Notre Dame football: Renewed rivalry with Michigan State will reveal if fixes are lasting

SOUTH BEND – Brian Kelly on Tuesday somehow remembered perhaps the most obscure facet of Notre Dame’s renewed football rivalry with Michigan State.

The Megaphone Trophy.

“You guys know that, right?” he said with a smile. “It’s all about the megaphone.”

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Maybe it’s a self-preserving diversion to get the Irish head football coach’s mind off the most recent meeting between the two teams, which clash for the 79th time, Saturday night in East Lansing, Michigan. (8 p.m. ET on FOX).

The series, an annual affair with few exceptions from 1948-2013, goes on hiatus after Saturday night until a two-game set in 2026-27.

Just about everything about the most recent matchup, a 36-28 Spartan victory at Notre Dame Stadium last September screamed mirage.

Michigan State vaulted to No. 8 from its No. 12 AP ranking after the win over the 18th-ranked Irish, then lost seven straight and eight of nine to end the season 3-9.

A Spartan ground game that hogged the ball (37:57-22:03 time of possession), churned out 260 yards on 52 carries and hinted at being dominant, settled into being quite average (65th nationally at 172.7 yards per game at season’s end).

Same with the typically staunch Spartan run defense that bullied the Irish (57 rushing yards on 25 carries, 2.3 avg.), but was a mere 51st in run defense after 12 games (158.7).

Quarterback Tyler O’Connor, meanwhile, looked almost Heisman-esque (19-26-1, 241 yards, 2 TDs; 43 yards rushing, no sacks) against the ND defense, then lost his starting job a few weeks later to current MSU starting QB Brian Lewerke.

The one sustainable conclusion that emerged from that game? Kelly’s program appeared to have fissures that required long-term solutions, not just X-and-O tweaks, which played into its ultimate 4-8 bottom line.

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