Wednesday, June 28, 2006

2006 Spring Opponent Preview - Michigan State Spartans

Top player: Drew Stanton, QB
Make-or-break player: John Masters, Center
Biggest offensive strength: Quarterback
Biggest offensive weakness: Offensive Line
Biggest defensive strength: Linebackers
Biggest defensive weakness: Defensive backfield
No depth chart available, Official Personnel Breakdown

Michigan State has been living their life the last decade according to an unerring script. Come out of the gates strong, upset a couple of big teams (usually Notre Dame) and then stumble down the stretch in October and November, occasionally stumbling into a low-tier bowl game (come to think of it, that is quickly becoming the M.O. of their basketball team, too).

Last year was no exception. After an amazing start where Michigan State was one of the most potent offenses in the country early (even ahead of the "All-time best" NC runner-up SC Trojans for a while), a "legitimate" Heisman trophy contender in Drew Stanton, and a high-scoring shootout win against the Irish, they collapsed as usual, losing 6 of their last 7 games, and missing a bowl berth entirely.

This year, Drew Stanton is also being touted as one of the year's best QBs. However, the MSU offense lost its leading rusher from last year, Jason Teague, and has been trying to completely overhaul a defense that went from decent to downright awful against the pass over the course of the season.

Replacing their veteran corners are a couple of young whippersnappers who will be tested sorely by the Notre Dame offense. Also, the defensive line lost three starters, so the pass rush will likely be lacking. They have experienced and talented linebackers, but they will either be forced to rush the QB with their linebackers, hanging their inexperienced secondary out to dry, or drop them into coverage, allowing Darius to run wild against the outmuscled D-line.

On the other side of the ball, the Spartans will take a step back this year on offense, as their running game will suffer from the loss of Jason Teague, who was a difference maker in last year's overtime win, as well as the loss of 3 senior starters on the O-line. Those lineman will be replaced by Freshman and Sophomores, and with a Freshman set to play center and call all of the protections, the Spartans will not be a very good offensive line. The Irish will pin their ears back and rush the passer, as the Spartans don't have the horses to beat us on the ground.

Stanton will probably create some plays with his feet, and Stanton's experience is worth a couple of scores by itself. The Irish defense, though simply needs to contain this offense for a little while and let the offense run all over the overmatched D.

This game will be a blowout for the Irish. After last year's blatant disrespect after a good, clean, hardfought game, the Irish will not be lacking for motivation to beat the living s#(% out of those arrogant f()@%$. I've never seen a worse display of unsportsmanlike conduct by a sports team.

In last year's game, the only reason the Irish didn't beat the Spartans soundly is that our pass defense hadn't been challenged by a decent quarterback and set of receivers yet. Once they recovered from an early drubbing, the Irish dominated the outmatched Spartans over the last quarter and a half. The Irish will come out this year's game focused and pissed off, and will take it to the house early and often.

9/9Eastern MichiganW
9/16@ PittsburghW
9/23/td>Notre DameL
10/7@ MichiganL
10/14Ohio StateL
10/21@ NorthwesternW
10/28@ IndianaL
11/18@ Penn StateL

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