As always, thanks to ESPN Stats & Info and sports information departments for these tidbits.
These teams play for the Megaphone Trophy and this will be the 77th edition of what has been one of the more entertaining series in the country recently. The teams have split the last 10 meetings and nine of the last 13 have been decided by seven points or fewer with the game-winning score coming late in the fourth quarter or OT in eight of them. This will be the last time they will meet for two years. The series is set to resume in 2016 at Michigan State.
Notre Dame has won the last two meetings and is seeking to win three straight for the first time since winning eight in a row from 1987-94.
Through three games, the Irish have already allowed 71 points and two rushing touchdowns. Notre Dame was eight games into last season before it had allowed as many points or its first rushing touchdown (Oct. 27 at Oklahoma).
Defensive EPA PG (Expected Points Added Per Game) = Contribution of a team’s defense to its net points in game. So Michigan State’s defense contributed about 12.3 net points per game towards its scoring margin over the last two seasons. Based on EPA, if Michigan State had an average offense in each game they played, the Spartans would have added 4 more wins to their total from last season, resulting in an 11-2 record.
Michigan State has the highest defensive EPA in FBS (68.7). However, it’s the Spartans’ offense that has struggled. Seven of Michigan State’s nine offensive touchdowns came last week against FCS-level Youngstown State. Michigan State’s defense has scored twice as many touchdowns (four) against FBS opponents as its offense (two). Defensive end Shilique Calhoun alone has more touchdowns (three) against FBS opponents than his offense (two).
Michigan State is seeking its first 4-0 start since 2010 when it won its first eight games, finished 11-2 and shared the Big Ten championship.
The Spartans are one of nine teams that has not trailed in a game at any point so far this season.
The Spartans have forced their opponents into 104 three-and-out drives since the start of last season, most in the FBS.
Part of Michigan State’s defensive success has resulted from its ability to get after the quarterbacks. The Spartans have 43 total pressures (hurries and knockdowns) this season, most among AQ conference schools. When Michigan State’s opponents attempted a pass when under pressure, they have completed 4 of 31 attempts with no touchdowns and three interceptions.
Tommy Rees has completed 21 of 40 passes thrown at least 10 yards downfield this season. Rees has completed at least six such passes in each game, which matches the total number of completions for Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook on the season.