Michigan State Spartans(1-0 SU, 0-1 ATS) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (1-1 SU, 1-1 ATS)
College Football Week 3
Date/Time: Saturday, September 17th, 3:30 PM
Where: Notre Dame Stadium
by Mike Mann, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: MSU +8/ND -8
Over/Under Total: 52.5
Michigan State travels 150 miles southwest to South Bend to take on Notre Dame as the teams renew their rivalry in a primetime Saturday night showdown for the Megaphone Trophy. This will be the 77th meeting between the two schools with the Irish holding a 48-28-1 edge including having won the last three, which makes them the only team to claim victory three straight games against the Spartans since head coach Mark Dantonio arrived in East Lansing back in 2007.
Notre Dame is coming of a 39-10 win (and cover) against Nevada last weekend. The Irish started the game with a porous first quarter that saw them make multiple, easy avoidable mistakes, including a whopping 50 yards of penalties in the first 15 minutes of play. They would end up being flagged nine times for 90 yards against the Wolf Pack, bringing their two game total to 17 penalties for 158 yards. This is something coach Brian Kelly will hopefully work on in practice this week, as that sort of undisciplined play against a team like Michigan State will likely result in their second loss of the year. Thankfully for Notre Dame they were playing a weak Nevada team that lacked the ability on the field and especially on the sidelines to take advantage of many early opportunities, which I guess should have been expected considering their head coach is Brian Polian, who apparently inherited the moronic idiocy of his father, former Indianapolis Colts President of Whining, Bill Polian.
Junior quarterback DeShone Kizer continued to play well for Notre Dame and through two games has now completed 30 of 42 throws (71%) for 371 yards and 7 touchdowns compared to just one interception. His passing statistics are even more impressive considering his team started the season with only one receiver back out of their top six from last season, and that one is Torii Hunter Jr,, who was unable to play in the game against Nevada after suffering a vicious helmet to helmet hit against Texas in week one and whose availability is still up in the air for Saturday’s game against Sparty. If Hunter is out again, Kizer’s main options through the air will be sophomore receivers Equanimeous Brown and CJ Sanders, both of whom already have over 100 yards receiving and two touchdowns apiece on the season thus far. The offensive focal point for the Irish will probably be their rushing attack, led by the dual-headed backfield duo of Josh Adams and Tarean Folston, who will likely be relied upon heavily to offset the inexperience and injuries amongst the receivers.
Defensively Notre Dame continues to have issues keeping players on the field, especially in their backfield. Expected starting safety Max Redfeld was thrown off the team for an arrest right before the season started, cornerback Devon Bulter remains suspended for similar behavioral issues, cornerback Nick Watkins continues to recover from a fractured humerus suffered during spring camp and just this past Sunday it was reported that cornerback Shaun Crawford will be lost for the season after tearing his Achilles last weekend against Nevada. Not a good sign at all for a team already suffering from personnel predicaments and now has to take on a Michigan State that has been one of the NCAA’s consistently best in recent history, thanks in large part to their coach, Mark Dantonio.
This will be the tenth season for Dantonio as the sideline leader of the Spartans, during which time his team has compiled an impressive 87-33 record. They have especially hit their stride in recent years, finishing with at least 11 wins in five of the past six seasons and winning three conference titles. This season they benefit from a schedule that includes only five road games (ND is the only difficult one), avoids Nebraska and Iowa from the Big 10 West and also has them hosting three of their toughest opponents with Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio State all having to travel to Spartan Stadium in East Lansing. For some odd reason though they were stuck with an absurdedly early bye in week two, which fans are hoping gave them some time to smooth out the rough edges after struggling to get past lowly Furman in their opening game.
Michigan State eventually took out the Paladins 28-13, but was winning by just one possession, 21-13, with just five minutes left in the game before they were eventually able to seal the win. And for those curious, a Paladin is a honorable knight and the Furman mascot at games dresses as such and rides on a horse throughout the stadium during game and they are the only college in the country through out any division to have that nickname (Notre Dame also flies solo with the Fighting Irish while twelve institutions have the Spartan as their mascot). Much like Notre Dame in their first two games Michigan State struggled with penalties, getting flagged ten times against Furman for a total of 120 yards. Quarterback Tyler O’Connor spent the last three years backing up Connor Cook (who now backs up David Carr on the Oakland Raiders) and played efficiently well against the Paladins, completing 13 of 18 passes for 190 yards and three touchdowns, which also throwing an interception. It couldn’t have been easy for O’Connor, especially considering his already inexperienced offense that returned just four starters lost one of their best when sophomore standout RJ Shelton was hurt early in the game. Much like Hunter for Notre Dame, Michigan State will be hoping the injured Shelton can return to the playing field this week as he is the only wide receiver on the team that had at least one reception a year ago. Thankfully Tyler’s team still has sophomore running back LJ Scott to rely on, who ran for 105 yards and a touchdown against Furman, continuing where he left of from 2015 when he led the team in rushing yards, yards per carry and touchdowns as a true freshman.
One matchup that will likely go a long way in deciding who wins this weekend in South Bend is the Spartan defense against the Notre Dame rushing attack of Adams, Folston and Kizer. While Michigan State undoubtedly misses Shaq Calhoun, who now plays for the Oakland Raiders with Connor Cook, they still have a solid defense led by two players that will someday assuredly see their names called on NFL Draft day, nose tackle Mailk McDowell and linebacker Riley Bullough. McDowell had 13 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks a year ago while Bullough led the team in tackles with 106, and will likely be two major pieces for the defensive minded Dantonio to use in his plan to slow down the Irish offense.
On paper it looks like Notre Dame has played well against quality competition of late, posting a 7-1 record in their last eight against ranked teams at home, while also having similar success against the spread, having gone 8-2 in their last ten games versus teams with a winning record and 6-2 in their last eight against Top 25 teams in South Bend. That does all sound well and good, but if you delve deeper you find an unfortunate trend for the Irish faithful heading into this week’s game against 12th ranked Michigan State, as not only has Notre Dame gone just 13-12 in their last 25 games against teams from the Power Five Conferences (Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, Pac-12 and SEC), but to make matters worse they have put up an abysmal 2-18 record in their last twenty games against teams ranked 13th or higher. With an injury riddled team losing essential starters on a weekly basis it’s difficult to give the points with Notre Dame, especially with the point spread now having climbed over a touchdown and their recent, unfortunately consistent track record of inferiority against the top teams in college football.
Mike M's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Michigan State +8
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