So, it's just over 24 hours to kick off in South Bend, and I for one can not wait for it to begin, with a mixed bag of feelings that includes excitement, nervousness, and a great deal of impatience - along with a sincere hope that I am being more pragmatic than optimistic in this case.
Okay, that being said, lets get to the crux of why I believe this to be the case.
Alright, so first, I believe that we need to take a moment and look at why we feel ND is particularly good this season - good enough to beat us at any rate. Of course they looked good against Michigan, despite losing. They also were able to come back from a decent deficit vs. Purdue, and then there's the whole going undefeated until the National Championship thing they did last season. Which brings me to my point in this paragraph - This ND team is not last years ND team. It's not last year's offense, and it's not last years defense. I believe they miss the departure of a couple great half backs and a certain NFL caliber linebacker, and the leadership that linebacker had over their defense. Furthermore, while they won, they nearly lost to a team that got blown out by Cincinatti. The team they looked good in losing to nearly lost to Akron, who had just 3 wins over the last 3 seasons. While I understand that even at their best, last season they were able to grind out wins, while not exactly looking pretty, and the argument that Purdue always "plays them close" I have significant doubts about the defense and offense of this team.
So, besides trying to apply the transitive theory of wins to ND (not the most accurate meter, mind you), there are a lot of other reasons I feel good about this game.
1) Our defense, while it may or may not ultimately be the #1 defense in the country, is simply stifling. Arguably the best defense they have faced was Michigan, which doesn't seem to be particularly great of D this year, and they lost, due to mistakes and stalled drives. I think that we see a different Tommy Reese against Narduzzi's defense, and we get a couple of interceptions in this game. I also believe that we are going to stuff ND on the ground. Everybody's worried about our line versus their D-Line, but they should be concerned about how they match up with ours. Additionally, we spent the entire off season focusing on turnovers, particularly interceptions, and our secondary has played extremely well this season. I also think that those who were part of our defense last season want to deliver some payback for the 20 points they scored on us last season. Our defense did shut them down in the second half last years, our offense just couldn't capitalize on it. I think that we'll game plan a little better this season, and with the bye week coming up, our D can truly leave it all on the field. I feel really great about this Defense, and I would not underestimate them for a moment. Additionally, if we can get pressure on Rees, he isn't exactly elusive. I think we see him make some costly mistakes in this game. Don't think we'll get a strip off of him, but like I said, I think we'll see 2 picks on Saturday.
2) I think our offense is at least well on it's way to being average. That's all we need from them, is to be average. I think our guys can catch the ball now, and I think that we can run too. Our run blocking has not been suspect, it's just been our pass blocking. Now we do have a QB who can pick up a few yards on the ground, and escape pressure. I also think that while he's mistake prone to an extent, he is also going to do a lot of things right. I'm sure we will see an interception from him, hopefully our defense will be able to stop the bleeding on the ensuing drive. Personally, I feel having 3 capable RB's is better than having Bell, and having even just one or two of our receivers catching, we will do well offensively. Well enough to be average, and with our D, that's all we need.
3) Narduzzi, Bollman, and Dantonio
4) Better play designs, route running, etc.
The big reasons we would lose however would be as follows:
Special Teams Mistakes
So that being said, my prediction is that MSU will will 20-17
At this point