Notre Dame Football: Shilique Calhoun

Notre Dame prediction: Week 4 vs. MSU

September, 20, 2013
9/20/13
2:00
PM ET
I'm 3-for-3 this year, though I've been off -- way off -- the last two weeks.

When Michigan State has the ball: Connor Cook seemed to establish himself as the guy under center last week, throwing four first-half touchdown passes … albeit against FCS Youngstown State. He is mobile, too, which is a new wrinkle that the Spartans have not really had at quarterback in the Mark Dantonio era. Still, there is a lot to be learned about this offense, which, thanks to last week, now averages 34 points per game. (MSU scored just 26 and 21, respectively, in its first two games … and has help from four defensive touchdowns on the year.) The skill players are relatively unproven, though it will be interesting to see if the Spartans steal a page from past Irish opponents' playbooks and try to take the defensive line out of the game with lots of quick, short passes.

When Notre Dame has the ball: The Spartans rank first overall in total defense, though MSU has not played the stiffest competition so far (Western Michigan, USF, YSU). The Irish are still trying to get the ground game going and will likely try to establish that early. MSU has athletic corners who should challenge TJ Jones and DaVaris Daniels in the passing game. Shilique Calhoun is someone to be aware of at all times as well, as the defensive end has three scores on the year and can shift the momentum of a game with one play. (He also has an alter-ego, Bane, which may not sit well with Stephon Tuitt and his villain-like facemask.)

Intangible: Notre Dame is at home and has a defense ready to stop all of the early-season questions after sub-par performances at Michigan and Purdue. The Irish have won the last two meetings with the Spartans, and they have played far greater competition through three weeks, so they know more about themselves this early.

Prediction: Notre Dame 24, Michigan State 13. The Irish get off to a quick start early, and their defense finally begins to look like the unit many of us expected them to be entering the season.

Irish lunch links

September, 20, 2013
9/20/13
12:00
PM ET
Enjoy the weekend, gang.

Did you know? Michigan State-Notre Dame

September, 20, 2013
9/20/13
10:00
AM ET
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.

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