2011 Michigan State Spartans Football

 
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Michigan State @ Notre Dame Football Preview

 

 

Notre Dame’s focus in week three is clear: stop turning the ball over—especially in the red zone. The Irish have racked up copious amounts of yardage against decent competition but now stand at 0-2. The fact that Notre Dame has committed five turnovers inside opponents’ red zones shows why a team averaging 510 yards of offense per game is only scoring 25 points per game and is winless.

Michigan State merchandise After leaving Ann Arbor in the wild loss to Michigan, Notre Dame returns home to host the Wolverines’ rival in Michigan State. Although 2-0, the Spartans enter this matchup untested. While their defense appears to be one of the best in the country, matchups against Youngstown State and Florida Atlantic leave lots of unknowns for the Spartans. Since taking over the quarterback job, Tommy Rees is completing 70 percent of his passes, and Michael Floyd will test the MSU secondary with an average of 156 receiving yards on 12 receptions per game. Cierre Wood is also averaging 119 rushing yards per game for the Irish.

Michigan State will look to senior signal-caller Kirk Cousins to keep up with Notre Dame’s offense. Cousins has done everything expected early in the season, completing 79 percent of his passes for just over 200 yards per game. Cousins led MSU to 11 regular-season wins last year and piloted the Spartans’ offense with a steady hand and an ability to steer clear of crippling mistakes. Cousins is a source of emotional stability for the Spartans. The simple presence of No. 8 in the huddle and on the field will carry Michigan State a very long way on Saturday. If this is a quarterback-based game, Sparty has the clear edge over Notre Dame and the ever-erratic Mr. Rees. Forget the fact that this game is being played in South Bend, Indiana, on the Notre Dame campus. If Michigan State plays its best game of the year, the Fighting Irish won’t be able to keep up.

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The Irish, as a defensive unit, will key on B.J. Cunningham and try to lock down Michigan State’s main wide receiver. Notre Dame has to blanket Cunningham in order to limit the big plays it gave up last week against Michigan. It might be a small sample size, but it’s still noteworthy that Cunningham averages just over 100 yards receiving per game on the young season.

All in all, this game comes down to Notre Dame’s level of composure and belief. On two straight weekends, the Fighting Irish have squandered positions of leverage because they committed too many turnovers against so-so opposition. South Florida and Michigan are not elite teams to be sure. Notre Dame’s inability to take down either squad is a cause for concern in the office of Brian Kelly, the Irish’s new coach. Urgency and motivation must drive Notre Dame in this contest and power the Fighting Irish to the finish line first. Michigan State really wants this game, but Notre Dame needs it. That’s often what enables one team to exceed the other in the cauldron of gameday pressure. The Irish need to make that pressure work for them; if not, an 0-3 start and a lot of vultures await.

By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer

 

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