Michigan State, last week ranked No. 12, entered its game against No. 18 Notre Dame in South Bend underdogs by about a touchdown.
Then the Spartans built a 36-7 lead before winning, 36-28.
Now ranked No. 8 in the country, the undefeated Spartans (2-0) host No. 11 Wisconsin (3-0) Saturday.
And while it might not make as many waves on the national stage, the game is “no doubt” bigger than the Notre Dame game, Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said Tuesday at his press conference.
And for good reason.
“I think the out of conference schedule is just what it is,” Dantonio said. “You can lose them, still recover and play and win a Big Ten championship. You start playing a little bit more for real I think in terms of understanding that these are the things that lead you to rings, big bowl games, playoffs, those type of things. These games like this and the games that will follow.
“When you’re playing in-conference, and then when you get into your division, the chips just get a little bit bigger.”
The Spartans quest for Big Ten glory starts in East Lansing Saturday at noon. The Badgers are the only ranked opponent Michigan State will face until October 29, when the Spartans host in-state rival, Michigan.
The Big Ten has five teams ranked in the top 20 of the AP Top 25 this week, including three Big Ten East teams among the top 8; Ohio State is No. 2, Michigan is No. 4, while Nebraska is No. 20.
“We’ve always known there’s great football played in the Big Ten conference,” said Dantonio later during his portion of the Big Ten coaches conference call. “It’s always been very competitive and it continue to be. They’re great football teams. We’re getting ready to play everybody one at a time. Our main focus has got to be on No. 11 Wisconsin right now. They’ll present a great challenge for us. But we’re looking forward to it. There should be a lot of exciting football games this year.”
Who will start at quarterback for Wisconsin? That’s still a question that needs an answer. As for Michigan State’s preparation for the question of whether it sees Bart Houston or Alex Hornibrook, it will divide film session time.
“I think the natural thing to do is you take and break your film up and say, Okay, he’s quarterbacking these plays, he’s quarterbacking these plays, is there a difference? Many times there is, sometimes there’s not. You need to make that decision as you go forward and change your game plan based on who is in there and who is not.”
Dantonio was also asked his weekly question about linebacker Ed Davis and his status.
Dantonio says "We'll get Ed Davis on the field." Played one play Saturday, didn't feel he was quite ready.
— Graham Couch (@Graham_Couch) September 20, 2016