The schedule does not get any easier for the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame (0-2) in week 3 of the 2011 college football season, as they host the 15th ranked Spartans of Michigan St. (2-0) of the Big 10 this Saturday (3:30pm ET) in South Bend, IN. The Irish lost a wild one at archrival Michigan last week when the Wolverines’ Denard Robison threw a touchdown pass with two seconds remaining to clinch a 35-31 victory. Michigan St. has not been tested so far this season, easily winning both of their games at home against Youngstown St. 28-6 in week one, and Florida Atlantic by a score of 44-0 last week.
Notre Dame has continually shot themselves in the foot this season with a combination of turnovers, penalties and mistakes, particularly in the red zone, that have resulted in a disappointing 0-2 start for the Irish. ND ranks last in the country with 10 turnovers and 103rd in the nation with 8.5 penalties per game. The Irish offense ranks 13th in the nation in total YPG with 510.5 and 10th in passing YPG with 353, but only 76th in points scored with 25.5 per game. That gives you an idea of how much their turnovers have cost them in terms of points so far this season. They must avoid those mistakes against a Spartan defense that has allowed only three points so far this season. MSU’s defense has not been tested so far by their two doormat opponents, and the formidable Irish offense will surely change that this week.
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Michigan St. vs. Notre Dame Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
Michigan State Spartans +5
@ Notre Dame Fighting Irish -5
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Michigan St. vs. Notre Dame Pick:
The Spartans won last season’s meeting in East Lansing 34-31 on a gutsy fake field goal call on a play named “Little Giants” by head coach Mark Dantonio that resulted in a touchdown and a stunning win for MSU. The over is 7-2 in MSU’s last 9 non-conference games, and 36-15 in their last 51 road games. The under is 7-3 in the Irish’s last 10 games as a favorite, and ND is 18-37-2 ATS in their last 57 home games. In head-to-head play, the road team is 9-1 ATS in the last 10 meetings between the two teams and MSU is 10-4 ATS in their last 14 meetings. ND seeks to avoid only the third 0-3 start in the history of the program.
Both offensive units feature experienced quarterbacks in Tommy Rees for Notre Dame and Kirk Cousins for Michigan St., who will have plenty of playmakers at their disposal. Running back Cierre Wood (25 carries 134 yards and 1 TD against Michigan) and wide receiver Michael Floyd (25 receptions for 313 yards and 2 TDs this season) have been outstanding for the Irish so far this season and have the ability to go the distance any time the touch the ball. For MSU, running back Edwin Baker (5.8 YPC in 2010, 13 TDs) is a workhorse and Le’Veon Bell (5.7 YPC, 8 TDS in 2010) has a nose for the end zone. Cousins’ top receiving target is B.J. Cunningham (50 receptions, 9 TDs in 2010), and the Spartans will look to throw often against an Irish secondary that allowed 315 yards (8.1 yards per completion) through the air against Michigan. The over has come in six of the last seven meetings between these two teams, and with the talent on offense it looks like another high-scoring affair will be in the offing this Saturday in South Bend.