EAST LANSING, Mich. — In a best-case scenario, a football team’s bye week comes at its lowest point, a lifeline thrown to a beaten-down group struggling to stay afloat.
Not so for Michigan State, which faces a September bye for the second straight season. Coming off of wins over Bowling Green and Western Michigan, the Spartans (2-0) don’t have a particularly great need for rest and restoration.
“Right now we’re a healthy football team,” Spartans coach Mark Dantonio said Tuesday, “and we need to stay that way and start to prepare for Notre Dame.”
Michigan State will face the Irish (1-1) at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday, Sept. 23. Just like a year ago, the Spartans will have an extra week to get ready.
It will start with a three-day practice week before an unannounced number of players head to Houston to help with Hurricane Harvey relief. Much of Notre Dame preparation will be done individually.
“Get in the film room,” senior linebacker Chris Frey said when asked of his plans. “Study what they do, study the guys you’re going to go up against, and work on winning your one-on-one battles.”
Additionally, Dantonio wants his players to use the bye week to catch up academically if they’ve fallen behind, and he plans to sit down with each freshman to talk about the first few weeks and how they have been settling in at the university.
A year ago, Michigan State’s bye week had the intended effect, as the Spartans returned rested and ready en route to a 36-28 win over Notre Dame. Dantonio hopes for the same this time around, but he’s wary of the opposite.
“Does it help or not?” he asked. “Maybe you get a head start on them, but maybe you disrupt what we have going. There’s a little bit of both ends of that spectrum, I think. We’ll just take advantage of whatever time we have, whichever way it goes, and we’ll be ready to play.”
The timing does differ a bit from last season. The bye week comes a week later, and it follows a preseason camp that went a week longer. So at this point, the Spartans certainly could use a short break. They’ve been playing football for seven straight weeks.
For many, though, this break will be taken begrudgingly. Rather than a pick-me-up, it may serve to stop any momentum the Spartans have built. Its impact won’t be seen until the team hits the field under the lights against Notre Dame.
“It kind of sucks it’s early on in the year,” quarterback Brian Lewerke said. “I think it’s better to have it Week 6 or 7. But we’re going to get rest, get healthy, make sure we’re coming into Notre Dame prepared with as many guys healthy as we can.”