MSU vs. Notre Dame preview: Containing Kizer key

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer ranks fifth in the nation in passing efficiency (195.9).

Matt Charboneau breaks down Saturday's Michigan State-Notre Dame game at Notre Dame Stadium (7:30 p.m. NBC/WJR).

Fighting Irish to watch

DeShone Kizer, QB: The junior split time with Malik Zaire in the opener against Texas but took control in the second half of the road loss. He’s fifth in the nation in passing efficiency (195.9), going 30-for-42 for 371 yards, seven TDs and one INT, and his completion percentage of .714 is 15th in the nation. Kizer also has run the ball for 112 yards and scored twice.

Torii Hunter Jr., WR: The senior had four catches for 37 yards and a TD in the opener against Texas before leaving with a concussion. He did not play last week against Nevada but could be back Saturday. If he is, that will give QB DeShone Kizer three solid weapons (sophomores Equanimeous St. Brown and C.J. Sanders). Brown has 11 catches for 160 yards and two TDs, Sanders has eight for 101 yards and two TDs.

Cole Luke, CB: The senior has the most experience of an untested group, starting 28 games the past two-plus seasons. He was among the leaders in the nation in 2014 with 15 pass breakups and provides the Fighting Irish with a steady performer at one corner. He’ll be counted on even more after sophomore CB Shaun Crawford was lost to an Achilles injury last week.

Intangibles

Remember when: It’s been three years, but the memory of Michigan State’s last trip to Notre Dame Stadium is far from fond. The Spartans lost 17-13 in 2013, the only defeat during a Rose Bowl winning season. It was, however, full of questionable calls and frustration for the Spartans. That will be on the minds of some, including the senior class.

Opener, Part II: Michigan State had to spend the second week sitting and watching as an oddly timed bye had it on the sidelines. QB Tyler O’Connor talked this week about playing a “second opening game,” describing the feeling the players have after starting and stopping. Overcoming that lack of rhythm will be especially important against the Fighting Irish.

Detroit News predictions: MSU vs. Notre Dame

Hello, old friend: The Michigan State-Notre Dame rivalry started 119 years ago with this being the 78th meeting. It’s a series that has featured its share of big games, including “The Game of the Century” in 1966 when No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 2 Michigan State played to a 10-10 tie at Spartan Stadium. The winner of the game earns the Megaphone Trophy, sponsored by the Detroit alumni clubs of both schools.

One in the same: They’ve never coached together, but Mark Dantonio and Brian Kelly seem to always be linked. It was Kelly that replaced Dantonio at Cincinnati when Dantonio became the coach at Michigan State. And it was in Kelly’s first game as Notre Dame coach in the Michigan State series that Dantonio made the “Little Giants” call to win in overtime. Kelly is on a roll, however, winning three straight in the series.

Welcome back: Michigan State could get an emotional spark coming out of the bye with the return of LB Ed Davis, who was granted a sixth season of eligibility by the NCAA last week. Davis missed the entire 2015 season with a knee injury and should be ready to play, adding to an already deep and talented linebacker group.

Facts and figures

• Saturday’s game marks the 78th meeting between Michigan State and Notre Dame, with 10 of the last 14 games being decided by seven points or less. Michigan State has won 10 of the last 17, but Notre Dame is on a three-game winning streak, and the Spartans have not won in South Bend since 2007.

• Michigan State ranks second in career victories against Notre Dame with 28. Only USC has more (36). Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio owns three of those victories, all coming in the first four meetings.

• Notre Dame has played more games (387) against the Big Ten than any other conference. The Fighting Irish is 244-127-16 (.651) in games against the 14 current members of the Big Ten. The Atlantic Coast Conference (201) and Pac 12 (152) are the only other conferences against which Notre Dame has played at least 100 games.

• Michigan State is the fourth-most frequently played rival for Notre Dame. Only Navy (89), Purdue (86) and USC (87) have faced Notre Dame more. Notre Dame’s 48 victories in the series is the third-highest total against an opponent in school history behind Navy (76) and Purdue (58).

Tirico: MSU-ND 'what Midwestern football is all about'