Alright, can we all agree on something? The "Charile Weis is Fat" thing is just like Buck Nasty's suit: bombed out and depleted. Besides, he's only the second biggest thing present whenever he enters a room, next to his ego (rimshot). Without further ado, here is the preview for the MSU-ND game (3:30, ABC).
OVERVIEW OF THE GOLDEN DOMERS
They've gone 2-0 so far this year, with a thoroughly unimpressive victory against San Diego State and a win that was gift-wrapped to them by Michigan. It goes without saying that they've looked thoroughly uninspired at times, but they don't have a loss on their record yet, and in the end, that's all one can ask for.
NOTRE DAME RUSHING vs. MSU RUSH DEFENSE
The Fighting Irish rush offense has been less than great this season, averaging 3.1 YPC against San Diego State, and improved last week against Michigan, when they averaged 3.3 YPC. The two main running backs for Notre Dame are Armando Allen and Robert Hughes. Hughes has been the main back of late; he's rushed for 133 yards on 36 carries (3.7 YPC) for two touchdowns. Armando Allen had some playing time against San Diego State, but only had two carries for four yards against Michigan. As for the MSU run defense, they've been middle of the road so far, ranking 69th in 1-A, allowing an average of 137 yards per game. Keep in mind, however, that most of that yardage was gained due to California eviscerating the defensive line. The Spartans may be average run stoppers so far, but average will be enough to gain an edge against Notre Dame's still improving line.
Advantage: MSU (Slight to Moderate)
NOTRE DAME PASSING vs. MSU PASS DEFENSE
Jimmy Clausen is probably the third best quarterback Michigan State has faced thus far. That statement's not necessarily a knock on Clausen, it's a statement to the quality of Kevin Riley and Rusty Smith (albeit he was playing in conditions that had this blogger start gathering the materials for an ark). Nevertheless, Clausen does look improved from last year, as he's completed just under 60% of his passes for five touchdowns. Unfortunately, he's been intercepted four times as well, and it's never good when your QB is being intercepted once on every 13.75 pass attempts. Clausen appears to have a burgeoning deep threat in Golden Tate; he's caught 10 passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns this year, with a long of 60 yards. Michigan State's pass defense ranks 34th in 1-A, but to do due diligence, that number is probably buoyed by the abysmal conditions for passing last week. The corners made a couple of good plays last week, and it'll be interesting if the MSU front seven can sack Clausen for the first time this year. I think Notre Dame will have to pass a lot due to a lack of a consistent running game, and I believe the Irish will have some success.
Advantage: Notre Dame (slight to moderate)
MSU RUSHING vs. NOTRE DAME RUSH DEFENSE
Javon Ringer played himself onto the Heimsan watch list last week with his 282 yard, 2 touchdown performance against FAU. His YPC hasn't been as high this year as in previous ones, but he still has a 4.8 YPC, with 498 rushing yards and an NCAA high nine touchdowns. MSU is still trying to decide on a backup; as of now the role is split three ways between junior A.J. Jimmerson and redshirt freshmen Andre Anderson and Ashton Leggett. Hopefully one will seize the role before Ringer is run into the ground. As for Notre Dame's run defense, they rank 52nd in 1-A with an average of 115 yards allowed. However, they gave up over 100 yards to Sam McGuffie last week. This'll be the most lopsided advantage of the game, and it's going to go in MSU's favor.
Advantage: MSU (quite large)
MSU PASSING vs. NOTRE DAME PASS DEFENSE
Since the Cal game, Brian Hoyer has taken a back seat to the run game, throwing only 12 passes against EMU and 15 passes against FAU (he probably would've had more pass attempts if it weren't for the monsoon). He did what he needed to against Notre Dame last year, on one hand he completed less than 50% of his passes in that game, but on the other hand, he threw four touchdowns. He'll probably attempt around 25 passes this game, and most likely complete 15 of them, mainly to Mark Dell and B.J. Cunningham (assuming he's 100%). Also be on the lookout for Deon Curry, he finally broke the two deep on the depth chart this week, which also brings us to the drinking game for this battle: every time you hear the announcer say that Deon Curry's the son of Pistons head coach Michael Curry (it's the new "Matt Trannon plays football/basketball" or "Drew Neitzel is ambidextrous"), take a drink. You'll be in the ER by halftime. As for the Notre Dame pass defense, they rank 41st in the nation currently, but let's look at who've they played: San Diego State and Michigan. Will they maintain their standing? Probably not, but I'm also not expecting the Spartans to throw enough to cause a huge plummet in that ranking.
Edge: MSU (moderate)
All I'll say about this matchup is this: last year, one of these coaches turned a sub-.500 team into a mid-level bowl team. The other coach turned a BCS-bowl level team into a .250 team. Which one would you rather have?
Edge: MSU (moderate)
FINAL THOUGHTS AND PREDICTION
Expect to see a lot of this on Saturday:
Ringer will most likely get more than 30 carries again, which will most likely mean he'll go over 150 yards for the game. I don't believe Notre Dame will be able to consistently stop him in their base defense, and if they start to put eight men in the box, I fully expect Hoyer to find Dell or Cunningham down the field for a couple of big plays. Clausen will find Tate for a couple bombs to counter, but he'll still make a couple mistakes, and their running game isn't strong enough to merit eight-in-the-box consideration. Unlike Notre Dame's last game, MSU won't turn over the ball six times, and that'll be enough for a decisive win.
FINAL SCORE: Michigan State 31, Notre Dame 14