This is the fourth in a 12-day series looking at Michigan State’s opponents this football season and their chances against the Spartans.
Week 4: Notre Dame
Time and Date: 3:30 p.m., Sept. 21
Venue: Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind.
Fighting Irish a glance
Coach: Brian Kelly (Fourth season, 28-11)
Last season: 12-1; lost in BCS national championship game
Returning starters: 12 (four offense, eight defense)
Preseason magazine predictions
Athlon: Ranked No. 8
Lindy’s: Ranked No. 14
Sporting News: Ranked No. 10
Why they’ll beat the Spartans
Michigan State won’t have seen anyone close to this level physically or have ventured outside of East Lansing before its trek to meet the Irish. Conversely, Notre Dame will be tested, coming home after consecutive weeks at Purdue and Michigan. The Irish are without QB Everett Golson — thanks to his academic blunder — but fifth-year senior Tommy Rees is an experienced, albeit less mobile, fallback. There is some proven talent around him (a relatively veteran offensive line and 50-catch wideout TJ Jones), along with a few intriguing pieces and a couple possible holes. Sound familiar? Defensively, the Irish have a pair of All-American-caliber lineman in Stephon Truitt and Louis Nix III and seasoned backfield.
This Notre Dame squad might turn out similar to MSU in many ways. But on this Saturday, the Irish should have a better understanding of who they are, while the Spartans are set up to be 3-0 without being certain what they’ve got.
Why they won’t
Notre Dame was hoping it had returned perennially among college football’s best, counting on a gifted and athletic QB to make its offense a dangerous complement to an elite defense. Instead, minus Golson, the Irish could already have a loss by this point and, in understanding who they are, also know their own demoralizing limitations. Notre Dame isn’t likely to run away from teams offensively. And, if through three cupcakes, MSU’s offense finds some measure of confidence, the Spartans are more than capable of winning in South Bend — as they’ve done six times since 1997 — against this Irish roster.
We’ll know a ton about Michigan State heading into the Spartans’ first bye week. The schedule sets up perfectly for an offense in need of therapy — three games to refine itself and then a serious test before Big Ten play. If MSU sputters, this will be the spot to make changes.