EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Some college football teams spend an entire season looking for their strengths and establishing a personality. After just three weeks, Michigan State may have found both.
Behind the work of center Joel Nitchman, tackles Jesse Miller and Rocco Cironi and a guard rotation of Roland Martin, Mike Bacon and Joel Foreman, the Spartans have sent a clear message that they intend to run.
"We've taken that approach since we've come here as a staff," head coach Mark Dantonio said Tuesday. "We've taken that mentality because last year when we came here, I felt like we needed to be able to control the ball, possession time a little bit more.
"That's sort of who we want to try to be. We want to be known as tough football team. So we sort of put the onus on our team and asked them to measure up."
That hasn't been lost on senior running back Javon Ringer, who picked up his second-straight Big Ten Player of the Week honor after a personal-best 43-carry, 282-yard performance in the Spartans' 17-0 win over Florida Atlantic.
"To be perfectly honest, I really shouldn't even be up here," Ringer said from the podium after Saturday's shutout win over the Owls. "All the credit goes has to go to my offensive line. Those are the guys behind the reason for my success."
In three games, Michigan State has run the ball for an average of 192.7 yards a game, good for 31st in the nation and sixth in the Big Ten. As a result, Ringer is first in the nation in points per game at 18, third at 166 yards per game and fourth nationally in all-purpose yards with 237.7 a game.
That success will be firmly tested when Michigan State hosts Notre Dame on Saturday in a rivalry that many times has been determined by the toughness of each team's offensive and defensive lines.
The Irish, who are giving up just 115 rushing yards a game, are led by a pair of senior safeties who have played the run very well this season. They tend to press up on the line of scrimmage with a linebackers' mentality.
Both Kyle McCarthy and David Bruton are in the top 20 in tackles per game nationally. McCarthy at 12 a game and Bruton with 20 takedowns a contest.
Dantonio also knows the linebacking quartet in the Irish's base 3-4 defense, led by senior Maurice Crum Jr., isn't bad either.
"(Notre Dame) has been impressive. They're playing well on the defensive side of the ball, particularly, their two safeties" Dantonio said. "McCarthy and Bruton are very active, their linebackers are also active."