam McDaniel has 60 yards on 9 carries as well, but all of his yards came against Navy.

Notre Dame Rushing Offense vs. Michigan St. Rushing Defense: The Irish have rushed for 345 yards and 6 touchdowns on the season with the running game averaging 4.2 yards a carry. Michigan St. has a strength in its run defense being ranked 11th nationally. They are allowing 109 yards on 46 carries to give an average 2.37 yards a rush. The Spartans have also not allowed a single rushing touchdown all season as well. To note, however, Michigan State faced a Boise St. team that lost its top rusher from last season who was a 1,000+ yard back and had double digit rushing touchdowns and was also a first-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Regardless, this will be an interesting matchup as the ground game of Notre Dame's will be one of the best Michigan St. will face all season as well.

Edge: Even

Michigan St. RB's: Similar to Javon Ringer in 2008, Michigan St. primarily leans on Le'Veon Bell. Bell has 62 of the teams 93 carries and leads the way with 280 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns. Backing him are Larry Caper who has 77 rushing yards on 12 carries. Nick Hill has also had 14 yards on 6 carries and has the only other rushing touchdown. Considering how Michigan St. is using a new quarterback and is heavily inexperienced at the receiving position, they will likely rely on Bell for most of the game.

Michigan St. Rushing Offense vs. Notre Dame Run Defense: Notre Dame has allowed 239 rushing yards this season and has not allowed a single rushing touchdown all season either. The Notre Dame defense up front has done a very good job this season in containing the run and held an option team in Navy well below the norm for them and held Purdue under 100 rushing yards. Le'Veon Bell will be the best running back the Irish face so far this season and will provide a key matchup. If the Irish contain Le'Veon Bell, it will easily force Michigan St. to rely on inexperienced passing game.

Edge: Notre Dame

Notre Dame WR's and TE's: Davaris Daniels has had a good start to his first season playing for Notre Dame after redshirting in 2011. The redshirt freshman has 6 catches for 119 yards, but was injured late against Purdue. However, Daniels should be okay to play against the Spartans. Tyler Eifert has been the leading receiver on the season for Notre Dame with 8 receptions for 120 yards and a touchdown. TJ Jones also has been a key player with 5 grabs for 44 yards and a touchdown. Depending on how Daniels is, look for the Irish to keep using multiple tight ends, Troy Niklas has made 2 big receptions in each game with a 30 yard and 29 yard grab to give him 59 yards on the season. It would be ideal to involve him more in the passing game, along with the other freshmen in Justin Ferguson, Davonte Neal, and Chris Brown. Robby Toma also is underrated and should be involved more as stated time and time again.

Notre Dame WR's vs. Michigan St. Secondary: Michigan St. has done well in forcing incompletions allowing only 45.7 percent of passes to be complete and three different defensive backs have intercepted passes this season for the Spartans. Regardless of how much Daniels gets used, look for Eifert and Niklas at tight end to be huge size mismatches for the Michigan St. defense as the biggest defensive back is safety Jairus Jones at 6'1'' and 205 lbs. While the Notre Dame receivers are talented, but young, it still makes for an interesting matchup in these two areas.

Edge: Even

Michigan State WR's and TE's: This unit was heavily decimated by losses to graduation that lost three starting Wide Receivers and the starting tight end. Going into the season the returning leaders at wide receiver was Tony Lippett with 4 receptions for 44 yards and tight end Dion Sims with 12 receptions for 99 yards and 3 touchdowns. Bennie Fowler has been the leading receiver with 10 catches for 135 yards and touchdown while tight end Dion Sims has 10 receptions for 113 yards and a touchdown. Tony Lippett has 5 catches for 83 yards and
DeAnthony Arnett has a 48 yard catch on the season. This unit is amongst the weakest units on this team due to the inexperience after significant loses.

Michigan State WR's vs. Notre Dame Secondary: The Irish have managed to exceed expectations with a very young secondary. Bennett Jackson recorded a pair of interceptions in the win over Purdue. Considering the inexperience of both units, it is overall a more even matchup and can determine how a young Notre Dame secondary performs this season. Fowler and Sims are the best players the Spartans have in the passing game, and it is important to contain those two players.

Edge: Even

Notre Dame OL: The offensive line of the Irish struggled against a strong Purdue defensive front that was led by Kawann Short. Mike Golic Jr. was continually harassed all game long as Notre Dame allowed 5 sacks in the game. The line will need to improve on an underwhelming performance that also featured captain Zach Martin getting flagged even.

