1. Run, Baby, Run
This should be the entirety of the offensive game plan for first-year Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio: Run, baby, run, baby, run, baby, run, baby, run. To repeat: Run, baby, run, baby, run, baby, run, baby, run.
Run the ball on first-and-ten. Run the ball on second-and-short. Run it on third-and-long -- wait, if he runs the ball on first and second down, third-and-long will never happen.
Tashard Choice, Georgia Tech: 196 rushing yards against the Irish.
Austin Scott, Penn State: 116 rushing yards versus the Irish.
Michael Hart, Michigan: 187 yards on the ground against the Irish.
Run the ball in the first half. Run the ball in the second half. Run it when the Irish put eight in the box, nine in the box and even if they put Jack (any Jack: Ham, Youngblood, Del Rio) in the box.
Run, baby, run.
Coach Dantonio, you don't have one terrific back. You have two: Jehuu Caulcrick and Javon Ringer. Last year Caulcrick, the cannonball, gained 111 yards against Notre Dame on just eight carries. Ringer, the flier, gained 76 yards on 14 carries, which is still a 5.4 yard average. And guess what? Three defensive players from that Irish defense that "held" the Spartans to 260 first-half yards in East Lansing last September are now in the NFL: defensive end Victor Abiamiri, defensive tackle Derek Landri and safety Chinedum Ndukwe.
Notre Dame is 111th nationally in rushing defense at 237 yards per game (and fifth in pass defense, but why pass when you don't have to?).
Coach Dantonio, do not pass. Pass "Go," if you wish, but do not pass the football. If it takes a reverse exorcism (an "inorcism?") in which the spirit of Woody Hayes inhabits your corporeal figure, do it. Just run, baby, run, baby, run, baby, run -- you get the idea.
2. Leaving Las Vegas
Michigan State, an unranked visitor to Notre Dame Stadium, was a 12.5 point favorite at last check. When has that ever happened before? However, the Irish have lost their first three games by an average of 29.9 points. The Spartans have scored 100 points in three games, the Irish 13 (albeit against tougher opponents). So whom do you like? Do you go with the upset, with the "back to training camp" Irish, to make it close? Or even win? Or do you think that the oddsmakers are trying to sucker you into the most obvious Vegas trap since O.J. went "A-Team" in a hotel room?
3. Strong Enough
Is Notre Dame's offensive line strong enough this week? Strong enough to open a hole or two for sophomore running back James Aldridge, whom Charlie Weis has said will be getting his "opportunities" this week? Strong enough to protect quarterback Jimmy Clausen in the pocket, or at least to improve upon its 7.67 sacks allowed per game average (last in the nation). Lie to me. I promise, I'll believe.
4. Can't Cry Anymore
Self-explanatory for Notre Dame students, alums and fans.
5. We always skip past this song.
6. (See No. 5)
7. No One Said It Would Be Easy
The Spartans are 3-0, averaging 33 points per game and have won in South Bend the last five times they've played there. And this, according to most college football experts, is Notre Dame's most winnable game of its first eight? Uh-huh. The Irish are breaking in thirteen new starters this year -- and there may be a couple of new starters on Saturday who have never started a college game before, or at least Weis intimated as much earlier this week.
8. Skipping this tune, too, while wondering why the '90s had such a glut of Crow bands.
9. All I Wanna Do
…is have some fun. Notre Dame's skill position players, particularly John Carlson, are thinking this right about now. Catching passes, running to daylight, moving the chains, scoring touchdowns: it's all fun. And glamorous. I mean, they don't make movies about linemen, after all ... unless he plays for Notre Dame.
It's time for the Irish to have some fun. To remember how much fun this game can be when you are moving the football. The Irish showed a brief flash of fun in their opening series at Penn State ... but that's about the only sustained drive Notre Dame has had in three games, and it ended with a punt.
10. You're wondering, "Hasn't this dude heard of MP3 players yet? Who listens to entire CDs any more?"
11. I Shall Believe
What else can Notre Dame and its fans say right now? The first quarter of this season has been, to cite a CD released one year before Crow's, a new, miserable experience for the Irish. A loss to Michigan State would yield the first 0-4 start in school history.
It's not just about Notre Dame needing to find its way into the end zone for the first time in 14 quarters of play for the sake of morale. It may be hard to make a stand, but the Irish must stop Michigan's ground attack of Caulcrick and Ringer if they are to win.
Will it happen? A change would do you good, Irish.
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