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  • Associated Press Notre Dame running back Josh Adams topped 2,000 career rushing yards last week against Boston College. He did it on his 316th carry, besting Irish legend George Gipp.

Saturday, September 23, 2017 1:00 am

Extra incentive for Irish, Spartans

Longtime rivals take break until 2026 after today's game

CHRIS GOFF | The Journal Gazette

Notre Dame at Michigan State

When: 8:17 p.m. today

Where: Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, Mich.

TV: Fox

Radio: 1190 AM, 92.3 FM, 107.3 FM

College football fans around the country often watch the battle between Notre Dame and Michigan State.

Classic games such as the Little Giants stunner of 2010 or the so-called Game of the Century in 1966 helped make the teams' annual showdown famous. Since 1949, there have been only six seasons the Irish and Spartans have not met.

“It's the battle for the Megaphone,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. “I mean, it's all about the Megaphone. There's been such great history and tradition going back to the '66 game. History, tradition, proximity, all of those things make for rivalry games.”

This series includes 78 all-time meetings, but after the Irish (2-1) battle Michigan State (2-0) tonight at Spartan Stadium, it will go on hiatus until 2026 due to a number of factors, including the Big Ten moving to a nine-game conference schedule.

“This is the last one for a while,” Spartans coach Mark Dantonio said. “What is it, '26? I'd be 70.”

Which side gets the last laugh might come down to confidence. When Michigan State earned a 36-28 victory last September at Notre Dame Stadium, it was early enough in the season that people expected each to be pretty good, but neither was. The Spartans finished 3-9, and Notre Dame 4-8.

This year, both teams remain a bit of a mystery. The Irish blew out Boston College and Temple and lost a one-point decision at home to No. 11 Georgia. Michigan State, coming off a bye week, owns home wins over Mid-American Conference opponents Bowling Green and Western Michigan.

Everyone wants to see if the Spartans can slow down Josh Adams. The junior running back surpassed 2,000 career rushing yards last week on his 316th carry. George Gipp, who played at Notre Dame during World War I, held the previous school record for the fastest to 2,000 yards rushing. Gipp got there on his 323rd carry.

“I mean, it's a blessing,” Adams said. “I've just got to thank God that I'm here and was able to do something like that. Stuff like that doesn't happen on your own. It happens with the offense as a whole, so it's big for all of us that somebody on the team was able to do that.”

The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Adams ranks eighth in the country with 147.7 rushing yards per game.

“We pride ourselves on stopping the run,” Michigan State linebacker Chris Frey said. “They are one of the best run offenses in the nation, so it's going to be a big head-to-head battle, and we're excited to take it on.”

Dantonio's defense is led by Joe Bachie, who has a team-high 21 tackles, and is allowing only 91.5 yards per game on the ground.

Offensively, the Spartans are breaking in a new quarterback, one that can run. Brian Lewerke ran seven times (not counting sacks) for 91 yards and two touchdowns in the last game.

Nick Coleman and Jalen Elliott, Notre Dame's safeties, have combined for 21 tackles. They could be key to preventing the types of big runs the Spartans had in last year's meeting when they ran for 260 yards.

“We have a point to prove,” Irish linebacker Greer Martini said. “We didn't like the outcome from last year. This is a big game. It's one of our rivals. They have the traveling trophy right now, and we want to get that back.”

cgoff@jg.net