Notre Dame OL vs. Michigan St. DL: The Spartans strength is in the defensive line that despite the losses of a first team All-American (and 2nd round draft pick) Jerel Worthy and other interior lineman, is still an elite unit. It is headlined by William Gholston, a massive defensive end at 6'7'' and 275 lbs. Gholston and Marcus Rush are the top defensive ends that have done a good job in pressuring quarterbacks but the defense as a whole has only notched a single sack all season.

Edge: Michigan St.

Michigan St. OL: The Spartans have done a good job in opening up holes for Le'Veon Bell to run through, the unit is very experienced and had minimal losses to graduation. The unit had most of its returning starters come back and is one of the most important units for Michigan St.

Michigan St. OL vs. Notre Dame DL: Michigan St. has not allowed any sacks at all this season, but faces one of the best defensive lines in college football in Notre Dame. Stephon Tuitt has been an absolute force with 4 sacks (#2 in the nation) and Louis Nix III plugs up the middle and also has great in batting down passes. The defensive has accounted for 7 sacks this season and is one of the best areas for the Irish as they face a strong offensive line of the Spartans.

Edge: Notre Dame

Notre Dame DL: The Notre Dame defensive line has been one of the biggest strengths this season for the Irish. Stephon Tuitt has had a very strong season so far that has featured a 77 yard fumble return for a touchdown, 4 sacks that is second best in college football, 4 tackles for loss, and has done a great job in putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Louis Nix III has done a great job in getting into opposing backfields with 3 tackles for loss and has been deflected two passes as well. Kapron Lewis-Moore provides the veteran presence as well, and the defensive has done great with using players in the first season starting, notably with freshman Sheldon Day and redshirt freshman Tony Springmann as well.

Notre Dame DL vs. Michigan St. OL: The Irish defensive line faces an offensive line that protected the quarterback with zero sacks allowed and is a veteran unit as well. Tuitt and Nix in particular will be major challenges for the offensive line of Michigan St. to contain and will be another reason as to why this game will be determined in the trenches.

Edge: Notre Dame

Michigan St. DL: Like the Irish, one of Michigan St.'s biggest strengths is in its defensive line that is deep and led by ends William Gholston and Marcus Rush. Both have done a great job in pressuring quarterbacks, but Gholston has the teams only sack on the season. Regardless, this is one of the most elite units for the Spartans and is strongest on the outside with defensive ends Gholston and Rush.

Michigan St. DL vs. Notre Dame OL: The Notre Dame offensive line had a tough time on the inside with Purdue's strength being in the interior defensive line, and now takes on a Michigan St. team that has it's strength in the defensive ends this time. After giving up 5 sacks to Purdue, look for the Irish to improve against Michigan St., but won't have the edge.

Edge: Michigan St.

Notre Dame LB's: Manti Te'o is the heart of the Notre Dame defense and leads the linebacker unit and the defense overall with 18 tackles and an interception. Te'o is one of the best players in all of college football. The unit had a boost with the return of Calabrese back from suspension. The unit is able to rotate players often and is a deep one at that which returned almost everyone from 2011. Danny Spond has also been cleared to play against Michigan St. after being out with injury.

Notre Dame LB's vs. Michigan St.: Look for the linebackers to be in run support while accounting for tight end Dion Sims as well, the linebackers will be counted on to help contain Le'Veon Bell of Michigan St. If the linebackers are able to get business done in stopping the run game, it will force the Spartans to be one-dimensional.

Edge: Notre Dame

Michigan St. LB's: This unit is one of the best for Michigan St. as it returned intact and featured the 3 of the top 4 tacklers from 2011 coming back. Max Bullough leads the team with 11 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss. The other returning starters are Chris Norman and Denicos Allen (11 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss in 2011) and all three are upper clansmen on top of this and Bullough and Norman were highly rated coming out of high school as well. This unit helps give Michigan St. a strong front seven.

Michigan St. LB's vs. Notre Dame: The Spartans will face one of the best run game units they face all season that welcomes back previously suspended Cierre Wood, who missed the games against Navy and Purdue. It will come down to how the front seven of Michigan St. performs, but the front seven is the best part overall for Michigan St.

Edge: Michigan St.

