Michigan State Spartans (2-0 SU, 1-1 ATS) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (0-2 SU, 0-2 ATS), 3:30 p.m. EST, College Football Week 3, Saturday, September 17, 2011, Notre Dame Stadium, Notre Dame, Indiana
by Scotty L, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread:MSU +5.5/ND - 5.5
On Saturday, old acquaintances meet, as the Michigan State Spartans travel to Notre Dame Stadium to take on the Fighting Irish. The 15th-ranked Spartans have been able to build their confidence with a pair of easy early-season winsagainst Youngstown State and Florida International. Notre Dame, meanwhile, has been in much tougher, losing their first two to South Florida and Michigan. This is an important game for both teams, particularly Notre Dame. The supposedly resurgent Fighting Irish need this one badly if they have any hopes of salvaging some success out of this season.
The last game had to hurt the Irish. It was almost painful to watch. Even hard-bitten Wolverine fans had to feel a tinge of sympathy for the bad-luck Irish. Notre Dame controlled the game for long stretches, keeping the Wolverines in check en route to what seemed like an easy win. Late in the 3rdquarter, Notre Dame went up 24-7 and everything was looking gooduntil Michigan threw up 4 touchdowns in the 4thquarter. Most disconcerting was that 2 of them came in the final 1:12.
Michigan started moving the ball well, but Notre Dame looked like they had righted the ship just in time. QB Tommy Rees, in Joe Montana fashion, secured the late TD that appeared to seal it. In front of 115,000 roaring Wolverines fans, the young man courageously marched down the field in 42 seconds with the go-ahead touchdown. But the Notre Dame D suddenly had no answers. With 30 seconds on the clock Michigan improbably notched the fatal TD to win 35-31.
It was a great game that showed Notre Dame is indeed a quality team, despite the last-minute meltdown. It took a miraculous series of events for them to lose that game. But they did manage to lose, further underlining the hard-knocks this program has suffered recently. A mere two weeks ago, the talk was of a Notre Dame resurgence. In that short amount of time, they have already switched starting quarterbacks and endured a gut-wrenching loss. They cant help but be a little crestfallen.
Michigan State has benefited from easier scheduling. Whereas the Irish have been fighting for their lives, the Spartans have been gaining confidence beating up on overmatched teams and seem poised to have a good season. Only so much information can be ascertained by their two wins, but they certainly have the look of a high-quality team. 3rd-year starting QB Kirk Cousins has been efficient (34-43-405-3-0) and is looking to have a big year. There is depth at running back, with Edwin Baker, LeVeon Bell, and Nick Hill providing good production. Senior WR BJ Cunningham looks better, as well. All told, this is an experienced offense where only time will tell how good they can become.
Despite Notre Dame woes, its hard not to like the Tommy Rees-Michael Floyd connection so far. The big WR has caught 25 balls for 313 yards and is making opposing secondaries look foolish. It really helps to have a high-percentage 3rd-down threat like Floyd to keep the chains moving. For 3 quarters, it was working wonderfully against Michigan. RB Cierre Wood rushing for 134 was also promising. It just doesnt mean much when the defense cant do anything right when opposing teams are scrambling to overcome a deficit.
The Irish have turned the ball over 9 times in their first 2 games. In their first game, the contest stretched over 6 hours due to lightning-induced delays. Game 2 saw a miraculous, nearly impossible comeback. Now theyre at home. Theres no reason to think they wont play well. Its early enough in the season and their fate is still up in the air. A good season can still be had.
Scotty Ls Pick to Cover the Point Spread:MSU is facing it’s first live opponent and they are eager to show they are a quality team. Notre Dame, though, is playing for their season. Hardened already by tough games, look for them to come out strong. The running/passing variety will have the Spartan defense on its heels. The problem is: can you depend on the Irish to hold a lead should they get it? Lets go ahead and assume they can somehow avoid the calamities they suffered last week and close the game in more graceful fashion.
The Irish are almost never a good value, as this weeks spread will attest. They are also potentially demoralized and facing a good Michigan State team. It just seems inevitable for some of the things that had people excited about the Irish begin to manifest at some point.Take Notre Dame minus 5.5 points.
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