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Irish set to face Michigan State’s top-rated ‘D’

Updated: December 6, 2013 6:50PM



SOUTH BEND — Tommy Rees didn’t need to look at the NCAA rankings to know the challenges Michigan State’s defense presents.

“They’ve had success on defense since I’ve been here,” the Notre Dame quarterback said. “They do a great job of rallying to the football and really playing tough, hard-nosed defense.”

No. 22 Notre Dame takes on the No. 1 ranked defense in the country Saturday. The Spartans have allowed 177 yards per game.

“You don’t have to prepare differently,” Rees said. “Obviously, you are cognizant of the success they’ve had. But for us, it’s all about what we’re doing on offense. It’s about our execution and our expectation of our game plan.

“You can’t dwell too much on what they’re ranked. You’ve just got to get their scheme down and understand what they’re trying to do and then go out and execute to the best of our ability.”

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly knows it will take a team effort.

“It’s going to be how we protect. (Wide receiver DaVaris) Daniels is going to have to make big plays. Our backs are going to have to run and our lines are going to have to identify the schemes,” Kelly said. “You’d better recognize Michigan State’s personnel and their schemes, but you’re going to have to execute to beat this team.”

Key player: Shilique Calhoun. The Michigan State defensive end has three touchdowns. He’s returned two fumbles and one interception for scores.

Notre Dame will win if: The Irish find success with its running game. Notre Dame will try to balance its high-powered passing attack with its ground game. Michigan State is fourth in the country in rushing defense, allowing 50.3 yards per game.

Michigan State will win if: Quarterback Connor Cook finds a way to duplicate what he did last week against Youngstown State. He threw for 202 yards and four touchdowns.

Prediction: Notre Dame 17, Michigan State 14

Staff writer LaMond Pope



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