NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (2-1)
at MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS (2-0)
Spartan Stadium – East Lansing, MI
Kickoff: Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET
Line: Notre Dame -4.5, Total: 54
Two of college football's premier programs are still looking to recover from dismal 2016 seasons.
When the Michigan State Spartans traveled to South Bend in Week 3 of the 2016 college football season, it appeared to be one of the best matchups of the young season. And it ended up being a fun one, too, as the No. 12 Spartans took down the No. 18 Irish 36-28. No one could have predicted that, from that point forward, the two CFB powerhouses would combine to finish the year with a stunning 4-15 combined record. Now, both teams are setting out to right their respective ships, and they certainly appear to be well on their way to doing so early on in the 2017 campaign. The Spartans are 2-0 (2-0 ATS), having won games (that they absolutely should have won) against Bowling Green and Western Michigan. After a week off, they'll get their first real test against the Irish, who are 2-1 (2-1 ATS) with decisive wins over Temple and Boston College, and a tight home loss to Georgia sandwiched between the two. Since 1992, road favorites averaging at least 230 rushing yards per game and coming off a game in which they outrushed an opponent by at least 150 yards (ND) are 7-31 ATS against teams allowing less that 100 rushing yards per game. In the same timeframe, road favorites of 3.5 to 10 points that gained at least 6.25 yards per play in their previous game (ND) are 19-52 ATS in games involving two teams that are outrushing their opponents by at least 100 yards per game.
Both of Notre Dame's wins this season have come by way of dominating performances on the ground. In a 49-16 Week 1 win over Temple (ND -20), they put up 422 rushing yards. Last week in a 49-20 win over Boston College (ND -14), they rushed for a staggering 515 yards. QB Brandon Wimbush (50.5 CMP%, 491 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs; 49 carries, 314 yards, 6 TDs) led the (literal) charge against the Eagles, far surpassing the school record for rushing yards by a quarterback in scampering for 207 yards and four touchdowns. The four TDs were the third-most ever by an Irish player of any position. Wimbush has been shaky as a passer in his first season at the helm for Notre Dame, completing just over 50% of his passes and only averaging 5.28 yards per attempt. He has absolutely victimized his team's weaker opponents with his legs, but only had a single rushing yard against Georgia (due largely, to sacks, but still). It remains to be seen whether he can dominate a good defense. RB Josh Adams (56 carries, 443 yards, 2 TDs; 8 catches, 69 yards) also tore through Boston College, with 229 yards on only 18 carries. He's fifth in the country in rushing yards after three weeks of play, and is also the Irish's third-leading receiver. RB Dexter Williams (12 carries, 174 yards, 3 TDs) took six carries for 50 yards and two scores against BC. TE Alize Mack (9 catches, 101 yards) and WR Equanimeous St. Brown (7 catches, 99 yards, TD) have been Wimbush's favorite targets.
Michigan State is yet to leave the confines of East Lansing for a game this season, and have covered the spread in both a 35-10 win over Bowling Green (MSU -17) and a 28-14 win (MSU -7) over a Western Michigan team that gave USC a run for its money the week prior. QB Brian Lewerke (64.8 CMP%, 411 yards, 4 TDs, INT; 17 carries, 150 yards, 2 TDs) got some action last season, but is the full-time starter for the Spartans this year. He was fantastic through the air in the opener, completing 22 of 33 passes for 250 yards and three touchdowns against the Falcons. Against a tougher Broncos defensive unit the next week, he struggled a bit, going 13-of-21 for 161 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He made use of his legs however, carrying the ball nine times for 81 yards and two touchdowns. He'll need to be efficient in both respects against an Irish defense that is yet to allow more than 20 points to an opponent this season. RB LJ Scott (33 carries, 125 yards, TD) will need to step up his game, as well. Against the two-headed Georgia backfield of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, Notre Dame kept each beneath the 75-yard plateau. Scott will look to find holes in what has been a solid front seven. Lewerke's favorite targets have been WRs Darrell Stewart Jr. (9 catches, 118 yards) and Felton Davis III (8 catches, 104 yards, 2 TDs), as no other player has either five catches or 50 receiving yards. Stewart has also carried the ball three times in each game for 98 yards total, including a long 46-yard run against Western Michigan.