It's time for our bi-yearly trip to East Lansing, Michigan. For all the trouble we've had with the Spartans since Bob Davie took over, we've still maintained dominance over them on their home turf to the tune of 15-4 in the last 19 contest.
In case you forgot a few of them, we've got videos!
Here's the best game I've ever seen in person:
And the rant on East Lansing SportsTalk Radio the next day:
(PUCKER, PUCKER, PUCKER!)
Here's back when I thought Ty Willingham was a good coach:
That was fun, wasn't it?
Now let's focus on today's game. This feels a lot like the Purdue game--the entire spectrum of good (dominating Notre Dame win) and disaster (big Sparty win) is in play. The Irish are once again on the heels of a heart-breaking loss (making that 7 in the past 12 months...why do I do this to myself again????) so now comes Brian Kelly's first big test.
How will his troops respond? Are they truly mentally ready to let go of that loss or is the scar tissue from two seasons full of epic collapses already starting to open?
This is also Dayne Crist's big test. He performed admirably last week against the Wolverines, bouncing back from an injury to lead a second half comeback that should have been forever etched in Irish lore. Tonight he walks into a stadium of 75,000 people that want nothing more than to see him knocked out of the game. How he handles that hostile atmosphere will go a long way in determining the outcome of the game.
The other big question is how the Irish defense will respond after yielding 502 yads to Denard Robinson. The second string defensive linemen need to step up and start performing at a serviceable level. Tim Prister of Irish Illustrated did a film breakdown and found that when Ethan Johnson, Ian Williams, and Kapron Lewis-Moore were on the field together the defense gave up only 3.74 yards per snap. When one of them was subbed out that number went up to a staggering 9.08 yards per snap.
Take a second to digest those stats. Unbelievable. Notre Dame needs Hafis Williams, Sean Cwynar, and company to provide quality minutes to keep Johnson, Williams, and KLM fresh--they failed miserably to do that last week. The saying "we're only as strong as our weakest link" couldn't be more apt than in this situation.
I think today the Irish take that step forward we've been looking for since the 2006 season ended. Sparty will look better than their first two games, but in the end the edges Notre Dame holds in the talent and coaching departments will shine through.
Kelly gets Michael Floyd involved early and he posts his first All-American caliber game of the season. The rushing attack allows Notre Dame to (gasp) win the time of possession battle for the first time this season. Crist makes a couple bad decisions, but he's going to post strong numbers against a Sparty secondary that allowed Florida Atlantic to do some damage.
The rushing defense was shredded by Denard last week, but Michigan lines up in a traditional attack and Irish fans will be pleasantly surprised how Notre Dame handles it. It's going to be a battle because the Spartans always give the Irish their best shot, but Notre Dame gets back on track.
Notre Dame 30
Michigan State 21
GO IRISH, BEAT SPARTY