Sep 11, 2012

Notre Dame/Michigan State Preview: Game of the Century Part 2?

Will MSU win on a trick play, or runaway with an easy victory?
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By Blain Bradley

The stage is set for a showdown at Spartan Stadium on September 15th. The 10th ranked Spartans will face the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who after a close win against Purdue, earned a #20 ranking in the AP Top 25 Polls. The game has huge BCS implications. Both teams are seeking post-season bids in major bowl games, and with a game like this they'll have their chance to make some noise. 

Notre Dame returns star running back Cierre Wood. Wood was suspended for the first two games due to a violation of team rules. Wood is an elusive runner who can cause frustration for the Spartans. Wood was considered a dark-horse Heisman candidate prior to his suspension. Wood is currently on thin ice with the Fighting Irish fans. Fighting Irish Faithful were relying on wood to be a leader. They expect nothing less than a huge game from him. 

The Spartans will counter the Fighting Irish with their own Heisman hopeful, Le'Veon Bell. Last week against Central Michigan Bell carried the ball 18 times for 70 yards (3.8 yards per carry) and two touchdowns. Bell had an absolute monster game in the opener against Boise State. Bell's most eye-popping statistic of the season is his yards per carry average, which currently sits at 4.5. Bell can chip away at the Notre Dame defense. He is the rock that holds the Spartan offense. The Notre Dame rush defense is currently allowing runners to amass 3.41 yards a carry. Bell will challenge the tenacious defense and look to make big plays. 

Irish quarterback Everett Golson has looked solid in his first two outings. He was methodical against Navy, however he suffered a thumb injury in the Purdue game that forced him to leave early (before leaving the game Golson completed 21 out of 31 passes for 289 yards and a touchdown). According to insiders at CBS, Golson is "expected to start this game." This is going to be Golson's biggest test to date. He will face a stellar Spartan defense that will look to pressure him constantly. Golson was sacked five times in the Purdue game. The Spartan pass rush can finally shine against a weak pass protection.

Spartan fans will be watching quarterback Andrew Maxwell intently. Maxwell was a little shaky in his first start against Boise State. Coach Dantonio changed the game plan up against Central Michigan. He limited Le'Veon Bell's carries, and allowed Maxwell to throw the ball around. Maxwell looked poised against Central. He threw 31 passes, completing 20 of them for 275 yards and two touchdowns. At times Maxwell looked nervous, often overthrowing receivers. He definitely has the arm strength needed to contend in the Big Ten, he just needs to work on finesse. 

The game also has historical value to it. Notre Dame and Michigan State have been heated rivals since 1897. The Spartans and Fighting Irish duke it out in the Battle for the Megaphone. In 1966 the rivalry escalated to new heights in a game that was dubbed "The Game of the Century." The 9-0 Spartans were ranked #2 in the polls, while the Fighting Irish (who were 8-0) entered the game at #1. The Spartans were the defending national champions. The game ended in a 10-10 tie (the Irish elected not to make an endzone attempt) which led to both teams being crowned national champions.

The rivalry has grown even bigger in recent years. Two years ago, Coach Dantonio stunned the college football world when he called a "Little Giants" trick play in overtime to take down the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame got revenge by solidly defeating the Irish in their next showdown. 

Will Saturday night's game rival past MSU/Notre Dame games? Will the Spartans pull off another "Little Giants" play to take down Notre Dame? Will it be the new "Game of the Century"? Fans will have to tune in to ABC on September 15th at 8 P.M. to find out. 

MSU 20
ND 10
The Spartans will prove to be the more physical team, handling Notre Dame on both sides of the ball. Andrew Maxwell will look much more composed than he did against Boise State, and Le'Veon Bell will continue to score when in the red-zone. The Fighting Irish defense has not faced an offense with raw power and talent like Michigan State's. Irish quarterback Everett Golson will cause early headaches for the Spartans, however the Spartans will tighten the screws by halftime. 

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