This weekend brings in one of Notre Dame’s biggest rivals, The Michigan State Spartans.

Known as little brother to Michigan fans, they have out-performed the Wolverines in recent years due to coach Mark Dantonio.

Dantonio has proven himself to be one of the best head coaches in the country year after year, putting together a winning program, finally distancing themselves from the days of John L. Smith. 2016 looks to be no different as the Spartans look to contend for the Big Ten Championship and a spot in a New Years Six Bowl or even a potential playoff spot.

For the Irish, a win on Saturday could put them back on track for the playoff or at the very least, a New Years Six Bowl game. A loss completely takes them out of the picture, no questions asked. Notre Dame is clearly the more talented roster, as they should be, but questions about their defense still remain.

While they should average 35 points a game on offense, will they be able to stop anyone that has real talent? Texas did whatever they wanted ageist the Irish most of the game. While Notre Dame did well against Nevada, they are no Texas or Michigan State. It remains to be seen if the Irish have made any improvement at all. That goes for coaching, too.

Having a young secondary like Notre Dame does, one would think the defensive coaches would put their players in the best position to be successful and to build the confidence that ultimately wins football games. That is the whole point of coaching, if you ask me. It is not the point to prove to be a liability time and time again.

When Bob Diaco was in South Bend, he may have played a very vanilla style of defense but he never really got exposed, protecting our weaknesses. Playing a high-pressure defense like Brian Van Gorder favors depends on two things; defensive backs that can cover and getting pressure on the quarterback. None of these things have happened since he has been at Notre Dame, leading to his defense getting exposed more often than Taylor Swift changes boyfriends.

Playing Texas, they struggled to even stop the run, which should be the first goal (and their strength) of any good defense. One thing is for sure going into Saturday, if the Irish struggle to tackle and stop Michigan State’s running game, they will probably lose. Expect Michigan State to rely heavily on the running game as any Mark Dantonio coached team does, especially with a running back like LJ Scott.

With that said, I do expect Notre Dame to follow up their solid effort last week against Nevada with another good showing against the Spartans. I also expect them to continue to improve defensively. It would be nice to see Brian Kelly lean on his offensive line and running game a lot more as the offensive line is their biggest strength with NFL talent all over and running backs like Josh Adams, Tarean Folston and Dexter Williams. Look for DeShone Kizer to continue to prove he is one of the nations best quarterbacks and the continuing emergence of his biggest target, Equanimeous St. Brown.

Expect Notre Dame to pull out a closely contested game, taking advantage of home field and continuing to develop a young team.

 

Posted By: Kyle Akin

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