Sep 21, 2013; South Bend, IN, USA; A rainbow appears over the Notre Dame campus before the game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Michigan State Spartans at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Predictions: Michigan State @ Notre Dame

2013 Notre Dame Football

Michigan State

September 21, 2013 3:30 P.M. ET

TV: NBC

Last Meeting (2012): Notre Dame 20-Michigan 3

Line (as of 2:45 p.m. on 9/21): Notre Dame (-6.0)

Lead Editor, Andrew Hall: Michigan State 17-Notre Dame 21

Staff Writer, Nick Combs: Michigan State 24-Notre Dame 17

Podcast/Contributor, Brett Arney: Michigan State 31-Notre Dame 27

Staff Writer, Tim Colin: Michigan State 17-Notre Dame 14

From Staff Writer Michael James:

This game seems much more important to the Irish than the Spartans.  Notre Dame needs a solid win against a good opponent after the loss to Michigan and the terrible performance against Purdue.  Most of this game will be determined by the battle between the Spartan’s #1 ranked defense and Notre Dame’s high powered offense, but the Irish defense needs to show up and prove that they are still an effective unit.

Make no mistake, the Spartans will try to establish the running game early and often, and hope their defense keeps it close.  But Mark Dantoni and his staff have, no doubt, poured over Notre Dame’s games and identified their weakness in defending underneath passes and mobile quarterbacks.  Conner Cook can scramble and if Notre Dame’s secondary fails to keep the Spartans’ wide receivers in check, expect Michigan State to convert third downs and dominate time of possession at the very least.

Notre Dame’s defense needs to use their outside backers to pressure Conner Cook and force the young quarterback into bad decisions.  He does not have the speed of Devon Gardner so Calabrese, Fox and Grace should be able to spy him and close quickly if he exits the pocket.  I expect Notre Dame’s defense to stop the traditional rushing attack of the Spartans because the defense has performed well against a straight rushing attack (they have failed at containing mobile quarterbacks).  Notre Dame can turn Michigan State into a one-dimensional offense, but the question remains if the pass defense can make plays.

If the Spartans had better receivers and a more experienced quarterback I would put the Irish on upset alert.  But given their underdeveloped quarterback and receiver unit, I give the edge to Notre Dame.  But the game, big surprise, will be close.

From Staff Writer Tim Colin:

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.

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