EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Mark Dantonio starts his second season as Michigan State's football coach with a tough road trip to California this weekend.
It's rare for the Spartans to begin a season away from East Lansing. With Saturday's game at Cal, Michigan State starts a season on the road for only the sixth time since 1984.
Dantonio said Tuesday it will be a good test of maturity for his relatively young team, which has only 13 seniors. The Spartans aren't leaving for the West Coast until Friday morning and they won't even bother adjusting to the new time zone. Saturday's game starts at 8 p.m. EDT.
"It's a business trip," Dantonio said during his during his weekly press conference. "We'll pack a toothbrush and a comb, and that's about it."
Both the Spartans of the Big Ten Conference and the Golden Bears of the Pacific 10 Conference finished last season with 7-6 records. Both teams have reason to believe better results may await them in 2008.
Saturday's winner should pick up momentum toward that goal. The Spartans will have the tougher task, since they're the ones on the road.
Michigan State hasn't won a season-opening game away from home since 1984, a 24-21 win at Colorado.
The Spartans lost at Arizona St. in 1986, tied at Syracuse in 1990 and lost at Kansas in 1994. Michigan State lost its most recent season-opening road game at Rutgers in 2004.
Michigan State will be playing in Berkeley for the first time since 1957. Dantonio said he has heard nearly 10,000 Spartan fans -- counting both those living in California and supporters traveling from Michigan and elsewhere -- could be at Memorial Stadium. The Bears have won 20 of their last 24 home games.
"It's a great challenge for us," Dantonio said. "It's going to be a unique situation to find out where we're at as a football team in terms of maturity and how we handle these things."
Michigan State is 2-1 all-time against Cal, but lost the last meeting 46-22 in East Lansing in 2002.
The Spartans have a 30-19-1 record against current Pacific 10 schools, but road wins during the regular season have been rare.
Dantonio said Tuesday that the Spartans are fairly healthy headed into Saturday's opener. Michigan State is still without safety Roderick Jenrette, who was asked to leave the team this summer to deal with an undisclosed personal matter.
The Spartans, searching for explosiveness on special teams, are tinkering with the idea of using running back Javon Ringer on kick returns. Dantonio said that could be a "game time decision."
Ringer gained 1,447 yards rushing last season, the most by any Spartan since Blake Ezor in 1988. Quarterback Brian Hoyer threw for 2,725 yards last season, third most in Michigan State history.
Kevin Riley will start the season opener at quarterback for California, with former starter Nate Longshore expected to play as a reserve.
Cal coach Jeff Tedford is 4-0 against Big Ten teams.