#12 Michigan State Football vs #18 Notre Dame: Game Preview, Prediction

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It’s the golden anniversary of the game of the century; and also a former Cincinnati Bearcats Head Coaches Bowl. Notre Dame football renews their rivalry with Michigan State football on Saturday night and it’s a series (lately at least) that has been as exciting and as interesting as college football can be.

If the game plays out the way it looks on paper, it’ll be another tight one. To quote Spandau Ballet, “I know this. Much is. True;” as the last ten MSU-ND match-ups have been decided by an average of 1.3 ppg.

The Irish are ranked #18, while Michigan State is #12 in the latest AP poll, yet it’s the Spartans who are the underdogs, with most spreads around 7.5 points.

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Notre Dame Gives Brian Kelly 2-Year Extension

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Today Notre Dame extended the contract of Head Coach Brian Kelly for an additional two years. It means Kelly’s contract will run through the 2016 season.

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#10 Notre Dame Fighting Irish: College Football 77 in 77

Here it is- THE BIG ONE! Of all my 77 in 77s, this is my piece de resistance. The team I cover the most, Chicago’s home college football team, the program covered in the media unlike any other. Yes, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, the most storied and well-documented team in the history of the game. This preview will be longer than the others, so let’s get right to it.

Storyline #1 QB controversy: Crist has risen, announced two days ago. (For more on that go here)

Coach Brian Kelly on the situation: “Dayne (Crist) overcame a serious knee injury just to be able to start the season (in 2010). He had another serious knee injury. He got himself ready for the spring and fought through the uncertainty of that as well. Then, the work in the summer and preseason , and it puts it in perspective. He is a much better quarterback. He’s the kind of guy I want to coach.”

Go here for a podcast previewing the 2011 Notre Dame season

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Potential Notre Dame Starting QB Tommy Rees Grew up a Northwestern Fan

The #1 storyline surrounding Notre Dame football this preseason is who will be the #1 quarterback, as senior Dayne Crist battles sophomore Tommy Rees for the coveted QB1 gig.

Crist opened 2010 as the starter, but went down in midseason with injury. Rees took over and finished the season 4-0, leading to the QB controversy we have today. Crist is bigger and taller, with a better down field ball. And he’s slightly more mobile. But Rees had a better passer rating, and he’s more accurate and superior in the short-range passing game.

Rees grew up in Lake Forest, a Chicago suburb; but he did not grow up root for ND, Chicago’s most popular college football team.

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Notre Dame Running Game in 2011: What can be expected from Cierre Wood?

If there was one weak link in Notre Dame last season, it was without question the ground game. If you look at the national rankings, on offense: 67th in scoring, 92nd in rushing, 34th in passing, 61st in total yardage.

Defense: 23rd in scoring , 50th in rushing, 54th in passing, 50th in total yards. 2010 was also the first year since 1971 that the Fighting Irish failed to produce a 100 yard rusher in any single game. And the fourth consecutive year without a 1,000 rusher.

Redshirt sophomore Cierre Wood hopes to change all that. He took over the job in week 6 when Armando Allen suffered a career ending injury. It was a tough way for Allen to go out. He was an underrated back. He’s on more all-time ND record lists than you would believe, and his place on those lists is much higher than you’d expect.

Wood filled in quite admirably though, posting over 600 yards on 5.1 ypc.

Go here for our season preview of the 2011 ND offense (passing game)

Go here for our season preview of the 2011 ND Defense

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Notre Dame Offense: Too Early Season Preview

“The quarterback spot? I really don’t know. I’m taking all suggestions. I can make a case passionately for any of the four. We can’t go into the season not knowing what we’re doing. We can’t do musical chairs.”

Those are the words of Irish football coach Brian Kelly last month when he spoke at an IMG sales luncheon in Chicago for clients of Notre Dame’s football radio network and at a dinner following the 25th annual Notre Dame Club of Chicago golf outing.

That quote pretty much says it all when it comes to what the main story lines will be for both the offense and the overall team when training camp opens next month. In other words, it’s all about Dayne Crist vs. Tommy Rees vs. Andrew Hendrix vs. Everett Golson.  More on that here and here.

Go here for our season preview of the 2011 ND Defense

Go here for our season preview of the 2011 ND offense (running game)

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Notre Dame Football Season Wrap: Facts, Figures, Notes and Tidbits

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Notre Dame ended the season with four consecutive wins, the first Irish team to do so since 1992 (that team finished its season with seven straight wins). They utterly routed a struggling Miami Hurricanes team with serious quarterback issues in a very chilly Sun Bowl game.

There are a ton of questions to be answered in the offseason, starting mostly with the health of the skill position guys and whether or not Kyle Rudolph and Michael Floyd return to school for their senior seasons.

We’ll delve into that later; for now let’s look at some of the more notable season-ending nuggets and tidbits.

By Paul M. Banks

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Brian Kelly: Notre Dame’s Most Accomplished Leader since Lou Holtz?

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In the storied history of Notre Dame football, with its 11 national championships, 102 winning seasons, and 466 NFL Draft picks, there are two classes of coaches. The first, and elite class includes national championship coaches (Knute Rockne, Leahy, Ara Parseghian, Dan Devine and Lou Holtz) that have gates named after them at Notre Dame Stadium. There are also statues erected of these men in Notre Dame, IN.

The second class is simply, everyone else who’s coached in South Bend. And since Holtz left in 1996, the Fighting Irish have had exactly that in Bob Davie, Tyrone Willingham and Charlie Weiss.  Enter Brian Kelly, who brings the most impressive resume since Lou Holtz to ND.

His era begins now.

When college football season begins Sept. 4th, he’ll take the first step towards joining whichever class he’ll eventually fit be categorized.

By Paul M. Banks

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