FORT WAYNE – Records: No. 22 Irish (2-1), Spartans (3-0)
When: 3:30 p.m. today
Where: Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend
Radio: 1190 AM, 107.3 FM
3 matchups to watch
Notre Dame’s offense vs. Michigan State’s defense: The Irish are still trying to jump-start a running game that is averaging 125 yards with a rotation of five running backs – Amir Carlisle (49.3 yards per game), Cam McDaniel (41.7), George Atkinson III (32.7), Greg Bryant (7) and Taraen Folston (7). Quarterback Tommy Rees has thrown for 969 yards with seven touchdowns and two interceptions, but his passes have gone to primarily on two targets – receivers TJ Jones (19 catches, 289 yards) and DaVaris Daniels (17 catches, 299 yards). The Spartans are the nation’s top-ranked defense, giving up 177 yards per game. Michigan State is also No. 1 in passing efficiency defense (68.14), No. 4 in rush defense (50.3 yards per game) and No. 12 in scoring defense (12 points per game).
Notre Dame left tackle Zack Martin and right tackle Ronnie Stanley vs. Michigan State defensive end Shilique Calhoun: Calhoun, a 6-foot-4, 250-pound sophomore, grabbed most of the attention by scoring three touchdowns – one on an interception and two on fumble returns – in the first three games. He also has three tackles for loss and two sacks. Martin, a 6-4, 308-pound fifth-year senior, and Stanley, a 6-5, 318-pound sophomore, will both have chances to square off against Calhoun, who plays at both end positions. The Irish offensive line has given up three sacks this season, and it will be trying to stop a Spartans defense that has nine sacks in three games.
Notre Dame’s front seven vs. Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook: Cook, a 6-4, 218-pound sophomore, emerged from the Spartans’ quarterback competition as the starter after throwing for 202 yards and four touchdowns in last weekend’s 55-17 win over Youngstown State. He has completed 27 of 49 passes for 276 yards and adds a running element, gaining 70 yards in three games. Notre Dame struggled to keep Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner in check in a 41-30 loss Sept. 7 as Gardner ran for 82 yards and a touchdown. Notre Dame did better against Rob Henry last week in 41-30 win over Purdue, holding Henry to 2 rushing yards.
Prediction: Notre Dame 17, Michigan State 13