BREAKING NEWS: the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team has a somewhat important game this Saturday.
At 7:30 pm, in the friendly confines of Notre Dame Stadium, 18th-ranked Notre Dame will meet 12th-ranked Michigan State on the gridiron in a must-win game for the Irish and a need-to-win game for the Spartans. If ND wants any sort of shot at the College Football Playoff, then beating a top-12 team and taking an important and substantial step toward running the table is imperative to doing so.
So how do the Irish match up, what does MSU bring to the table, and how will they look to attack Notre Dame come Saturday night? Do they have any weaknesses ND can exploit? Will Brian Kelly continue to have Mark Dantonio’s number? And can I get a rise out of Spartans fans by mentioning the Golden Tate incident?
1. Never, Ever Bet on Mark Dantonio to Lose
Question I asked: Michigan State comes into this big match-up untested, having played Furman two weeks ago and having had a bye the last week. Do you think Mark Dantonio will have the Spartans ready for a prime time game like this? What's your confidence level going into this?
Dom’s Response: I will never in my life bet against Mark Dantonio (especially with a line as juicy as 7.5). This man has time and time again shown that he has a way of getting guys ready for a game. Other than the game against Alabama, I have seen this team play out of its mind against teams that are on paper superior. The players will be ready and while I am not 100% for this one, I have talked myself into being 90% confident.
2. Tyler O’Connor and Monty Madaris Could Do Some Damage Against A Shallow and Inexperienced Notre Dame Secondary
Question I asked: The Notre Dame defense has been much-maligned, especially the secondary. Having now lost two starters (Max Redfield dismissed from the team in August, starting corner Shaun Crawford ruptured his Achilles against Nevada), should Irish fans be worried about how their already patchwork secondary matches up with Michigan State's receivers and with new starter Tyler O'Connor? What can you tell us about what to expect from the Spartan passing game?
Dom’s Response: This is a big point of contention with Spartan fans. If you take a look at TOC's stat line for Furman, 190 yards with 3 TD and a pick is not too bad seeing as they never really aired it out. The issue is his eyes. He has a tendency to stare down his first target and not look off coverages.
While there is a hole in the WR corps left from Aaron Burbridge, Monty Madaris is a big boy who nearly doubled his career receiving totals against Furman week one. He is poised for a breakout year and ND could be the start.
3. Newsflash: Michigan State Has Big, Fast Running Backs
Question I asked: Brian VanGorder's Irish defense has also struggled mightily tackling big, strong ball carriers. MSU has been known to have a few of those in their day, and this year isn't an exception. What do you expect from LJ Scott, Gerald Holmes, and Madre London running the ball on Saturday night?
Dom’s Response: Well, LJ Scott is an animal.
Watching him run on the first possession of last Friday's Furman game was giving me flashes of another MSU back, Le'Veon Bell. The difference? LJ will not be carrying it at that clip for 40+ carries like Bell did. While we did not see any Gerald Holmes v Furman I expect about 5-7 carries each for he and London, with LJ getting the vast majority of the carries.
4. Malik McDowell Will Set the Tone for the Spartan Defense, and the Return of Ed Davis Could Be Big
Question I asked: The match-up of the game has gotta be the ND offense vs. the MSU defense, as both represent the strengths of their team and coaches. Who are the key players on the MSU defense to watch, how do you think they match up with Notre Dame's offensive players, and who do you think NEEDS to make some plays to slow down DeShone Kizer and the ND offense?
Dom’s Response: Well it starts up front with Malik McDowell. He is a perceived first round pick and he was a MONSTER against Furman. He is going to be the key because with him being destructive, Brian Kelly and Co. are going to need to focus on him.
With that happening it opens up the MSU D for more blitzes and different schemes to take advantage of McDowell getting attention. The return of Ed Davis (just received 6th year of eligibility from NCAA) allows the D to mix thing up, get Kizer moving his feet, and as long as contain doesn't break down, it will make it a long game for the Irish offense.
5. Prediction: Spartans Over Irish in a Close One
Question I asked: Mark Dantonio has lost his last three games against Brian Kelly, and has only beaten him once in this ND/MSU series, on a "Little Giants" fake field goal play in overtime that all my ND buddies are gonna immediately clamor about because it should have been a delay of game (it was). The man has proven he can out-coach the likes of Urban Meyer and David Shaw and Art Briles, so do you think Dantonio finds that mojo again, or do you think Kelly - win or lose - will have his number for a 4th time in a row?
Dom’s Response: I see this being a close game that is down to the waning minutes of the 4th quarter. It was a coin flip I gave to MSU weeks ago, but with the thinning of your secondary and the flashes I have seen from Scott and McDowell I am giving this to the Spartans 27-24. Bring on the Geiger windmill, this time in the shadow of Touchdown Jesus and not the Horseshoe.
BONUS INFORMATION: Equanimeous St. Brown is Almost Certainly Going to Reenact Golden Tate’s Dive-bomb Maneuver into the Spartan Marching Band
Bonus question I asked: 7 years ago, a man by the name of Golden Tate made a go-ahead touchdown catch and then proceeded to dive-bomb the Michigan State band in iconic fashion (I still have and cherish an "Air Golden" t-shirt someone sold out of their dorm room the very next week). Let's briefly relive that fantastic moment (and we have two options to do so):
- To the tune of Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart":
- To the tune of Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball":
Give me the probability that Equanimeous St. Brown, ND's newest awesome wide receiver with a funny name, is able to once again make a huge catch and jump into the Spartan band in demoralizing fashion.
Dom’s Response: This honestly made me laugh out loud, and I have forgiven Tate as he has won me a few $ on Draft Kings since being in the pros. The odds of that happening are about as high as the odds of Brent Musburger being able to contain himself if he sees AJ McCarron's girlfriend. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hg7CxBdJHk