Friday, September 14, 2012

Notre Dame, my two-bit analysis, and other stuff

The Spartans play Notre Dame tomorrow, and I'll be darned if I know what to expect from either team.

It seems likely that MSU's defense will show up to play, and probably play well. But the X-factor is Notre Dame's offense. Cierre Wood, from what I've heard, will be back in ND's backfield. How effective will he be? Will he be rusty after his exile? How much will Theo Riddick play, and will he share time with Wood? Of course, I don't know how effective Notre Dame's running game will be against Michigan State, anyway. It may not matter whether Wood or Riddick play. On the other hand, I may be getting too cocky, and from my experience as a Michigan State fan, that is not good. Best to maintain a degree of humility.

Notre Dame's huge tight end, Tyler Eifert, is another player who concerns me, but aside from him it doesn't look like the Irish have many big play threats at the receiver position.  (Speaking of Notre Dame receivers, is it just me or does it seem like the Irish always have some huge tight end on their team? Through the years, they've had guys like Kyle Rudolph, John Carlson, Anthony Fasano, and many others. Much as Evanston, Illinois must have a factory that produces undersized and shifty quarterbacks, South Bend, Indiana has one that manufactures 6'5" 250 pound hulks that catch footballs and steamroll everything in their wake).

Michigan State's offense is also a question mark. I assume that Andrew Maxwell will continue to improve at quarterback, but will any pass catchers besides Dion Sims step up? I'd love to see DeAnthony Arnett, Bennie Fowler, Keith Mumphery, Macgarrett Kings, or anybody emerge as a playmaking receiver. I'm sure Notre Dame will do everything they can to contain Le'Veon Bell and MSU's running game, so it will be imperative for the Spartans to get something going in the air against ND's untested defensive backfield.

And that is my two-bit, completely unsolicited and non-expert analysis.

 Two nights ago I had a dream that Michigan State beat the Irish, 24-16.  Then again, last night I had a dream that the Spartans lost. Being an optimist, however, I'll stick with my Wednesday night dream and predict that MSU will defeat Notre Dame by that 24-16 score.


For me, and most other MSU fans and alumni, the Notre Dame game is the second biggest one on our schedule after the Indiana game and the battle for the Old Brass Spittoon...ha, had you going there, didn't I? All right, with all due respect to the Hoosiers, I think we all know the most important game on MSU's schedule. Anyway, the Notre Dame game is pretty darned big, and with the Spartans dominating in recent years, I suspect it's become more important for the Golden Domers. That being said, with Notre Dame's recent announcement that they are (kinda sorta) joining the ACC in football, it would be a major shame if MSU's rivalry with the Irish ended permanently after next year. You know what, it would be worse than a "major shame" would be a travesty. MSU and Notre Dame have a football series that dates back to 1897, Notre Dame was one of the first major football powers to agree to a home-and-home series against Michigan State, and helped MSU (then known as MSC) join the Big Ten. It's a storied rivalry that deserves to be respected and continued in perpetuity.


I'll conclude this post with another episode of "Mark tells you a story". This one involves Notre Dame and my first full day on MSU's campus back on September 20, 1986. Looking back on it now, I'm lucky it wasn't my last.

I recall that it was a sunny and pleasant Saturday morning and I decided to take a walk in order to purchase a "Beat Notre Dame" button at the Student Book Store on Grand River Avenue. Heading back towards Shaw Hall from SBS after making my purchase, I was surrounded by the sheer gorgeousness of the campus and was joyous over my new-found freedom as a college student. I was swelled with Spartan Spirit. As I walked south just beyond Beaumont Tower, I spotted a young man in a Notre Dame t-shirt walking towards me. He was strolling alongside, presumably, his girlfriend.  They both appeared to be enjoying the beautiful September morning as much as I was.

Already pumped up with Spartan pride, and acting like an impetuous teenager, I made some smart ass remark as I walked past the Notre Dame fan (I don't remember what, but probably something along the lines of, "We're gonna kick yer ass today!"). The ND fan did not take kindly to my remark, and made a move to challenge me to a fight. His quick-thinking and reasonable girlfriend grabbed his arm and said something like, "Just let it go." He heeded her advice and the two continued on their way.  I, too, resumed my walk and when I returned to Shaw, joked about the incident with some of my floormates--but there was a part of me that was shaking just a little about the silly scuffle I just narrowly avoided with that Fighting Irish fan who was prepared to live up the nickname.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that guy's level-headed girlfriend. Thanks for preventing us two idiots from ruining our Saturday.

As it turned out, the Spartans beat Notre Dame that day, 20-15, with Todd Krumm finishing the day with two big interceptions and Lorenzo White rushing for over 140 yards.

It was an odd, but ultimately happy, first full day on MSU's campus.

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