Michigan State Rush Offense vs. Notre Dame Rush DefenseIrish fans are very familiar with the name 23 Javon Ringer by now. The senior has been a workhorse for the Spartans so far, with 104 carries in just three games. Ringer is averaging 34-35 carries, 166 yards, and 3 touchdowns per game. That's right - Ringer is averaging three scores per game.
Few other Michigan State players have gotten carries so far this year. 27 Andre Anderson is the backup tailback, averaging 4-5 carries and 24 yards per game. Freshman wide receiver 82 Keshawn Martin has three carries in as many games. Quarterback 7 Brian Hoyer is not a scrambler; Hoyer has just 7 rushes for -11 yards this year.
Notre Dame fans are growing concerned that safties Kyle McCarthy and David Bruton are far and away leading the team in tackles, with 24 and 20 respectively. Inside linebackers Maurice Crum and Brian Smith are the only other Irish players to reach double digits in tackles, with 11 and 10 respectively.
Justin Brown leads defensive linemen with 4 tackles, 2 for a loss. Those four tackles equal the production of fellow linemen Pat Kuntz, Ian Williams, and Morrice Richardson. After two games against spread offenses, the front seven will look to get back on track against Michigan State's more traditional pro-style look. How much the Irish can contain Ringer, however, remains to be seen.
Notre Dame Rush Offense vs. Michigan State Rush DefenseSpeaking of back on track, Notre Dame was at least able to start their running game in the right direction against Michigan. Many people were surprised that Robert Hughes "only" had 79 yards in that game. Hughes is now averaging 18 carries and 66 yards per game. He also has both Irish touchdowns on the ground. Armando Allen and James Aldridge are both averaging 9 carries per game. Allen is averaging 31.5 yards per game; Aldrige, 28.
Michigan State's strength on defense has been its linebacking corps. 43 Eric Gordon leads the team with 19 tackles, while 55 Adam Decker and 53 Greg Jones are right behind with 17 each. Jones leads the team with 3.5 tackles for a loss, while Gordon and Decker have 2.5 and 1.5 respectively.
Michigan State Pass Offense vs. Notre Dame Pass DefenseReturning starter Brian Hoyer has been less than impressive so far for the Spartans. An average day for Hoyer in 2008 consists of completing only 11 of 25 passes for 186 yards. Hoyer has only one touchdown to two interceptions on the season.
Hoyer's favorite targets have been his wideouts, 2 Mark Dell and 3 BJ Cunningham. Dell is the star, averaging over 4 catches and 106 yards per game. He was on the receiving end of Hoyer's lone TD pass. Cunningham is averaging 2-3 catches and 46 yards per game.
Four other Spartans have multiple receptions on the year - wide receiver 25 Blair White, tight end 83 Charlie Gantt, Javon Ringer, and fullback 45 Andrew Hawken. So look for Hoyer to focus primarily on his top two receivers, but don't forget anyone else on the field.
It will be interesting to see how MSU plays the Irish defense. Notre Dame, thought to have a strong secondary, is giving up over 250 yards per game in the air this season. However, those numbers are tainted by San Diego State's pass-happy attack and Michigan's need to play catchup. Still, with Hoyer's inefficiency and Notre Dame's unproven front seven, the Spartans may choose to simply pound the ball over and over again with Ringer, as they have done all season to this point.
The Irish still have only one sack to their credit, recorded by Maurice Crum against the Aztecs. Kerry Neal, David Bruton, and Gary Gray each have an interception this season.
Notre Dame Pass Offense vs. Michigan State Pass DefenseJimmy Clausen has mixed short, accurate passes with a number of fades and go routes this year. An average day for Clausen means completing 15 of 27 passes for 192 yards. Jimmy has five touchdowns and four picks on the year.
Golden Tate is developing into Clausen's favorite receiver. Tate is averaging five catches and 110 yards per game. He also leads the team with two receiving touchdowns. David Grimes is next with three catches and 19 yards per game. Robert Hughes has been the top option out of the backfield, averaging four catches and 14.5 yards per game. Michael Floyd, Armando Allen, and Duval Kamara also have multiple catches on the season.
Tackle 97 Justin Kershaw leads the Spartans with 1.5 sacks, while ends 58 Trevor Anderson and 89 Colin Neely have 1.0 and 0.5, respectively. Talented safety 21 Otis Wiley has each of the team's two interceptions.
Special Teams14 Brett Swenson is in his third year as Michigan State's placekicker. This season he missed from 39 yards, but made from 34 and 22. For the Irish, Brandon Walker has still only had one field goal attempt this season - a miss from 47 yards.
Sophomore 18 Aaron Bates is back for his second year as MSU's punter. Bates is averaging 39.7 yards per kick with a long of 54. He's also had a punt blocked this year. For the Irish, Eric Maust is averaging a steady 42 yards per punt with a long of 52.
Javon Ringer has been Michigan State's top kick returner. He's run back 8 kicks and has a 22.2 yard average, with a long of 33 yards. Ryan Burkhart is averaging 60.8 yards per kickoff for the Irish. Couple that with an astounding 11.9 yard return average given up by Notre Dame, and opponents are getting an average start on the 21. Again, that's one more yard than a touchback, in exchange for the joy of watching Mike Anello sprint to the ballcarrier.
Armando Allen and Golden Tate are sharing kick return responsibility for Notre Dame. Allen is averaging 15.3 yards per return, and Tate 21.5. 15 Todd Boleski is in his fourth year as MSU's kickoff specialist, a job he's definitely earned. Boleksi is averaging 65.4 yards per kick, and 4 of his 17 kicks have been touchbacks. The Spartans give up 21.8 yards per kick return, starting opponents at the 25 yard line on average.
Otis Wiley is Michigan State's punt returner. He's averaging a very good 14.5 yards per return, with a 78 yard run that was somehow not a touchdown. Armando Allen returns punts for the Irish. He's averaging 14.7 yards per return with a long of 22.