In front of more than 75,000 people on Saturday, September 15, #20 Notre Dame will square off with rival #10 Michigan State. This will be the 76th meeting between the Irish and the Spartans, with Notre Dame edging out Michigan State 46-28-1.
Despite Notre Dame's overall winning record, the Fighting Irish have not fared well the past two times in East Lansing, losing in 2010 on a fake field goal in overtime. Notre Dame comes into this season with high hopes, despite having what is thought by some as the most difficult schedule in college football.
If a landslide victory by either team is something that you are looking for, this may not be the game for you. In the past 12 years, nine of the 12 games between these two teams have been decided by a touchdown or less. Michigan State hopes to apply the pressure of this type of game to Notre Dame's young quarterback. Head coach Brian Kelly, however, has a seemingly unshakable confidence in freshman quarterback Everett Golson as the 2-0 Irish head to East Lansing to face their first of five Top 25 teams in the next six weeks.
A victory for the Irish would see Notre Dame go 3-0 for the first time since 2002. Disappointing year after disappointing year has led many to claim that Notre Dame is no longer relevant in college football. However, the 237 consecutive televised games and over 30,000 fans that traveled to Ireland to watch the Irish opener tell a different story. This is not the same Irish team from recent years. Kelly has created a new climate in South Bend, and that climate is one of defense and protecting the ball. Through the first two games, the Irish have allowed only 27 points, which is the fewest since 2002. Notre Dame has also come out on top in turnovers in both victories, a feat only accomplished three times in all of last year.
No, this is certainly not the same Irish team of years past. This team carries with it a renewed sense of urgency to win for Notre Dame. Along with that sense of urgency that the Fighting Irish will take with them to East Lansing, a resurgence of pride and hope. They carry the weight of nation's worth of fans who want to prove d esperately that they are relevant.
Nicholas Guerin is a lifelong fan of the Fighting Irish who anxiously awaits their return to college football dominance.