isportsweb: Michigan State, Notre Dame to rekindle rivalry in several sports – Detroit Free Press
Michigan State players felt a difference this spring and see change after last year’s 3-9 season. (Chris Solari/DFP)
Kamen Kessler is an MSU writer for the Michigan-based sports website isportsweb.com. His opinions do not necessarily reflect those of the Detroit Free Press or its writers. Read isportsweb’s column every week and follow Kamen on Twitter @KamenKessler
When Michigan State fans think about rivalries, the first thing opponent that likely comes to mind is Michigan. But this year, MSU will see plenty of Notre Dame in several different sports.
Last week, it was announced the Spartans would host the Irish in this year’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Irish are also on the schedule for football and are the newest team to join the Big Ten hockey conference. Hosting the Irish in three separate sports feels almost like an in-conference rivalry despite not facing off in a number of years. This season will rekindle the rivalry that was in the national spotlight when the two football programs played the 1966 “Game of the Century.”
MSU fans have never been treated to a game against the Irish in the Breslin Center. The last time the Irish were in East Lansing was 1974, when they took down the Spartans, 91-89. In 1979, the Spartans would get their revenge in the Mideast regional final as the second seeded Spartans defeated the top-seeded Irish, 80-68, en route to the national championship. The only meeting between the two teams since then was a 79-78, overtime victory for the Irish in 2014, now it is once again time for revenge. In this year’s challenge, only two matchups will likely feature two top 25 teams: Miami (Fla.) at Minnesota, and this one, perhaps the premier matchup of the inter-conference challenge.
With the return of Miles Bridges and his classmates, the Spartans are projected to be a top team in the country. Add in some much-needed big man depth returning from injury and this early season matchup could provide one of the first looks at a national title contender.
Despite losing Steve Vasturia and V.J Beachem, Notre Dame is still a formidable opponent with quality players like Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell. I see the Spartans, 6-2 in the ACC/Big Ten challenge at home, taking down the Irish.
Date: Sept. 23, 8 p.m.
These two schools have played one another 78 times since 1897. Notre Dame leads the all time series, 48-29-1, and the Megaphone Trophy series — introduced in 1949, 34-27-1. Recent memory has produced some spectacular games between the two. In 2010, the Spartans faked a game-tying field goal to win on the touchdown pass, 34-31.
The lone loss for the 2013 Spartans came in South Bend, 17-13. And most recently Michigan State reclaimed the trophy in 2016 taking down the Irish, 36-28, in a game where the Irish almost overcame a huge deficit.
Following the 2016 game, both teams finished in unspectacular fashion, the Spartans just 3-9 and the Irish 4-8. Questions circulate both teams, especially at quarterback. Notre Dame lost their top two QBs from last season and the Spartans projected started Brian Lewerke is returning from injury.
Early lines for the game have Notre Dame as a small favorite in East Lansing. My projection is the Spartans defend home field in this battle under the lights in a low-scoring game.
Date: Dec. 1-2
Coming off a Frozen Four defeat to eventual champions Denver last season, Notre Dame joins the Big Ten. The now seven-team conference includes Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin. The conference saw Penn State, Minnesota and Ohio State all making the 16-team NCAA tournament this year. Michigan was the lone Big Ten team to make the field in 2016.
The most recent MSU-ND meetings came in the 2012-13 season when the Irish won three out of four. The last NCAA tournament meeting came in 2007, when MSU won, 2-1, en route to the national championship. Since then, the Spartans have made the tournament just twice while the Irish have seven appearances.
MSU made some big changes in the off-season after winning just 17 games the last two seasons, hiring Danton Cole as the new head coach along with assistants Chris Luongo and Joe Exter. Notre Dame will lose two prominent juniors in goaltender Cal Petersen, who intends to turn pro, and Anders Bjork, who signed with the Boston Bruins. The duo were two of three Notre Dame players to feature for the United States in the IIHF World Championship this year.
With the new coaching staff, MSU will need some time to adjust to the new system and the talent disparity between the teams is still significant. In the two meetings this year in East Lansing, I see the Irish winning both.