Week 3: Michigan St. (2-0, 0-0 Big 10) at Notre Lame (0-2 Independent)
Obviously, I was pleasantly surprised by the Notre Dame Fighting Irish’s home opener debacle against South Florida. Even more amusing was last week’s clown shoes-like performance against Michigan in the first night game in the history of Michigan Stadium. Michigan now stands at 2-0; Notre Dame, 0-2. However, Michigan has two cupcakes scheduled ahead (Eastern Michigan and San Diego State, at home) while Notre Dame faces Michigan State at home today and plays Pitt on the road next week. The last thing Notre Dame needed after essentially giving two games away was to face an opponent that is just…better. That’s what they’re up against today in South Bend, IN.
There’s no question that Irish WR Michael Floyd is the man Sparty’s defense must contain. Double him on the line, keep a man over the top, triple-team him, bump him, chuck him…do whatever you have to do to not allow QB Tommy Rees to key in on him. Floyd has put up such gaudy numbers despite Rees telegraphing passes whenever the Irish need to move the ball. It helps when opposing teams fail to adjust by changing the way they cover you, if you ask me.. RB Cierre Wood had a great day on the ground against the Wolverines, but this current Wolverines D isn’t exactly evoking memories of its ’97 unit. They’re still a work in progress, while Sparty’s is not. Week 2 MSU victim Florida Atlantic clearly does not have any semblance of the offensive weapons that Notre Dame does, but holding any team to just one first down and 44 yards of total offense for an entire game is not a feat to be scoffed at. The Spartans front four will have to take away a solid Irish run game, turning Notre Dame into a one-dimensional offense. Besides, whenever Notre Dame needs a play, they turn “Michael Floyd Only”, anyway.
Sparty’s offense was considerably efficient last week against FAU, including 3-3 on 4th-down conversions and a time of possession of 42:26. 8 different receivers had a catch and the team’s top 3 running backs all had at least 50 yards rushing. Cousins didn’t do much, except post a line of 16-21, 183, 2-0, 180.8. Notre Dame’s defense gave up big play after play to Michigan, but luckily for them, Sparty doesn’t quite have a Denard Robinson touching the ball every play. Two clear advantages Sparty have over Michigan, though, are their three-headed running game and WR B.J. Cunningham, who is among the nation’s elite at his position. I fully expect Sparty HC Mark Dantonio to use their superior run game until he can’t anymore to try to reduce the number of times the Irish get the ball.
There is no way the Irish, who have committed 10 turnovers so far, will play as badly today as they did their first 2 games. On the other hand, Sparty seems to be getting gradually better, and their first true test of the season should have them amped and ready to go. Irish HC Brian Kelly has surely drilled into his team’s heads how important today’s game is, as a loss could virtually eliminate them from BCS bowl contention. Still, I don’t think a pep talk, better ball control, and a home game will enable the Domers to beat Sparty. Sorry, NBC. You fail again.