Notre Dame is on the road tonight for the first of three away games against opponents in The Associated Press Top 25.
The No. 20 Irish (2-0) play No. 10 Michigan State (2-0) at Spartan Stadium. Notre Dame, which also plays No. 2 USC and No. 5 Oklahoma on the road this year, is 2-11 on the road against top-10 teams since Lou Holtz left in 1996.
Here are three matchups to look at in tonight's game:
Notre Dame left tackle Zack Martin and right tackle Christian Lombard vs. Michigan State defensive ends William Gholston and Marcus Rush: Martin and Lombard will have to be at their best against the Spartans' two ends. Gholston has two tackles for loss and a sack this year, and Rush has three quarterback hurries. The 6-foot-7, 278-pound Gholston is the most menacing of the two, and he switches sides on the line giving Martin and Lombard both a chance to try and block him.
Notre Dame running backs Theo Riddick, Cierre Wood and George Atkinson III vs. Michigan State's rush defense: Riddick and Atkinson were held in check by Purdue last week as Riddick gained only 53 yards and Atkinson didn't gain a yard on his only carry. Michigan State will likely stack the box like Purdue, and the Spartans are only giving up 54.5 rushing yards per game, 11th best in the NCAA. The return of Wood from a two-game suspension gives the Irish another weapon in the running game, but it will be hard for any back to get yards against the Spartans' front seven.
Michigan State running back Le'Veon Bell vs. Notre Dame's rush defense: Bell made himself an early Heisman Trophy contender when he ran for 210 yards and two touchdowns on 44 carries in a 17-13 win over Boise State on Aug. 31. He got a bit of a rest last week in a 41-7 win over Central Michigan, carrying the ball 18 times for 70 yards and two touchdowns. Bell will be used more like in the opener than in Week 2 against Notre Dame. The Irish have improved their rush defense, giving up 119.5 rushing yards per game. And last year, Notre Dame was able to hold Michigan State to 29 rushing yards with Bell only getting 27 rushing yards.