After a bye week, the Michigan State Spartans welcome Notre Dame to East Lansing for primetime game in another installment of a rivalry that has provided nothing short of excitement the last 10 years. Brian Kelly and Mark Dantonio know each other well, so expect another close, hard fought game between the Fighting Irish and the Spartans.
Offensively, the Irish present an interesting challenge. They are run heavy, between their quarterback Brandon Wimbush and running backs Josh Adams and Dexter Williams they have given defenses fits on the ground thus far. The three have combined to run for 931 yards over three games to start the year, good enough for an average of 330.7 yards per game.
On the flip side the Spartans have done a good job stopping the run in their two games so far. They average 91.5 yards allowed, and if they are anywhere near that number at the conclusion of the game against Notre Dame, a victory is almost certain. Linebackers Joe Bachie, Chris Frey, and Andrew Dowell are going to need to play well if MSU is to come out victorious once again.
The weakness in the Notre Dame offense has been Wimbush’s passing. He has only completed 50 percent of his passes so far. He has only thrown for two touchdowns and has been intercepted twice. A key for MSU will be forcing Notre Dame into third and long, turning Wimbush into a passer and not letting him escape the pocket. He has weapons outside in Equanimeous St. Brown and Alize Mack, but he has struggled getting them the ball.
Notre Dame, for a team with such a powerful rushing attack, has struggled some in defending the run through three weeks. They have given up an average of 151.7 yards per game, and given MSU’s three-headed attack of LJ Scott, Madre London, and Gerald Holmes, expect the Spartans to try and establish the run early.
It will be interesting to see how Notre Dame defends Brian Lewerke. Lewerke, much like Wimbush, is a major threat with his legs. He has been much better through the air than Wimbush, but teams are going to start spying Lewerke. Expect the Irish to spy him with a guy like Nyles Morgan, the senior leader in the middle of Notre Dame defense.
The Irish have been much more effective against the pass, allowing only 200 yards per game. The Spartans, as they do in most games, will try to establish the run. But eventually, Lewerke will need to make plays through the air. Given that Lewerke has been much better throwing the ball downfield, expect MSU to take some shots early as well to Trishton Jackson and Darrell Stewart.
Much of this game will come down to how both defenses can contain the run, and how the offenses adjust. If Lewerke and Wimbush are bottled up, which one can make more plays through the air? As with any game between these two teams, it should be close, and exciting.