Scouting Report and Prediction: Michigan State vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
A look at this week’s opponent…
The Irish face the Spartans with a record of 2-1. They are talented at every position and have stockpiled talent at every position on the depth chart.
When MSU has the ball…
Michigan State has to account for the middle of the Irish DL. That is stating the obvious, but with almost 700 pounds at the center of the Irish D that is an immovable force. The MSU offensive coaches will want to use the feet of Connor Cook to move the pocket. ND wants him to stay in the pocket as long as he can. The Irish will stack the box. For Michigan State to win, it will take Cook’s arm and Cook’s feet.
ND struggles with their LB core so look for the Spartans to use draws, screens, and slants to attack. They want Cook to take some shots down field to keep the Irish D from loading the box.
As is the case every week, the Spartans want to pass when they want to and not be forced by the Irish to do it because they have to. With the nation’s best defense and punter when things don’t work out on offense, they don’t have to take unnecessary risks.
When MSU is on defense…
Tommy Rees, the Irish QB, is not the best QB in the nation. He is the best at the pre snap read. MSU likes to read and adjust. You will see the Spartans use a lot of delta (three man front), and in order to avoid what Rees does best, I expect them to wait to make adjustments to the Irish offense until the play clock is slipping down. The longer they can wait until the snap of the ball, the less time they give Rees to read and react.
If MSU can hide their blitz packages, they want to take the Irish wideouts on with 1 on 1 coverage and make Rees look everywhere for Spartans. They want him seeing guys that aren’t even there as they will bring blitzers from everywhere.
Once the ball is snapped, Rees is an average QB. It is the PRE SNAP where Rees is among the nation’s elite. So the MORE they can minimize his strengths, the more mistakes he will make. MSU has the D to attack him and capitalize on his errors; the question is IF they can minimize his strengths.
I said BEFORE the YSU game that the Spartans STAR LB Taiwan Jones, who Narduzzi characterized as “The worst player we have showing blitz,” could have limited reps because of that weakness and Jairus Jones could pick up some valuable reps.
Taiwan was injured last week and has been VERY limited in practice this week. He may not even dress for this game, but I still expect Jairus to get a ton of reps. The Spartans have spent the entire week adjusting to Rees and his skill set strengths.
Remember the rule of five. If MSU wins that, this game is over. For those who don’t remember it, it has to do with sacks and turnovers. If the Spartans have three sacks and give up two that means they are plus one. If they then get four turnovers and give up only one that means they are plus three. That would give them a plus four for the day. They want to get to a plus five ratio at least every game.
IF the MSU D can hide their intentions and minimize Rees they win. I have issues with this game with the MSU D. They are so aggressive. I love that, BUT this week, against this QB, that can be an Achilles heel. Make sure you watch MORE what happens before the snap when Notre Dame has the ball then what happens after.
If Rees is calling out protection schemes and changing plays, it will be a long day. If not, it could be the type of game that can put Spartan QBs careers in perspective. Heroes are born in this game on this day and in this place. So are goats.
Connor Cook can score SOME points. He is a young QB and will make mistakes. Can his D bail him out? If they do, that means that they are masking their intentions and MSU wins.
Michigan State has the best defense in the country. Not since Tommy Rees torched them in 2011 with his ability to read the play prior to the snap, have they faced an opponent like this. My concern is that it is difficult to change the way you play and who you are. MSU craves and MSU hungers 60 minutes of unnecessary roughness. Can they limit it effectively prior to the snap?
Spartan Nation needs to remember that this is Cook’s FIRST road start, and it comes at a major venue against a very good D. This ISN’T a lack of respect it is a realization of REALITY. Let’s ALL hope I am wrong!
Make it 17-16 Irish.