Michigan State Spartans at Notre Dame Fighting Irish (-4.5, 42)
An unblemished regular season in 2012 is a distant memory for No. 21 Notre Dame, which needed a spectacular comeback last week to avoid taking a losing record into Saturday's home matchup with 24th-ranked Michigan State. It marks the third consecutive Big Ten Conference opponent for the Fighting Irish and the first road test for the Spartans, who debuted in the Top 25 this week. Notre Dame turned in a suffocating defensive effort in a 20-3 win at Michigan State last season.
The matchup provides an intriguing contrast in styles: The Irish are averaging 29.7 points behind an outstanding passing game while the Spartans lead the nation with an average of 177 total yards allowed. "When you're talking about the No. 1 defense, there's a reason for it,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. "It's personnel-driven and certainly there's scheme. So you have to be aware of both." The Spartans are 11-2 in non-conference play since 2011 - with both losses coming to the Irish.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, NBC.
LINE: Notre Dame opened as high as -7.5 and has been bet down to -4.5. The total has moved from 41 to 42 points.
WEATHER: Temperatures in the mid 60s with partly cloudy skies and winds blowing NW at 11 mph.
ABOUT MICHIGAN STATE (3-0, 1-2 ATS): The Spartans have been waiting for someone to emerge from a crowded quarterback competition and sophomore Connor Cook did just that in last week's 55-17 rout of FCS foe Youngstown State, throwing for four first-half touchdowns and 202 yards overall to seize the starting job. Running back Jeremy Langford has scored four touchdowns and is averaging 4.5 yards per carry but coach Mark Dantonio termed him a player that can "pop a big one." Still, the onus will fall on Michigan State's defense, which ranks fifth nationally with an average of 126.7 passing yards against but has yet to face a high-powered offense.
ABOUT NOTRE DAME (2-1, 0-3 ATS): The biggest concern entering the season was how to replace suspended quarterback Everett Golson (academics), but Tommy Rees has allayed any doubts by throwing for 969 yards in the first three games. He threw two scoring passes to DaVaris Daniels during a 21-point blitz in a span of 3 1/2 minutes against Purdue and can become the first Notre Dame QB to open a season with four consecutive 300-yard games. The more pressing concern for the Irish is plugging the holes in a defense that has surrendered 65 points in the last two games - one fewer than it allowed in the first seven contests last season.
* Spartans are 7-1 ATS in their last eight meetings in Notre Dame.
* Road team is 11-2 ATS in their last 13 meetings.
* Spartans are 8-1 ATS in their last nine road games.
* Fighting Irish are 1-5 ATS in their last six home games.
1. Notre Dame is 25-2 in games in which it has outrushed its opponent under Kelly.
2. Cook is the first Michigan State player to throw four TD passes in a half since Drew Stanton in 2005.
3. The Irish are seeking their 10th consecutive win in South Bend.