Scouting Report and Prediction: MSU vs. Notre Dame

A look at this week’s opponent…

The Irish of Notre Dame come into this game 0-2 and similar to MSU basketball last year, have a lot of individual talent, but are struggling as a team. 

With the Irish being battered, this makes this game more dangerous than I had originally thought it would be to start the season.  The Irish have lost to two teams of whom they have the major talent advantage against to start the season.  In both cases, what the Irish lacked was on the sidelines as Kelly has been out-coached in both games.

 

The Irish have their entire season riding on this one game.  If the Spartans win the Irish season is essentially over.  The Irish faithful do not have a league title to play for.  Early losses cost them a shot at the BCS and when that is gone the Irish season is over.  That is the reason for so much success, but frankly so much failure as of late also.

 

With the Irish have so much on the line, this certainly raises the stakes of their contest with the Spartans on Saturday. 

When MSU has the ball…

MSU loves the running game.  Under Dan Roushar we are seeing more of a desire not to abandon the run by any measure, but certainly more of an affinity to throw the ball in different situations.

 

Notre Dame will sell out.  They will do everything in their power to force the Spartans to the air.  Look for Roushar to take advantage of that.  Once the Spartans force the Irish to change their game plan, MSU will go back to the ground and attack.

 

The Spartan offensive line is the most athletic line of the Dantonio era and look for them to show that athleticism off.  We could see more of a short passing game than we have in the previous two games to neutralize what is for sure going to be an aggressive front seven for the Irish.  Those short passes will force the Irish to back off and open up running lanes and long distance passing lanes that should make the field of Notre Dame stadium look like Christmas for MSU QB Kirk Cousins.

When MSU is on defense…

The Spartans have by far the best defensive backfield that the Irish have played as of yet.  That is even better news considering the Irish have more turnovers than I have excess pounds.  The Spartans want Kelly to go to the air.  With athletes all over the field, the Spartans can bring a myriad of sadistic and evil blitzes that will have sophomore signal caller Tommy Rees seeing Spartans in his nightmares. 

 

The Spartans have yet to use and unveil many of their new blitz packages and if their base defense can’t get things handled, they will pull out their sick little bag of tricks and cause fits for the Irish.

 

Unlike the Irish who have had to show so much in two losses, the Spartans have maintained on both sides of the ball some very vanilla packages and that is a good thing. 

 

On defense, look for the very athletic Spartans to not let Michael Floyd run free.  If the Irish succeed in the air, the straw that stirs the drink is Floyd.  Unlike the UM defensive backfield that simply didn’t double Floyd, MSU has the personnel to do it and the athleticism to stick with him.

 

The more the Spartans stay in their base defense the better they will be.  Notre Dame and the Brian Kelly offense will get yards.  That is simply a fact of life, but the Spartans attack will get their shots and chances for big plays and turnovers and look for them to make the Irish pay.

Intangibles…

The Irish are getting pummeled on the football field and off of it for the actions of their head Coach Brian Kelly on it.  The job at Notre Dame comes with perhaps the greatest national scrutiny of any job in college sports and Kelly seems to be struggling to handle it.

 

Against South Florida, Kelly’s sideline antics included the berating of players with a flurry of four letter words many of which begin with the letter F and included what many non-skilled lip readers easily read as references to Jesus Christ.  Not something that goes unseen in many parts of our society, but questioned by some when dealing with young people and at perhaps the most highly visible parochial University in the nation.

 

With the Irish being battered, this makes this game more dangerous than I had originally thought it would be to start the season.  The Irish have lost to two teams of whom they have the major talent advantage against to start the season.  In both cases, what the Irish lacked was on the sidelines as Kelly has been out-coached in both games.

 

The Irish have their entire season riding on this one game.  If the Spartans win the Irish season is essentially over.  The Irish faithful do not have a league title to play for.  Early losses cost them a shot at the BCS and when that is gone the Irish season is over.  That is the reason for so much success, but frankly so much failure as of late also.

Prediction… 

This game has very big ramifications for both teams.  More than just a win on the schedule, a Spartan victory could see one of their most storied rivals get thrown into a full-blown tailspin and have dynamic ramifications in recruiting.

 

Michael Floyd is a great receiver.  He will get his 100 yards.  He will get his two TDs, but that is fine.  Floyd can’t win this game by himself.  He is a great player, but MSU has a lot of experience in it’s past with great players on bad teams.

 

This is one of those games that Spartan fans have been waiting years for.  I look for MSU to come out, put their foot on the throat of the Irish, and attack from the first whistle to the last. 

Notre Dame may even score first.  Who cares!  The Spartans simply need to avoid the early turnovers and momentum builders that can make the tremendous talent on the other sideline be inspired.  The Irish are a well-assembled group of talented individuals.  They are not a great team.  Don’t give them a reason to play like a team.

I certainly expect a good game, but in the end when the dust settles look for the Spartans to beat the Irish 34-24.