Notre Dame DB's: This is seen as one of the youngest and most inexperienced units for the Irish coming into the season, but they have managed to exceed expectations despite losses in recruiting, graduation, injuries, etc. Bennett Jackson leads the team with 2 interceptions (both vs. Purdue). KeiVarae Russell has done a solid job after being moved over from running back. The best defensive back, Jamoris Slaughter, was injured against Purdue but has been cleared to play against the Spartans and will be good to go. Zeke Motta leads all defensive backs with 14 tackles and also has a tackle for loss as well. In light of Slaughter's injury and facing a passing team in Purdue, the Irish were able to get younger players in and have valuable playing time, which will be beneficial down the road.

Notre Dame DB's vs. Michigan St. WR's: Notre Dame has the benefit of playing against a team that is possibly less experienced in the receiving area than Notre Dame is at in the secondary. The Spartans will try to lean on Le'Veon Bell, but look out for Dion Sims and Bennie Fowler in the passing game, both lead the Spartans in the catching game. The secondary has been able to hold both opponents this season below 200 passing yards and should be able to do so against a young receiving unit that Michigan St. has.

Edge: Even

Michigan St. DB's: Michigan St. lost only one player in this unit from graduation (#3 tackler overall and a sixth round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft), and has so far done a great job in not allowing any passing touchdowns so far. Johnny Adams is the best player of the group has had made the All Big-10 lists in past seasons and has 1 of Michigan St.'s 3 interceptions on the season as well.

Michigan St. DB's vs. Notre Dame WR's: The biggest task for Michigan St.'s secondary is stopping Tyler Eifert. He can line up in many different spots on offense and is a major threat along with Troy Niklas, who has caught a couple of long passes thrown his way. The Spartans have done a good job in the pass defense, but have to account for the best tight end in college football and a young, but talented receiving unit as well.

Edge: Even

Notre Dame Kicking Game: After missing his first field goal, Kyle Brindza responded with consecutive field goals of 30 and 27 yards, with the 27 yard field goal being a game winner over Purdue with 7 seconds remaining in the game. Nick Tausch had an injury after making his lone field goal attempt against Navy, but has missed a couple of extra points in that same game as well. It is likely that Brindza will remain the number one kicker after rebounding from an early miss to make two very important field goals. Ben Turk has been doing a good job at punting with a 40.6 yard average on 7 punts, and has hit long punts, pinned opponents deep, and the coverage has helped make 3 punts be fair caught as well. Brindza has also done well in kickoffs with 5 touchbacks on 14 kickoffs as well.

Michigan St. Kicking Game: Dan Conroy has made 3 of 5 field goals with the missed field goals being 43 yards (vs. Boise St.) and 39 yards (vs. Central Michigan). He has made a long field goal of 50 yards. Mike Sadler has done a great job on punting with a 44 yard average on 4 punts with 3 of the 4 punts being inside the 20. Field position will be crucial in this game as well. Kevin Muma has 5 touchbacks on his 11 kickoffs as well.

Stronger Unit: Even

Notre Dame Return Game: The Irish have only 4 kickoffs returned all season with George Atkinson having 2 for 45 yards, while Cam McDaniel has a 25 yard return, and outside linebacker Jarrett Grace taking one for 12 yards on a short kick. Atkinson had two kickoffs go for touchdowns back in 2011, but touchbacks have been frequent this season. The punt return game is still a work in progress with 5 returns for 12 yards by true freshman Davonte Neal.

Michigan St. Return Game: The Spartans had a big loss in the punt return game with the graduation of Keshawn Martin (25 returns for 274 yards and a touchdown in 2011). Nick Hill has taken on kickoff and punt return duties this season with the absence of Martin to graduation. Hill has returned 5 kickoffs for 117 yards and 3 punts for 46 yards on the season.

Stronger Unit: Even

Everything Else: The Spartans are the first of many ranked opponents that the Irish must face this season and feature one of the strongest defenses as well. The game is going to come down to field position and down in the trenches. The Notre Dame offensive line will need to step up after an unimpressive outing against Purdue. The running game will be boosted with Cierre Wood's return and will be relied on to help move the chains and to help lighten the load for redshirt freshman quarterback Everett Golson. The defense needs to contain Le'Veon Bell and force Michigan St. to be one dimensional and use a shaky passing game that has led to interceptions being returned for touchdowns in consecutive games by the opponents of Michigan St. Overall, this is a game between two evenly matched teams and the team with the best performance out of the offensive and defensive lineman will be the one to come out on top in this game.

Prediction: Notre Dame 14, Michigan St. 10