EAST LANSING, Mich. — By the time Michigan State plays at Notre Dame, the Spartans will have had two weeks to prepare for the test.
It looks like they’ll need it.
No. 12 Michigan State must improve after a lackluster, season-opening 28-13 win against Furman to beat the Fighting Irish Sept. 17 on the road.
The Spartans, though, did do enough to keep their ranking Tuesday in The Associated Press college football poll after avoiding an upset to the Southern Conference team.
“After the football game, you wish you would’ve won going away a little bit easier,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. “But the reality of the situation, everybody comes in with a plan. Congratulate Furman for that. We made some mistakes penalty-wise and turnover-wise that kept the game close.”
The Spartans were on defense, leading by just eight, early in the fourth quarter when Tyler O’Connor threw an interception in his second career start. They got the ball right back with a pick of their own and O’Connor later sealed the win with a touchdown pass with 4:55 left.
Michigan State had two turnovers, forced only one turnover, and had 10 penalties for 120 yards to extend a lot of Furman’s drives Friday night.
Dantonio left Spartan Stadium unhappy.
The next day, he felt a little better.
“On Saturday as I’m watching all these other games,” Dantonio said, “and I’m seeing all these close games, you start to get an understanding that they all count one as coach (George) Perles would always tell me and that you go onto the next thing. But we’re 1-0 right now. We’ll count that. And, we’ll take this week to get ready and then to look forward to Notre Dame next week.”
Notre Dame was ranked No. 10 when it lost at Texas 50-47 in two overtimes Sunday night, a game Dantonio watched live on TV and scouted the next day.
The Irish dropped to No. 18 in the AP poll and will likely have a chance to bounce back at home Saturday against Nevada before hosting Michigan State the following week.
“It’s crucial that we get better because we obviously have a lot of areas that we need to improve,” O’Connor said Tuesday night after a full-padded practice. “Usually teams make their greatest improvement from Week 1 to Week 2. We get a chance to make that improvement with an extra week in between. It’s different. We were actually talking about how strange it is to open on a Friday night and then have two full weeks off between games.”
The extra time will allow the Spartans to spend a lot of time studying what Notre Dame did against Texas, which shot up to No. 11 in the AP poll. They will also have an opportunity to see adjustments Notre Dame makes for its second game against Nevada.
“We’re going to really be able to dig in deep on Notre Dame,” O’Connor said. “Even though some of the schemes may be different, we’ll get to see a lot of what their players can do.”