It's another rivalry. It's another game at Notre Dame Stadium. It's another chance to salvage the season.
It's business as usual for the Irish and coach Brian Kelly.
After an embarrassing loss at home against South Florida where the offense turned the ball over five times, the Irish again turned the ball over five times and gave up a 17 point fourth quarter lead, and a three point lead with less than a minute left, in a heartbreaking loss at Michigan. Now, 16th ranked Michigan State (2-0) comes to South Bend to continue a hard-fought rivalry that has seen 3 points separating the winner from the loser four of the last six seasons.
Last year, at Michigan State, the Spartans used a fake field goal to win in overtime. The year before that it was an interception just yards away from the endzone that saved an Irish victory in the final minute of the game.
This year's battle should be just as exciting.
The Irish enter 0-2, and the Spartans are coming off a 44-0 victory over Florida Atlantic preceeded by a tougher-than-expected 28-6 win over Youngstown State. Yet records mean little in this rivalry.
Michigan State has Big Ten Championship and BCS aspirations, while the Irish are looking to save their season in a must-win game.
If the Spartans lose this one, all that is gone are national championship hopes (and nobody really considers MSU national title contenders), while the Irish need to avoid an 0-3 start to provide some spark to ignite a season that is quickly slipping away.
Notre Dame needs to look at the positives from last week (the first quarter), and the negatives (the last quarter), and figure out how it went from dominating early to playing even in the middle and falling apart in the end.
They must also seek to limit turnovers. As of now, they are on pace to set an NCAA division 1 record in turnovers if their five-per-game average continues. And teams that turn the ball over that much are not prone to winning.
It's really a lack of discipline. Something the Blue and Gold faithful did not see last year, and could not have imagined this time around with so many returning starters from a squad that looked so good at the end of 2010.
The Irish offense looks to continue its hot streak, gaining over 500 yards in each of their first two games. Meanwhile, the Spartans defense is hot, and looking to showcase its talents in a nationally televised game.
If Notre Dame can limit turnovers and the defense can play four quarters of good fundamental football, it should be an Irish victory.