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Matchups: Spartans offense vs. Irish defense

Joe Meixell | Thursday, September 17, 2009

MSU PASSINGSophomore Kirk Cousins won the starting quarterback job for the Spartans over classmate Keith Nichol, and has been solid but not spectacular in controlling the offense. Cousins has 347 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions on the year.Michigan State returns its top three wide receivers from last season, and senior Blair White has quickly notched two 100 yard games to start the year. White was a second-team all-Big Ten selection in 2008 and will be the primary receiving target.The Irish secondary struggled against Michigan’s passing game, especially down the stretch. Notre Dame’s inability to bring down Tate Forcier gave the Wolverine wide receivers time to break the Irish coverage and make some big plays. The safties and corners played well in run support as the front seven failed to contain the Wolverines rushing.Despite the struggles against Michigan, Notre Dame should again bring the heat against a less evasive quarterback and force Cousins to beat an experienced secondary. EDGE: EVEN

MSU RUSHINGRedshirt freshman Caulton Ray has received the majority of the carries for the Spartans, rushing for 122 yards on 28 attempts through two games. As a team?Michigan State has run for 138 yards per game, a total inflated by 175 yards against Division I-AA foe Montana State.The Spartans rushed for just 3.4 yards per carry against Central Michigan, and should also spread out carries with redshirt freshman Larry Caper and true freshman Edwin Baker.The Irish struggles against the run continued against Michigan as Brandon Minor and Tate Forcier ran wild in the second half. The tandem combined for 176 yards against Notre Dame, and as a team the Wolverines rushed for five yards per carry. The Irish run defense was inconsistent in the loss, at times containing the spread offense but going through lapses late in the game, including allowing more than 100 yards rushing in the third quarter.EDGE: MICHIGAN STATE

MSU SPECIAL TEAMSThe Irish allowed an uncharacteristic kick return against Michigan, and Tausch needs to get more distance on his kickofffs. Senior kicker Brett Swenson converted 22 of 28 attempts last season and is a perfect four-for-four this year. In a close game, Swenson’s experience could give the Spartans an edge.Junior punter Aaron Bates has averged 48.9 yard per punt this year, and has had every punt called for a fair catch.EDGE: EVEN

MSU OFFENSIVE COACHINGJon Tenuta’s aggressive defense struggled to tackle against the Wolverines, but the game plan was not the issue. The Irish are still trying to figure out defensive personnel and packages that best fit their talented but young front seven. Don Treadwell’s offenses have usually been conservative against the Irish but won by playing mistake free football. Tenuta will hope his pressure on a less mobile quarterback will give the Irish the edge.EDGE: NOTRE?DAME