Notre Dame - Michigan State Preview

NOTRE DAME, MICHIGAN STATE RENEW RIVALRY IN PRIME TIME GUT CHECK

When you bring up the Notre Dame-Michigan State rivalry, most everyone immediately remembers the wild and crazy game from two years ago that MSU won on a TD pass off a fake field goal in overtime. Things have been crazy amidst these two teams and Michigan in recent seasons. ABC is hoping that another classic is in the offing Saturday Night.

Let's not forget though that Notre Dame beat Michigan State last year in rather perfunctory fashion by a score of 31-13 in South Bend. It was a sloppy game that saw 18 penalties and 5 turnovers between the two teams...with most of the miscues going against the visiting Spartans. It was one of the low points of a Sparty season that ultimately saw Michigan State play for the Big 10 championship before heading to a marquee bowl.

Michigan State will have revenge on its mind. But, they'll also be trying to win with a new starting quarterback...against a team that may finally be coming into its own under head coach Brian Kelly. Let's run through the keys you need to know to handicap this week's prime time showcase showdown...

NOTRE DAME AT MICHIGAN STATE (8 p.m. on ABC)
Las Vegas Spread: Michigan State by 5.5, total of 43

The line opened near a field goal offshore, before going up at -4 in Las Vegas and getting hit immediately by the sharps. It's odd to see a line move so quickly against a public team like Notre Dame. But, professional wagerers were impressed with what they saw from Michigan State in the trenches against Boise State and Central Michigan. And, Notre Dame looked very mortal last week vs. Purdue, though that may have been influenced by jet lag after their trip to Ireland. You're seeing a very low total in this game, which tells you how impressed the market is with Michigan State's defense this year. They have a lot of starter back from a unit that ranked high nationally last season.

2012 AP POLL RANKINGS
Notre Dame: 20th
Michigan State: 10th

It was interesting to hear media types talk about these two teams coming into the season. Notre Dame was getting a lot of respect, but was seen as having a brutal schedule (which includes USC, Oklahoma, and the two Michigan schools). They were seen as a Top 20 type team...but one that probably wouldn't qualify for the rankings because of won-lost record. Michigan State was seen as a very similar team playing a much easier schedule. So...if you flip-flopped schedules, it might be Notre Dame who right now would be knocking on the door of the Top 10 thanks to a Preseason push and Michigan State needing to do more to prove themselves.

HEAD COACHES
Notre Dame: Brian Kelly
Michigan State: Mark Dantonio

These are known quantities now. And, what's known leads to a lot of volatility! Both teams attack on offense, with Michigan State more focused on the ground game and Notre Dame trying to get creative through the air. We're not talking extremes here...because Michigan State will throw and Notre Dame doesn't mind smashmouth. But, in general, State is more of a bruiser. Both teams can have turnover troubles when they try to get too cute. Both teams make mistakes when pressured. So, you can rarely be truly confident when backing either side because of that turnover threat. These coaches may be destined to play creative games against each other for many years since they're locked in at major programs.

QUARTERBACKS
Notre Dame: Everett Golson
Michigan State: Andrew Maxwell

Two new starters. Maxwell showed a strong arm vs. Boise State. That got him into trouble because passes kept bouncing off receivers to the other team! He certainly has potential to be a force this year in the Big 10 if he can develop a bit more touch and common sense on short passes. Golson of Notre Dame impressed vs. Navy, but struggled vs. Purdue last week before having to leave the game with an injured thumb. It could turn out that Navy is horrible this year, and Golson isn't ready yet for the big time. It was backup Tommy Rees who led the Irish on their game-winning drive last week. He will see action if Golson struggles. Given what we've seen of the MSU defense this year...it's tough to throw well against them if both of your thumbs are working!

LAST WEEK'S BOXES

NOTRE DAME 20, PURDUE 17
Total Yardage: Purdue 288, Notre Dame 376
Rushing Yardage: Purdue 90, Notre Dame 52
Passing Stats: Purdue 19-37-2-198, Notre Dame 24-39-0-324
Turnovers: Purdue 2, Notre Dame 2
Third Downs: Purdue 35%, Notre Dame 58%
Vegas Line: Notre Dame by 15, total of 53

Notre Dame has to be very disappointed about the 52 rushing yards against somebody like Purdue. Michigan State will shut them down cold if that continues. You can see that Notre Dame pulled the game out in the air. Obviously they were making good choices on third downs to post that high a conversion rate. We're not high on Purdue this year. And, jet lag was factored into the market price of Notre Dame -15. A disappointing performance all things considered. You shouldn't be playing nailbiters at home against Purdue if you're a major program. For now, we'll assume that the Irish hadn't anticipated the dangers of jet lag...and that they took Purdue too lightly.

MICHIGAN STATE 41, CENTRAL MICHIGAN 7
Total Yardage: Michigan State 496, C. Michigan 238
Rushing Yardage: Michigan State 173, C. Michigan 65
Passing Stats: Michigan State 25-37-1-323, C. Michigan 17-38-2-173
Turnovers: Michigan State 1, C. Michigan 3
Third Downs: Michigan State 50%, C. Michigan 38%
Vegas Line: Michigan State by 17, total of 48

This is basically a replay of Michigan State-Boise State in the yardage (461-206 in that one). The scoreboard difference here was keyed by a 3-1 turnover advantage instead of a 4-2 turnover loss. This game was on the road remember....and Michigan State was favored by about the same price that Notre Dame was at home against Purdue. If turnovers were a moot issue, then Michigan State has arguably established that they should be about a TD favorite at home over the Irish. At least. But, if this quarterback is going to throw 35-40 passes per week, that opens a can of worms that could keep any given opponent within striking distance.

BEST EXPECTATION
We agree with those who thought the opening price was too low. Has it moved too much? Or, is the right line here more like Michigan State -7.5 or -8 and you should keep backing the favorite. JIM HURLEY has been working with his sources in the Midwest to find out what he can regarding the Golson injury, and the impact Rees would likely have if he were called upon to play significant minutes. The culmination of our team handicapping approach (scouts, sources, statheads, computer programmers, and Wise Guy connections) have determined that this is the crux of the matchup. If Notre Dame can't move the ball and score on this solid defense, then you need to be looking at Michigan State and Under. If the Irish CAN make some big plays, then dog and Over offers value at these numbers.

JIM HURLEY will make his final decision before posting his official selections. Notre Dame-Michigan State might be the top play of the day...it might be part of a TV Tripleheader that could also feature games like USC/Stanford, Alabama/Arkansas, Texas/Mississippi, and California/Ohio State...or it might not qualify for play at the new line and the big releases will come elsewhere. You can purchase the game-day slate right here at this website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call the office at 1-800-323-4453.

Whether you're a fan of Notre Dame or Michigan State...you'll be rolling in the green all day and night Saturday with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!

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