Initially I had planned to toss in audio of a Michigan State sports radio host losing his mind in 2006, pictures of the flag planting in 2005, pictures of the resulting “defense” of Michigan State’s 50 in 2006, and video of the “Little Giants” play that cost us last year’s game against Sparty. However, I’m not. The majority of those events happened in Weis’ tenure, and in today’s world of college football, should be considered ancient history. Even the “Little Giants” thing last year should be put far, far behind in the rear-view mirror as well.
The reason is simple, there is more recent history to be concerned about and that’s the fact the Irish come into this game 0-2 with the worst turnover margin in the nation, are ranked 106 (out of 120) in yards penalized per game, and ranked 119 in net punting. The Irish are their own worst enemy.
I could spend a lot of time on how Michigan State will likely have the best defense that we have seen yet. How their defensive line will be the first true test for the revived running game. How their more traditional offense will showcase a battle of size and strength in the trenches rather than speed. How we will be beaten over the head yet again with our record against ranked opponents as the Spartans walk in as #15 in the nation.
No matter what “skill level” Sparty comes in at, we know that they give us a run for our money. Since 2000 all but two games have been decided by a single possession. Those two games were the horrendous and very forgettable 2007 and 2008 campaigns in which we flat out got crushed. The last time the Irish actually beat the Spartans by more than a single possession was in 1993. Michigan State comes to play the Irish, period.
As discussed in this week’s IBG, everyone came to a pretty unanimous consensus that the big key to this week’s game is to stop shooting ourselves in the damned foot. Again, everything else regarding Michigan State is rather secondary at this point. It’s rather hard to worry to continuously worry about what Michigan State will do if we cough up the ball five times again, penalize ourselves at the worst possible times, or have Turk punt the ball so bad we all wish that Kelly would add a Rees arm punt to the playbook.
At some point this needs to turn around. Vegas still believes in us as we are yet again favorites to win. The talent around this team is undeniable; however, repeat the last two weeks and the sky will be falling.
With all that being said it’s prediction time (yes, this is a very short preview, but I’m not going to use 500 or so more works to say “ND needs to pull their head out of their ass”). I sure hope I don’t end up saying this every week; however, I just can’t believe that the Irish will turn the ball over five more times. Maybe I’m in total denial, but oh well. All that being said, since Michigan State will always play this game to the wire, I’m looking for a very close game all the way through.
ND 27 – Sparty 24
For the love of God, ND, end the pain.