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Irish face a stout test in the middle

This Saturday’s game against Michigan State is full of storylines that have a familiar ring to Irish fans.

A rival that recently has Notre Dame’s number.
A must-win game for head coach Charlie Weis.
A chance for Notre Dame to bounce back from disappointment.

One thing uniquely singular is the man in the middle of the Spartan’s defense: middle linebacker Greg Jones.

While he’s kept a fairly low national profile, Jones was named the Big Ten’s preseason Defensive Player of the Year. He also leads a linebacking corp that could be the best set of linebackers that the Irish will face all year.

While most Irish fans are still looking back at what could have been last weekend, the Irish know the challenge they face this weekend with Jones.

“It’s no secret he’s a great player,” center Eric Olsen said. “He shows up time and time again and makes a lot of great plays against us and against everybody. He’s one of the best linebackers in the country, so it’s a major responsibility for me and the offensive line to make sure we cover that guy up, especially in the run game and even in the pass.”

The revamped Irish running game has been one of the pleasant surprises of September, and there will be no bigger challenge than keeping Jones blocked an unable to turn the Irish into a one-dimensional attack.

“It is a major responsibility for me and for our offensive line to make sure we cover that guy up in the run game,” Olsen said.