Notre Dame prediction: Week 3 at MSU

September, 13, 2012
9/13/12
9:00
AM CT
What's that? There's still a game to be played at the end of this week? Oh yeah. A pretty big one, too. No. 20 Notre Dame returns to No. 10 Michigan State, the site of "Little Giants" (the play, not movie) two years ago. Which team will improve to 3-0?

When Notre Dame has the ball: Identifying coverages and setting protections right is key for Everett Golson. He played well against Purdue but was sacked five times and hit countless others. MSU's defense is tougher than the Boilermakers'. Golson likely will have to keep plays alive with his feet. Tyler Eifert will once again be a huge part of the offense, as running against the Spartans' front seven will be very difficult, even with Cierre Wood back. MSU has not surrendered an offensive touchdown this season.

When Michigan State has the ball: Le'Veon Bell might be one of the best running backs in the country, and Michigan State is not afraid to ride him. The Irish's stout run defense will have to win first and second down, stacking the box and taking chances with the unproven Andrew Maxwell throwing against their unproven cornerbacks, who did manage to step up against Purdue.

Intangible: This is the first of three Irish road trips to top-10 opponents, with all three likely coming at night. This one is in prime time, and MSU has thrived at Spartan Stadium under Mark Dantonio, winning its past 14 inside the building. How Golson handles the atmosphere -- and, specifically, gets the plays in -- is something to keep an eye on, as this is his first true road test.

Prediction: Michigan State 17, Notre Dame 13. This game most certainly will be close and low-scoring, but the Spartans are just too strong defensively for a quarterback facing his first test in a true road environment. The Irish didn't show enough last week to earn faith in them pulling off this mild upset just yet.

Matt Fortuna | email

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