EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- If Michigan State is supposed be scared by football challenges the next four weeks, Mark Dantonio didn't get the memo.
His Spartans (5-3, 1-3 Big Ten) know it won't be easy to get an elusive sixth win Saturday at 3-5 Iowa -- or in November against Michigan, at Purdue and against Penn State, three 6-2 teams.
Dantonio also knows his team can blow past the minimum goal of bowl eligibility and finish as high as 9-3 if it plays to its potential.
"We can determine our own future," he said two days after a 24-17 loss at No. 1 Ohio State. "Nobody has blown us out. And there is nobody we haven't sat there and said, Only if ...' So we'll be in these games. We can win every one of them. By the same token we can lose every one of them. We just need to stay the course. And we will."
Michigan State had a chance to score a third defensive touchdown against the Buckeyes and make things even more interesting. But there was no doubt which team was dominant, as seen by a 422-185 difference in total offense.
"I'm very, very proud of our football team," Dantonio said. "We didn't throw in the towel when that game could've been a 41-0 shot. And you guys know that as well as I k now it.
"It's a game of inches -- not miles, inches. We need to continue to get better to play against elite teams away from home. And I truly believe they were one of the better teams in the nation."
The Spartans have lost to two Top 5 teams by a total of 10 points and dropped another game in overtime. But they understand the difficulty and the opportunity of the next month.
"I learned (at Ohio State) that it's hard-nosed," freshman linebacker Greg Jones said after a 14-tackle performance Saturday. "You're going to get banged. And you're going to bang some people around. But getting that sixth win is really big. We're tired of being a little bit away."
If Jones doesn't know exactly what's in store in Kinnick Stadium, with its pink urinals, carpet and lockers in the visitors locker room, he and his teammates could learn the hard way what Iowa football is all about.
"I think they put a premium on toughness, much as we want to do," Dantonio said. "You have a former offensive line coach as head coach there (Kirk Ferentz). There's always going to be attention to detail and toughness. They have a history of winning close games and winning with defense."
That is exactly what Michigan State would love to do, though it won't come easy. Before its recent dip, Iowa won 11 games in 2002 and 10 in each of the next two seasons. The Spartans have had just two 10-win seasons in its history (1965 and 1999).
"It'll be a tough environment there," Dantonio said. "They're a 3-5 football team, coming off a disappointing loss at Purdue. They'll be ready to play. I've been to Iowa a number of times, I know what it's like. And their backs are against the wall a little bit. But we'll go in with an attitude."