There are plenty of reasons for Irish fans to be excited about the match-up with the Michigan State Spartans; every year this game is a measuring stick for Notre Dame. The Spartans come into South Bend boasting a 3-0 record and the No.1 defense in the country. As usual, they’re going to play a tough, physical game and this match-up will show both teams where they truly stand.
Now, this whole No.1 defense in the country thing is a bit overstated, but not to be overlooked. The Spartans opponent’s collective record is 2-7 through the first three weeks of the season; not exactly filled with juggernauts if you can’t tell.
The Spartans have still imposed their will on opposing offenses and will prove to be a challenge for Tommy Rees and company this weekend
Let’s take a closer look:
The Spartans are allowing just fifty yards a game on the ground, thanks to a stout defensive front. Up and coming red-shirt sophomore Shilique Calhoun has emerged as a big time play maker at defensive end. In three games this season he’s collected four turnovers, returning two for touchdowns. Needless to say, the Irish need to take care of the football. Marcus Rush and Micajah Reynolds hold down the other defensive end spot and nose tackle positions respectively while bringing some experience to the table as well. Reynolds is a big nose tackle that will clog up the middle of the field, making it even more difficult for the unstable running game of the Irish.
The middle of Sparty’s defense is filled with size and experience. Max Bullough and Denicos Allen are both seniors (Bullough a RS) and Taiwan Jones is a junior. Neither Bullough nor Allen will blow your mind statistically; however, both set the tone physically for the Spartan defense. Along with Reynolds at nose tackle, the Spartan linebackers will be a force to be reckoned with against the run.
Senior corner back Darqueze Dennard and safety Isaiah Lewis are on the cusp of leading the Spartans in career starts; reiterating again how experienced this defense is. With such an experienced secondary, the Spartans are able to put pressure on the quarterback and sellout against the run in obvious run situations without exposing their secondary too much.
This Spartan defense is the same thing the Irish have seen for years, they are deep and physical and will try and take over the game for their offense. Brian Kelly and Chuck Martin know what to expect from this team defensively and there shouldn’t be anything Rees hasn’t seen either. This game is a great opportunity for the Irish to show what their offense is made of. While the Spartans haven’t exactly played the toughest schedule in the country, they are still the No.1 defense. The Irish need to show they can match the physicality of Michigan State; if they can do that, their skill players can take over.