SB Nation has a Notre Dame blog called One Foot Down
, and I recently exchanged questions with them in advance of this weekend's matchup. My questions are in bold. Enjoy!
1. So...are you hanging in there? It's been a rough two weeks. Tell us about it.
I've been in attendance for both of Notre Dame's games this year, so rough is an understatement. There were certainly high expectations going into this season, so its disappointing to see the season begin the way it has. I'm not really one to make excuses, but the Irish have had all kinds of bad luck. Untimely red zone turnovers and Gary Gray's worst game of his career are sitting between Notre Dame and a perfect record. But it is what it is, and there's still plenty of football to play. And a win against Sparty would certainly help right the ship.
2. Notre Dame leads the FBS in turnovers so far (sorry to bring that up). How many have been caused by flukes or weird bounces, and how many can be attributed to genuine mistakes by the offense?
It's split almost evenly between flukes and mistakes in my opinion. The INT off of TJ Jones's face mask against USF, Rees's fumbles USF and UM, and Cierre Wood's fumble against Michigan when he ran into the back of a lineman could probably all be counted as flukes. And then Jonas Gray's fumble against South Florida can probably be credited as an outstanding defensive play to rip the ball out. It's hard to call all of them flukes because they keep happening, but I'm not sure what the coaches can do about it. Now, Rees's interceptions are more genuine. He has a habit of staring down Michael Floyd and throwing it into double coverage, but I can't say I blame him. Floyd has been huge so far and I'd rather have my quarterback try to get the ball to his playmaker than ignore him (*cough*Crist!*cough*). But his decision making needs to improve. These turnovers are taking years off my life.
3. We know Manti Te'o is a wrecking ball. Give us the name of another defensive player MSU should be highly concerned about.
I'll give you two. First, look out for defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore. He bulked up this offseason and had an outstanding game against Michigan. He'll be lined up against the left side of your offensive line. And next to him will be big ol' Louis Nix III. He's a 325lb. sophomore behemoth nose tackle. He only plays part-time because he's getting his first live action this year, but he's been active when he's in. He stands up blocks and commands double teams, so look for him clogging the middle.
4. How has the offense looked this year besides the Crist/Rees to Floyd parts?
Outside of the turnovers, the offense has been outstanding. Of course, Michael Floyd has been a big part of that, but what has really made this offense click is the running game. The offensive line is playing inspired football so far, opening up huge holes for Cierre Wood and Jonas Gray. After not having a single 100 yard game from a back last season, Wood has eclipsed the century mark in both games this year. If they can stop turning the ball over, this offense will be very hard to stop.
5. Lastly, there's a game on Saturday! Tell us how you think it'll play out and your prediction.
I still have a lot faith in this team and don't feel like all is lost. The turnovers have to stop at some point (I think) and when that happens, I think this team will take off. The offense has been great and the defense was great for the first seven quarters of the season. Michigan State will definitely be the most balanced offense we'll have faced to this point, and after the game the secondary had against Michigan, I'm worried that Cousins will pick us apart through the air. But MSU will also be the first team we'll face where the quarterback isn't a threat to beat us with his legs, so I'm hoping not having to always watch for the QB keep will allow the secondary to focus on pass defense. I think the line is much better equipped to stop the MSU ground game than last season when you guys ran all over us and I think we have the ability to put some pressure on Cousins. I'm confident Notre Dame can score points and I think the defense can hold, so I'll go out on a limb and predict an Irish victory, 37-24. But if we start turning the ball over, then all that goes out the window and you'll find me on ledge clutching a whiskey bottle.