After a slip in the rankings, the No. 22 Notre Dame Fighting Irish seek to build off their comeback win over Purdue when they host the Michigan State Spartans at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Irish quarterback Tommy Rees became the second player in school history to pass for 300 yards in the first three games of the season after throwing for 309 yards and two touchdowns against the Boilermakers on Saturday. Rees will be tested by a Spartans defense that has surrendered just 36 points in three games, and are led by star defensive end Shilique Calhoun.
The 6-foot-4, 250-pound sophomore has already returned two fumbles and an interception for touchdowns this year, and has emerged as an integral part of the Spartans No. 1-ranked defense. Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi's unit has allowed an average of 50.3 rushing yards a game.
The Spartans have feasted on lesser teams thus far, but a victory over Notre Dame would likely boost Michigan State into the Top 25.
Quarterback Connor Cook has thrown for four touchdowns, but has just 276 total passing yards this season. In his first season as a starter, the sophomore has yet to throw an interception. Running back Jeremy Langford has done an admirable job filling in for Le'Veon Bell. The junior is averaging 4.5 yards per carry and has 200 rushing yards.
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The Irish have a trio of effective rushers in 2013. Running backs Amir Carlisle, Cam McDaniel, and George Atkinson have totaled 371 rushing yards this season on 4.8 yards per carry. Receivers DaVaris Daniels and TJ Jones lead the team with a combined 36 receptions for 588 yards and five touchdowns.
Notre Dame's defensive unit will look to rebound from subpar performances against Michigan and Purdue. Senior defensive tackle Louis Nix III is joined by linebackers Dan Fox and Jarrett Grace to help form a solid front seven. Senior cornerback Bennett Jackson has enjoyed a good start to the season. The captain returned an interception 34 yards for a touchdown against Purdue.
Notre Dame began the season ranked No. 14, but a road loss to Michigan on Sept. 7 has dropped them in rankings. It's unlikely that Brian Kelly's squad will overlook the undefeated Spartans with high-profile games against No. 14 Oklahoma, No. 23 Arizona State, and rival USC coming up.
In 2012, Notre Dame defeated No. 10 Michigan State in East Lansing, 20-3.
Saturday's game kicks off at 3:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast by NBC. Online viewers can watch a live stream on NBC Live Extra here.
Betting Odds: Notre Dame favored by 6.5 points.
Over/Under: 41 points
Prediction: Notre Dame 20, Michigan State 17