Notre Dame Fighting Irish (1-1 SU, 0-2 ATS) vs. Michigan State Spartans (2-0 SU, 1-1 ATS), 8:00 p.m. EST, College Football Week 3, September 18, 2010, Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, Michigan
By Scotty L of Predictem.com
Betting Odds: ND +3/MSU -3
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Notre Dame travels to East Lansing to renew acquaintances with longtime foe Michigan State on Saturday. The Fighting Irish, now led by new coach Brian Kelly, is in a rebuilding mode, but looked pretty decent against Michigan last week. It took a last-minute touchdown from a somewhat-resurgent Wolverines squad to beat Notre Dame, 28-24. Nevertheless, the loss showed that Notre Dame has yet to turn the corner as a program in transition. Michigan State, after beating Western Michigan and Florida Atlantic in their first two games, looks to see if they have what it takes against a legitimate opponent.
These teams, who play each other yearly, usually make for competitive games and this year should follow suit. Each team has already showed holes, particularly on defense, which should lead to a lot of scoring. Notre Dames defense hasnt been good in a while and is the main reason Charlie Weis is once again an NFL offensive coordinator. Michigan State is coming off a tough season of close losses and some costly suspensions. Both teams, typically strong programs, have been a bit lost recently, but are eager to re-establish their reputations.
The Spartans might have a bit more immediate upside, with a slew of returning starters on offense, including QB Kurt Cousins; a deep crew of pass catchers and two returning freshman tailbacks. Edwin Baker is running strong, knocking off almost ten yards a runalbeit against uncelebrated defenses. Le Veon Bell is following suit, which could lead to a fantastic 1-2 rushing punch if it can translate against better opponents. This offense might be the best in the Big Ten.
The Michigan State defense had problems last year, particularly in the secondary, and it looks to be a sore spot again this season. LB Greg Jones is the star of the defense and should help the pass rush with a decent and rising D-line. While this could provide relief to a beleaguered secondary, the growing pains will be there. Notre Dame definitely looks to do damage in this area.
With Jimmy Clausen now with the Carolina Panthers, Notre Dame looks to Dayne Crist to carry the load at QB. The youngster has played capably against back-to-back Big Ten teams and figures to round out as he gains more seasoning. Thus far, tight end Kyle Rudolph has been one of the best at his position in the nation with 13 receptions. With WR Michael Floyd making his presence felt, the Fighting Irish have a good receiving crew at the top, though they lack depth. They have a few pretty good runners, with Armando Allen and Cierre Wood. They just look a little iffy up front, with only two returning starters, including the loss of top recruit Matt Joneswho passed away in a tragic accident. With a new system in place, there figures to be a learning curve. Brian Kellys excellent coaching and fine staff should help this group work out some of the kinks. While in a transition state, this is a team that still looks to put up some wins.
These teams have similaritiesoffensively gifted teams with big questions on defense. Notre Dames defense might be the more talented, with 9 returning starters who could thrive in a new 3-4 alignment. They have good talent and might become more balanced as the season carries on. What remains to be seen is how the Fighting Irish bounce back from a last-minute home loss with their first game on the road being a tough one.
Scotty Ls Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Notre Dame Dayne Crist faces his first road game and it is a tough assignment. The Michigan State secondary can be exploited, but facing a rabid throng in East Lansing could rattle the young quarterback. I look for the greater experience of Cousins and versatility of the Spartan offense to make a difference. Both teams will put up points, but in the end, Michigan State will begin to pick apart a Notre Dame defense that has yet to establish an identity.
A high scoring game will begin to tip toward Michigan State late. I see a 10-point win for the Spartans, somewhere in the 41-31 neighborhood. Consider laying the 3 points with Michigan State with the stronger play being the over.