Staff Predictions: Michigan State
Observer Sports Writers | Thursday, September 15, 2011
After two straight weeks of mistake-ridden football, it’s simply impossible for me to believe the Irish are going to change their habits until they prove it on the field. It’s really that simple.
Michigan State is far better than South Florida or Michigan. The Spartans are big, fast and physical. It’s not that Notre Dame isn’t capable of playing with them. The Irish have more talent, and the first quarter of last week’s game shows they’re capable of living up to it. The problem is that this team continues to make mistakes when it can least afford them, and until the Irish show they can clean it up, it’s difficult to see them beating a good team.
It’ll be a close game. It’ll be a defensive struggle. But it’ll also be a sadly familiar result.
FINAL SCORE: Michigan State 21, Notre Dame 17
All around me are familiar faces, worn out places, worn out faces. Faces sick of losing. Faces sick of losing when the Irish should be winning.
But, it is indeed a mad world. Thus, while I’d love to say those faces have something to look forward to, once again, the odds are slim.
Actually, the odds are technically in Notre Dame’s favor. As of Wednesday night, the Vegas oddsmakers were giving the Irish a 4.5 point cushion over the No. 15 Spartans. That’s right, a ranked, undefeated Michigan State squad is expected to lose to winless Notre Dame.
Why? Because the Irish can’t possibly keep turning the ball over five times a game, right? Right, but once or twice will be too much against the Spartans.
FINAL SCORE: Michigan State 27, Notre Dame 23
The Irish have now twice proven that it is possible to be the far superior team on the field and still lose the game. Plagued by costly errors offensively, defensively and on the sideline, Notre Dame has turned what should have been a home game to stay undefeated into another must-win game. Nine turnovers, including six inside the red zone, sloppy special teams play and poor pass coverage have cost Notre Dame both games thus far.
But the Irish couldn’t possibly turn the ball over in the red zone three times again, could they? Notre Dame turns things around and beats the Spartans handily Saturday.
But remember, if the game stays close, anything could happen.
FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 27, Michigan State 17
Associate Sports Editor
When these two squads duke it out, the game is almost always a thriller, and this year should be no different.
Despite the close contests, the Spartans are 10-4 in their last 14 against the Irish, including a six-game winning streak at Notre Dame Stadium that was snapped in 2009.
Talent is not Notre Dame’s problem, but costly turnovers are. While they will take a step in the right direction by protecting the football Saturday, it will not be enough to top a Big 10 title contender in Michigan State.
The running tandem of Edwin Baker and Larry Caper will keep time of possession in Michigan State’s favor and will lift the Spartans to another close win over Notre Dame as the Irish fall to 0-3 on the season.
FINAL SCORE: Michigan State 37, Notre Dame 31
Assistant Managing Editor
Someone has to pick Notre Dame, right? The Irish played their best quarter of football in four years in the opening 15 minutes of Saturday’s loss to Michigan — and still lost. While we won’t actually know how good the Wolverines are until they play through their Big Ten schedule, the Irish 2011 schedule is unforgiving. 2010 co-Big Ten champion Michigan State rolls in with more confidence than the team’s play merits following wins over Youngstown State and Florida Atlantic. Spartans quarterback Kirk Cousins is an underrated passer who can break off a run if the Irish linebackers fail to keep him contained, but has only tallied two touchdowns thus far. I’ll be watching the battle of the trenches. If Rees hits the deck less than three times Saturday, Notre Dame avoids the “best winless team in America” feature on College Football Live.
FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 28, Michigan State 24