EAST LANSING — Not many teams in the country can say they’ve had the exposure that the Spartans have received on a national scale so far this year.
MSU kicked off their 2012-2013 season by defeating Boise State at home 17-13 on Friday night prime-time television. This game introduced the world to the talents of junior running back Le’Veon Bell and placed him as a potential Heisman frontrunner.
Now, the 10th ranked Spartans are facing their biggest challenge of the season thus far, as they take on the 20th ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish Saturday night in Spartans Stadium.
Michigan State is looking to build off of their strong passing performance from last week’s game against Central Michigan where first-year starting quarterback Andrew Maxwell looked like he was becoming more comfortable as a Big Ten starting quarterback.
The junior quarterback will face his first test as a starter as he takes on a Fighting Irish defense that has only conceded two passing touchdowns in their first two games.
However, Notre Dame freshman quarterback Everett Golson will be facing an even bigger test, as the Michigan State defense has yet to concede an offensive touchdown at all.
Notre Dame may throw different looks from the quarterback position at the Spartan defense, as junior quarterback Tommy Reese will be available for the game Saturday. Reese has been in legal trouble from an incident with police back in May.
The Irish will also be getting back their leading rusher from last year, Cierre Wood, who was suspended for the first two games of the season for violating team rules. Wood will be joining senior running back Theo Riddick who averages about 115 total yards per game.
While Maxwell has progressed each week, Le’Veon Bell may need to carry the Spartans to victory, similar to the way he did against Boise due to the inexperience of Maxwell. Bell is averaging about 140 yards per game on the ground this season and has been the center-piece of the Spartans offensive attack.
One thing to look for during Saturday’s game is the relationship between Maxwell and the young receivers of the Spartans. In their first big game this season the passing attack of the Spartans was basically obsolete, but last week they showed promise.
Tight end Dion Sims and wide receiver Bennie Fowler have looked to be Maxwell’s most reliable targets, as they both have 10 receptions this year for over 100 yards.
This is Maxwell’s first big test as an “experienced” starter, and the way he plays Saturday against Notre Dame could really set the tone for the Spartans season going forward. Actually, not only will his performance set the tone for the Spartans going forward, but his play could solidify his acceptance, or non-acceptance, from the fans as the Spartans quarterback.
MSU has defeated the Fighting Irish in 10 of the last 15 meetings between the two teams, and the Spartans have won the last two meetings in East Lansing.