Notre Dame – Michigan State ’16: Spartan Offense Preview

Michigan State RB LJ Scott (Photo: Mike Carter // USA TODAY Sports)
Michigan State RB LJ Scott (Photo: Mike Carter // USA TODAY Sports)

Following the Nevada victory, the Notre Dame defense has little time to savor its first win. That’s because this Notre Dame Michigan State matchup will involve facing a team coming off a bye week after a 28-13 home victory against Furman on September 2.

Michigan State Players to Watch

Quarterback Tyler O’Connor is a senior with a relatively thin resume, though he was able to assist the Spartans in their huge road upset of Ohio State last year. He figures to be rely on his experienced backfield trio of L.J. Scott, Gerald Holmes and Madre London. While none have great speed, each gained more than 500 yards last year.

The Spartan receiving corps has one returnee at the wideout position in senior R.J. Shelton, though a potentially dangerous weapon in true freshman Donnie Corley. The two tight ends for MSU, Josiah Price and Jamal Lyles, may also cause some trouble.

The area that sustained the biggest offseason hit was the line, though sophomore David Beedle at left tackle is a potential standout. His play could serve as a litmus test for the Spartans since he’ll be protecting O’Connor’s blind side.

Match-Ups That Notre Dame Can Exploit

The combination of a relatively new quarterback, a reshaped offensive line and facing a team under the Golden Dome could work to the benefit of the Notre Dame defense. Of course, the previous Irish game with a similar scenario resulted in Texas racking up 50 points against this unit.

However, applying a stronger level of pressure in this Notre Dame Michigan State 2016 matchup can force O’Connor out of the pocket. Still, getting him to throw means keeping the Spartan running game in check. Blitzes were especially effective against Texas, a strategy that should again be in place for this contest.

Employing this approach may leave Notre Dame vulnerable to draw plays, though the collective lack of speed among the Spartan runners may not do as much damage as might ordinarily be expected.

Match-Ups Notre Dame Should Avoid

The versatility of Michigan State’s running attack could end up taking their toll in this Notre Dame Michigan State contest. Even with a sluggish performance against Furman, the Spartans were still able to collect 171 rushing yards on 40 carries.

The 237 yards that Texas gained showed that the Irish run defense wasn’t ready for prime time. Two weeks later, the on-the-fly fixes taking place need to be ready to go or Brian Kelly’s offense might spend an inordinate amount of time just watching the game.

The Bottom Line

Pressure and Irish football are always intertwined, especially when it comes to striving for a title. Entering this Notre Dame Michigan State 2016 battle, there’s no longer any margin of error for the team as a whole or the Notre Dame defense. In the latter case, they need to do their part in holding up their end of the deal.

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