But a quick word on Floyd. He could've gone for 200 against Michigan. He made those defensive backs look just terrible, and the only reason I think Clausen just played "okay" (25-42, 336 yards, 3 TDs 0 INTs) is that he left a ton of yardage on the field by leading Floyd out of bounds.
But, man, every time Clausen got the slightest bit of pressure he just chucked the ball, usually off his back foot, and never accurately. Future ND opponents should spy for screens and send the house again and again.
"I think we can," Narduzzi said Thursday at the assistant coaches' weekly media session. "Trevor got pressure last week pretty good like we anticipated, but he missed two sacks. If you run right by the guy, you don't get any."
There could be some changes in MSU's linebacking setup because fifth-year senior Brandon Denson struggled against Central Michigan and true freshman Chris Norman continues to impress.
"I think (Norman) had seven snaps last week and he gradually gets better every week," Narduzzi said. "He'll probably get 15 to 20 snaps this week. He's going to get more work and we'll find out what happens.
"No, I'm not happy with (Denson's) play."
Changes may be in order with the third-down nickel defense as well.
"Decker was an average pass rusher last week, and he’s got to get better or he’ll be replaced," Narduzzi said.
Fifth-year Michigan State center Joel Nitchman is expected to return to action for the first time since spraining his knee late in the first half of the season opener against Montana State.
Offensive line coach Dan Roushar said Thursday that he's planning to use Nitchman in Saturday's game at Notre Dame. Nitchman's name appeared on the dress list for last week's Central Michigan game, but he didn't suit up.
"We anticipate that Joel could be ready for us, so we're going down there with that in mind and we'll go from there," Roushar told reporters. "He's the quarterback of the offensive line. You can never replace the experience he has. He sets the tone and the tempo for how we come in and out of huddles.
"The defensive line just has question marks all over, whether it's because of youth or that they're generally unproven as performers. And since the Irish haven't been particularly stellar at stopping the run the past couple seasons as it is, it's a concern."
Junior Ian Williams and sophomore Ethan Johnson are a talented pair, but both struggled vs. the [Nevada] Wolf Pack’s veteran front line. Irish defensive ends Kerry Neal and John Ryan are undersized on the right side (quality pass rushers that can struggle at the point of attack) and Notre Dame features a redshirt freshman at left defensive end who played in his first collegiate game [against Nevada].
Even with the loss of David Bruton, this is a fantastic secondary. The corners are rock solid with Darrin Walls (#15) likely to push back into the starting lineup at some point. Then add in Gary Gray, Sergio Brown, and Jamoris Slaugther and ND is loaded at corner. There isn't too much depth at safety, but McCarthy is as steady as they come and won't miss many tackles. Count me in the group that thinks the transition back to safety will be an easy one for Harrison Smith.
I think we can move the ball and score points on the Irish. Tenuta is an excellent defensive coordinator, but his default setting is blitz, blitz, blitz, and stacking the box and bringing pressure really isn’t the way to defend against us. You really want to clamp down in the secondary, and force us to beat you on the ground, because we haven’t yet proven that we’re capable of doing that.
For me, this game will turn on how game-ready Michael Floyd is. If he’s healthy, we’re probably not going to be able to stop both he and Golden Tate, and ND will get a couple long touchdown passes that will make the difference. If he’s still hurt, I think we can somewhat contain Tate, and slow down ND’s passing game just enough to win. Ultimately, though, I think our biggest problem is that our pass rush isn’t going to bother Clausen at all, and with time in the pocket, he’s going to pick us apart. Another thing to watch is whether Clausen and Allen are able to gouge our defense with screen passes; we looked absolutely hopeless last week in defending screens.
Gun to my head prediction: ND jumps out to an early lead, MSU fights back to take the lead, but ND gets a late touchdown to win 31-27. But I’ve picked ND to win this game at home many times now, and somehow we keep on escaping back to East Lansing with the Megaphone, so you never know . . .