Since 2011, Michigan State is 0-3 against Notre Dame has lost those games by 12.6 points per game. However, the last time these teams played was in 2013. Michigan State is coming off of a bye and has an extra week of preparation heading into this game. The Spartans last played week one against Furman.
The Spartans rushed for 171 yards on the ground against Furman and passed for 190 yards through the air in the home win.
Quarterback Tyler O’Connor will need to be poised on the road in South Bend. Last year, O’Connor led the road victory over the Buckeyes and should not be fazed against the Fighting Irish on a nationally televised game.
Running back L.J Scott will be critical to the offense in this game with Notre Dame. Scott is a tough inside runner that shows up in big games. The Spartans will look to challenge the Notre Dame front seven that allowed 237 rushing yards in the week one loss to Texas. Michigan State will want to get into an ugly game and force the Fighting Irish into a ball control game that is low scoring.
Senior wide receiver RJ Shelton will be O’Connor main target. Shelton is a solid route runner that is not afraid to go over the middle on dig routes. He is a blue collar receiver that blocks in the running game and is one of the emotional leaders of the offense.
Defensively, the Spartans looked solid against Furman. The unit allowed 87 rushing yards and 139 passing yards in the home win. Look for Michigan State to take away the deep ball from Notre Dame quarterback DeShon Kizer. Last year, the Spartans were burned by deep balls and cannot allow big plays on the road in order to get the win.
The Fighting Irish are coming off of a 39-10 home win against Nevada. The offense started slow, but gained momentum in the second quarter with quarterback DeShon Kizer completed 15 of 18 passes (81%) for 156 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Through the first two games, Kizer has completed 71% of his passes for 371 yards with 7 touchdowns and one interception.
The Fighting Irish have rushed for 222 yards on the ground and have thrown 222 yards through the air so far this year. The offensive balance gives the offense the edge in putting pressure on opposing defenses. In order to get this win at home, the offense must spread out Michigan State’s front seven and challenge the Spartans on intermediate routes against the Spartans secondary. Look for the offense to utilize an up-tempo attack to try and wear down the Michigan State defense.
Notre Dame wide receiver Tori Hunter Jr. comes back for this game from concussion protocol and give the offense a legitimate play maker that can take the top off of the defense.
Defensively, the Fighting Irish have allowed 168 rushing yards and 240 passing yards through the first two games. However, the defense must “stack the box” and force O’Connor to beat them over the top. Even though O’Connor is a senior, he will be playing in a tough road environment and needs the running game to have success in the Spartans play action passing attack.
On the year, the team is +1 in turnover margin through two games this season. A cause of concern so far this season has to be sack total. The Fighting Irish have not recorded a sack this year and must be able to get pressure on O’Connor.