East Lansing, MI

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish sit at #18 in this week’s coaches poll, ready to host the #8 Michigan State Spartans in a prime time nationally televised contest on Saturday.

While the Spartans have an advantage in having been able to stay vanilla in showing no new schemes on offense, defense or special teams since last December, the Irish have an advantage in having been already tested. While celebrating the 50 year anniversary of the “Game of the Century,” the 1966 10-10 tie, this matchup is setting up as a special tilt.

Kelly who followed Dantonio at Cincinnati when he left to be the head coach at MSU talked of Dantonio. “I have a lot of respect for Mark and Coach Dantonio is always going to present a very physical team in all three phases. Our games each and every year that we have played have been close, hard fought. And we expect the same again this year.”

So after watching the film of his Irish over the weekend and their win versus Nevada, Irish head coach Brian Kelly tried to break down their defensive philosophy.

“First and second down we’d like to be at base. Third down we’d like to get into nickel, if the game was to be scripted. The ability to play nickel obviously gives us a lot more looks and confuses quarterbacks, and allow us to keep people off balance.”

Kelly knows that his team was exposed when the perimeter is attacked by Texas, but he is well aware of a Spartan running attack and he has to keep that on his mind. He added, “But this is still about stopping the run in early downs. And except for one run that got out I thought we did a really good job against the run. And that’s really — it’s going to still come back to basic tenets of football, especially on the defensive side of the ball. And that is tackling, being really solid against the run and keeping the ball in front of you and playing the ball in the air. If we get those four things down and we make good progress on it, that’s what we’re really looking to do at the end of the day.”

The Spartans and the Irish game will kick off on Saturday at 7:30 PM and you can see that game on NBC.