Notre Dame football: Keys to the game

AL LESAR
South Bend Tribune

A LEGIT RIVALRY

This competitive situation has nothing to do with fans or battles that date back decades. This one is personal. Over the years, the coaching paths of Mark Dantonio and Brian Kelly have crossed in many ways. In 2006, Kelly was a candidate for the Michigan State head coaching job. Dantonio, who was at Cincinnati, got it. Kelly then went from Central Michigan to Cincinnati. The competitive fire burns brightly in both of them, so there might be a little extra hop in their step for this game.

MAD MAX

Michigan State linebacker Max Bullough is the best player on the best defense in college football. Somehow, Notre Dame is going to have to find a way to neutralize Bullough's effectiveness, while not creating too many opportunities for other Spartan defenders to do damage.

KEEP TOMMY CLEAN

Notre Dame's offensive line has yielded three sacks in three games. In its three games, though the competition is questionable, Michigan State has collected nine. Keeping the Spartans, especially end Shilique Calhoun (8 hurries, 2 sacks) off Irish quarterback Tommy Rees is essential to the Irish success.

ADD A DIMENSION

In its first three games, the Irish offense has yet to find a consistent running game (averaging 125 yards). Whether it's Amir Carlisle, George Atkinson, Cam McDaniel or either of the freshmen, Notre Dame running backs need to assert themselves. Going against a defense as good as Michigan State's with one hand tied behind their back would be a problem for the Irish.

DIAL UP THE HEAT

Sophomore quarterback Connor Cook will be making his third collegiate start. Walking into Notre Dame Stadium to face the Irish is a bit more intimidating than getting under center against Youngstown State. Stephon Tuitt, Louis Nix, Sheldon Day, Prince Shembo, et.al., will be challenging.

Over the years, the coaching paths of Mark Dantonio and Brian Kelly have cross in many ways. SBT file photo