Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 25, 2017

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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40 SEPT. 25, 2017 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI THE REDEMPTION BOWL No two teams among the then 128 in the Football Bowl Subdivision had a more precipitous fall from the 2016 preseason expectations than Notre Dame and Michigan State. The Fighting Irish were ranked No. 10 and were projected to have their first back-to-back double-digit win campaign since 1992 (10-1-1) and 1993 (11-1). Instead, they became the fourth Fighting Irish team ever to lose a minimum of eight games with an inexplicable 4-8 outcome. Meanwhile, Michigan State began the season at No. 12 after remark- ably crashing the four-team College Football Playoff the year prior. It moved up to No. 8 after a 2-0 start that included a 36-28 victory at Notre Dame. From there, the walls came crash- ing down almost like never before in Spartans football annals. Michigan State lost seven in a row after the triumph at Notre Dame and finished 1-9 the rest of the way. It joined the 2-9 MSU team from 1982 as the only two in the program's history to lose nine games in a season. The meltdown began the week af- ter the Notre Dame game with a 30-6 loss at home to Wisconsin and con- cluded with a 45-12 blowout versus Penn State. The lone league victory came against hapless Rutgers by a 49-0 count. For the first time in head coach Mark Dantonio's 10 seasons at East Lansing the Spartans did not get in- vited to a bowl game. In the six previous campaigns un- der Dantonio from 2010-15, the Spar- tans captured three Big Ten titles, two New Year 's Day bowl games (Rose and Cotton) and won at least 11 games five times. In a remarkable stretch from 2013- 15, they finished No. 3, No. 5 and No. 6 in the final Associated Press poll. Even worse at MSU was this past offseason: • Two projected starters, outside linebacker Jon Reschke and offensive lineman Thiyo Lukusa, left the pro- gram. Reschke departed with what he described as an "insensitive and totally regrettable" remark about a teammate. • A support staff member of the football program was suspended on the heels of sexual assault charges against Larry Nassar, a former MSU doctor who also worked for USA Gymnastics. • This summer, three top players, including 2016 Freshman All-Amer- ican wideout Donnie Corley, were dismissed from the team after they were charged with criminal sexual conduct back in January. Also re- leased were sophomore defensive end Josh King and sophomore cor- nerback Demetric Vance, all part of the highly heralded 2017 MSU re- cruiting class. • Earlier that spring, another top sophomore defensive recruit, Auston Robertson, was dismissed for sexual assault. The changes and revamping of the culture at Notre Dame this past sea- son have been well documented, and Michigan State had to undergo much of the same in different ways. "Sometimes you're measured a little bit by how you handle the problems not just in all the good times," Dantonio said at the Big Ten Conference media days this sum- mer. "We've had some good times, and it's easy to stand up there and sing the fight song and put a hat on. It's not as easy when you are going through these type of things. … I was hired to solve problems, and that's what we're going to do. "We established ourselves as a championship program inch by inch. There was nothing ever given to us, and that's how we've handled it. We have to go back to that mindset, understand that things don't come easy." A victory by either the Irish or Spartans would help apply salve to last year 's wounds in what can be GAME PREVIEW: MICHIGAN STATE Top STorylineS The Spartans took down C.J. Sanders and the Irish 36-28 in September last year, but went on to lose nine of their last 10 games and then endured a tumultuous offseason with multiple players being dis- missed from the team. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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