Michigan State looks to return from a week off and resume the momentum of a 2-0 start when it hosts long-time rival Notre Dame on Saturday night. The Spartans earned home victories over Bowling Green and Western Michigan prior to a bye week, while the Irish are coming off a victory over Boston College last weekend.
Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio would love to see his running game have the kind of dominant performance it had against the Irish last year, when the Spartans held the ball for 37:57 in the contest and amassed 260 yards on 52 carries. To do that, running back LJ Scott (125 yards, one TD) needs to improve on his early performance this season, as the Spartans are currently led in rushing by quarterback Brian Lewerke (151). The Michigan State offensive front will also have to handle an improving Notre Dame defense, which has held opponents to 151.7 rushing yards a contest and has notched six sacks this season, compared to 14 for all of last season. Offensively, the Irish like the ground game as well, with running back Josh Adams (443 yards, two TDs, 7.9 yards per carry) and quarterback Brandon Wimbush (314, six, 6.4) both averaging more than 100 yards a game.
TV: 8 p.m. ET. FOX. LINE: Notre Dame -4
ABOUT NOTRE DAME (2-1): Wimbush was expected to be a strong quarterback for coach Brian Kelly in his first season as the starter under center, but even Kelly likely didn’t predict how good the junior could be so early. Wimbush became the first QB in Notre Dame history to put together a 200-yard rushing performance with his 207 against Boston College, and he was the first Irish player to score four rushing touchdowns since October 1994 and the first quarterback to accomplish the feat. But Kelly still thinks of Wimbush as a passer first, and he’s expecting to put WImbush in more of a position to use his arm than his legs in the next few weeks.
ABOUT MICHIGAN STATE (2-0): The Michigan State defense has been outstanding to start the season, not allowing a single offensive touchdown in the first two games and leading FBS schools in third-down defense (10.7-percent conversion rate). But Wimbush provides a new challenge for the Spartans in that he is a QB who can run as well, if not better, than he passes. Because of that, Michigan State defensive players have talked about needing to play more containment and keep Wimbush in the pocket rather than taking shots at him that might miss, allowing him to get out into the open field.
1. Michigan State ranks second among opponents in all-time victories (29) over Notre Dame, trailing only USC (37).
2. Notre Dame is 15-of-15 in scoring in the red zone this season, tied with 19 other teams in the FBS, but has the most red-zone opportunities of those teams.
3. Lewerke ranks fourth in the Big Ten in total offense, averaging 280.5 yards a contest.
PREDICTION: Michigan State 27, Notre Dame 24